Who would have thought that scientists would find a way to make a nutritious meal out of cockroaches, but they did, and that’s the new trending food recommended by dietitians. They even went as far as calling it the Super Food of the future and people abroad (USA and INDIA) have already started hoping on the cockroach milk train.
The gist here is that the Pacific beetle cockroach (Diploptera punctata)—a small, coffee bean-looking species—is actually viviparous, meaning it delivers offspring that are fully-formed and live, instead of incubated within eggs. During development, the tiny roach larvae will feed off a nourishing secretion produced in their mother’s brood sac. Almost all mammals exhibit viviparity, yet only a few insects also hold this title.
Knowing that delightful fact, a team of biologists at India’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine decided to investigate whether milk protein crystals found in the cockroach’s gut were analogous to anything found in human or cow’s milk. What they discovered was a surprisingly protein-rich substance containing more than three times the caloric energy of buffalo milk. In addition to its high protein content, the liquid was also incredibly stable and had a mechanism for controlled nutrient release. Because of this, the researchers believe that, if successfully synthesized, cockroach milk could be a sustainable superfood of the future.
“The crystals are like a complete food—they have proteins, fats and sugars. If you look into the protein sequences, they have all the essential amino acids,” Sanchari Banerjee, co-author of the study that was recently published in the International Union of Crystallography, told the Times of India.
Banerjee and his colleagues were able to sequence the Pacific beetle cockroach’s milk, which gets its nutritional potency from special lipid-binding proteins called Lili-Mip crystals. But in order to do this, the team first needed to delicately extrude the liquid from the midguts of growing embryos. This whole process took approximately 54 days in a laboratory, and yielded as much milk as you’d expect to collect from the bellies of tiny cockroaches.
I will say that when you think about the fact that cockroaches can survive nuclear explosions, tapping into what they’ve got is intriguing. But still, these are the same pests tucking into stray crumbs and days-old dirty dishes. Then again we’ve eaten worse insects in Nigeria so a sip of cockroach milk might not be bad.
If the cockroach milk tasted nice would you sip it, and how would you react if someone played a prank on you and fed you the milk?