Disgusting as it may sound, a team of scientists believes that cockroach milk could be the superfood of the future.
After sequencing a protein crystal found in a cockroach's midgut, the international team of scientists has found that its nutritional level is four times higher than cow's milk. The team thinks that cockroach milk could be a key player in feeding Earth's growing population.
The majority of cockroach species do not produce the so-called milk. The Diploptera punctata (Pacific Beetle Cockroach) is the only known cockroach species that gives birth to their live young, and capable of producing this "milk" that contains the protein crystals the newborns eat.
First off, the ability of an insect to produce milk is already a feat, but the fact that a single protein crystal contains energy that is more than three times that of buffalo milk in equivalent amount is more fascinating. The latter contains even higher caloric levels compared to dairy milk.
Milking a cockroach wasn't the most feasible pursuit. The international research team led by the India-based Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine opted to sequence the genes that are responsible for the milk production of the cockroach species. The goal is to see if they can be replicated in a lab setting.
"If you look into the protein sequences, they have all the essential amino acids," said team member Sanchari Banerjee, adding that the crystals are like a "complete food" that contains sugars, fats and proteins.
The cockroach milk is a condensed source of nutrients and calories. The team also found that as the milk protein is digested, the crystals release more, creating a continued digestion loop with the protein levels released at an equivalent rate.
Subramanian Ramaswamy, the project leader, said that the cockroach milk is a "time-released food." When the body needs a complete and "calorifically high" food, which is capable of being released on time, then the answer would be cockroach milk.
However, this dense source of protein wouldn't be recommended for the people who are trying to lose weight. The western diet nowadays is already high in calories. However, the cockroach milk could be the answer for people who are struggling to get the recommended amount of calories per day. The alleged superfood could be an easy and quick way to get the needed nutrients and calories.
Ramaswamy added that cockroach milk could be a "fantastic protein supplement." The research was released in the International Union of Crystallography journal.