I remember growing up in Spain that cockroaches were the epitome of horror. They could fit through the tiniest gaps, climb walls, and were the only insect that ran at you when you try to shoo it away. So trust me when I say that I wasn’t exactly thrilled when I heard that scientists believe that cockroach milk could be a new superfood packed with nutrients!
The report released by the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in India, suggests that cockroach milk has the nutritional properties to be a healthy supplement to anyone’s diet. The milk contains over three times the amount of protein found in cow’s milk, without the unhealthy fat content.
Sanchari Banerjee, one of the members of the research team, was glowing in his statement outlining the benefits of cockroach milk. ‘The crystals are like a complete food – they have proteins, fats, and sugars’ he said. ‘If you look into the protein sequences, they have all the essential amino acids.’ So if the milk is so good for us how do we milk a cockroach?
The answer is you don’t. Although milk as we imagine it is only produced by mammals, cockroach milk works in the same way. Only one cockroach produces the milk – the Diploptera punctata a.k.a the Pacific beetle cockroach. This unique insect produces milk for the sustenance of its newborn roaches. The milk isn’t a liquid like a mammal’s milk; instead, it is fed to the young in crystals.
So rather than milking the cockroaches, the researchers isolated the gene responsible for producing the crystals to replicate it in the lab. By isolating the gene and producing the crystals synthetically, the team responsible believe that cockroach milk will be available for mass production as a supplement in a protein drink.
Before mass production becomes a reality, there is still a range of tests that need to be done. The high protein content has been proven, but cockroaches have a very different digestive system than human beings. Skeptics and Katsaridaphobics (people with a fear of cockroaches) have argued that our bodies are unable to process the nutrients from the crystals due to the drastic digestive differences.
If these claims are quashed through further research, cockroach milk could not only be better for your body than cow’s milk but also better for the planet. The farming of cockroaches would take up significantly less space and create less methane than an ordinary dairy farm. Whole areas of forests would remain intact, without the need for further space, and the ozone layer could breathe a deep sigh of relief.
The idea of pouring a glass of refreshing cockroach milk on your cereal may sound like something out of a dystopian sci-fi novel, but it could become reality. There is much evidence to suggest that it will become necessary to eat more insects over the next century to ensure a sustainable future, so why not consume other insect products?
Insects formed a large part of our diet in our evolutionary past, and they still do for many people across the planet. It is only in the last few centuries in western culture that we have surrounded insects with the ick factor. With our ever increasing population and further understanding of the damaging effects of dairy on our body, cockroach milk could be the answer. Just try not to think too hard about where it came from!