India – Scientists have found cockroach milk may be the answer to humanity’s nutritional needs.

The Diploptera Punctata, better known as the Pacific beetle cockroach, is the only known viviparous cockroach, meaning that it gives birth to live youngsters, and can be found anywhere from Asia to Americas, especially Hawaii.

Scientists have found that the milk from the Pacific beetle cockroach may be the answer to humanity’s nutritional needs. Photo credit: Emily Jennings
Scientists have found that the milk from the Pacific beetle cockroach may be the answer to humanity’s nutritional needs. Photo credit: Emily Jennings

In this type of cockroach the ootheca (egg mass) is small and is located inside the uterus. In other cockroaches is located outside and can be seen. Since it is so small, the egg lacks the enough protein for the tiny cockroach to complete its development.

Cockroaches survive by drinking their mother’s milk, transported through the mother’s uterus.

For scientists, this is not a secret. However, they believed the tiny cockroaches digested the milk. Until Barbara Stay, a zoologist at the University of Iowa found packets of ‘crystals’ inside the embryos.

Subramanian Ramaswamy, a biochemist at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Bangalore, studied the crystals, discovering through X-rays that the crystals were indeed protein.

It turns out the baby cockroaches have their mouths open but not the backend, so the milk stays in their mid-gut, solidifying into crystals that continue to nourish them.

The liquid is packed with full of proteins, fats, sugars, and carbohydrates, making the cockroach milk one of the ‘most nutritious and highly caloric substances on the planet’ as stated in the research published in the Journal for the International Union of Crystallography.

The milk is more than four times more nutritious than cow milk and contains three times more energy than buffalo milk.

“It is a complete food” stated Ramaswamy.

Since the cockroach cannot be “milked”, the idea is to sequence the milk genes to replicate them in the lab for… human consumption.

How does cockroach milk taste?

Ramaswamy’s colleague lost an office party dare, and had to eat some crystals, apparently, it does not taste “like anything special”.

The scientists will hope to use yeast to produce massive quantities of protein crystals, in a more efficient (and less gross) way than taking it from living cockroaches.

The discovery could shed light at a time when dairy milk is under great environmental scrutiny, thanks to the cow’s contribution to greenhouse gasses.

Soy milk is also under attack since, apparently, it could negatively affect infertility. Even the famous almond milk is not perfect since growing almonds is a water-intensive process.

However, most Westerners can feel safe about drinking cockroach milk. Since it is such a dense protein and calories source, it’s not apt for those in the fitness craziness, or for most Western diets, which have already too much fat and calories.

But for the 795 million hungry people in the world (according to the Food and Agriculture Organization statistics), cockroach milk could be the difference between life and death.

Could it get better? Yes, according to the Times of India, the ‘scaffolding’ in the protein crystals has certain characteristics that could help design “nanoparticles for drug deliver.” Ramaswamy said the potential was “fantastic.”

We may be coming closer to the greatest superfood of the future.

Source: Washington Post