The nightmare superfood of our dystopian future: Cockroach milk

CC BY 2.0 darkday

Perhaps the classic Dr. Seuss book needs an update to something along the lines of "Would you? Could you? Eat cockroach milk?"

Some day, we might be adding some mother cockroach crystals to our diet, at least if the trend of chasing after so-called superfoods sticks around. Of course, a more marketable name for it needs to be found, but that's never really been that much of an issue...

An international team of scientists has found that the 'milk' protein crystals produced by a type of cockroach, Diploptera punctata, which also happens to be the only known kind of roach to give birth to live young, could be a "fantastic protein supplement," with triple the caloric value of water buffalo milk, which is already considered to be "high-calorie."

How do you milk a cockroach? Very carefully.

Cockroaches obviously don't produce 'milk' and feed their young with it, as the substance gets produced in the gut of the D.punctata species (Pacific beetle cockroaches), so there won't be any cockroach dairies anytime soon, but the team is looking to develop a yeast that can produce the 'cockroach milk crystals' in quantity. The substance is considered to be "very stable" and to be a timed-release protein, as it contains "a mechanism for the controlled release of nutrients," which would make it a good candidate as a protein supplement.

"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

In addition to its potential as a protein source, the researchers say that the "scaffolding in the milk protein crystals" appear to have "fascinating" characteristics, and could be used in the design of nanoparticles for the delivery of drugs in the body.

The full study, for those with a scientific bent, is available at the International Union of Crystallography under the rather lengthy title "Structure of a heterogeneous, glycosylated, lipid-bound, in vivo-grown protein crystal at atomic resolution from the viviparous cockroach Diploptera punctata."

Whaddya think? Would you rather add some cockroach milk crystals produced by yeast, or just eat insects?

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