The health-food market is already retailing almond, soy, cashew, hemp, rice, and coconut milk. A likely addition to this could be “cockroach milk” that is being touted as a rich source of protein and other nutrients. Lab analysis has already proclaimed its health benefits. It is now only a matter of time until this product is commercially viable.
Diploptera punctata is a unique species of cockroach that gives birth to young ones and feeds its embryos with a milk-like secretion.
As if the mention of cockroaches doesn’t make you squirm already, a discovery has been made about the health benefits of “cockroach milk.” Yes, a professor emerita at the University of Iowa made interesting discoveries about the Diploptera punctata, or the Pacific Beetle Cockroach. This species is native to Hawaii and is the only species that gives birth to young and interestingly, secretes a pale, liquid, milk-like substance from its brood sac. It was found that the insect’s embryos feed on this milk. Researchers also found a way to extract the milk in liquid or crystal form.
Cockroach milk of the Diploptera punctata species found to be a powerhouse of proteins, amino acids, and other nutrients. It is a complete food that meets the body’s nutrient needs.
Talking about the protein content, it contains more energy than one gets from cow’s milk. The proteins are packed with the nine types of amino acids which are essential for muscle repair. Another way in which the body benefits is that the milk is a time-released protein. As the protein in the milk is digested, more protein is released at an equivalent rate to continue digestion. This slow absorption rate is known as “time release” and ensures a steady stream of nutrients to the body. It is a complete food with carbohydrates, proteins, fats, sugars, oleic acid, linoleic acid, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Also, it is abundant in calories, three times more than buffalo milk, as found by Subramanian Swamy, a biochemist and his team of researchers at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Bangalore, India.
Nevertheless, it is a good, non-dairy alternative for those who are lactose intolerant. It can also be a superb protein supplement to meet the calorie needs of those who do not get the required calories.
Cockroach milk extraction is a time-consuming and an unethical practice.
The cockroach milk looks like the next best thing to happen to the health-food segment, and it has piqued the interests of scientists and health freaks alike. However, we need to understand that the Diploptera punctata is the only species that can produce this “milk.” Also, in order to extract the milk, the insect would need to be sliced in its midgut when it begins lactating at about 40 days old, thus opening the brood sac. Because of the minuscule quantity of the milk, it would also take an entire population of the roaches to be culled to make a glass of milk. Milk extraction then becomes a tedious process, too.
Scientists are looking at alternate ways to harvest cockroach milk. Commercial availability is still not in the cards.
Owing to its health benefits and to harvest the crystal more efficiently and in larger quantities, the team at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Bangalore has sequenced the genes responsible for producing milk protein crystals to check if they could replicate it in the lab. They are now looking to get the yeast to produce the crystals.
If you are super-impressed with the concept of cockroach milk and happen to be in South Africa, you can at least buy cockroach milk ice-cream. While it may be hailed as the next Superfood, there isn’t enough evidence to prove that it is fit for human consumption. Pregnant women and children should avoid its intake. Owing to the unavailability of an ethically viable technique to harvest it and the difficulty in producing it, it is unlikely to be available at affordable prices.