Cockroach milk could be next superfood
HAVE we reached peak hipster?
Cockroaches - yes, those disgusting insects you find loitering around your garbage - could be the source of the next superfood trend, according to scientists.
A research team based at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in India discovered that the "milk" from a specific type of roach called the Pacific beetle cockroach - which are found in Australia - is hugely rich in energy.
In fact, cockroach "milk" is made up of nutrient-rich crystals reported to have three times the energy of the equivalent mass of normal dairy milk.
Scientists refer to these crystals as milk because it is a liquid substance produced by the mother for her offspring which is packed with fats, sugars and protein.
Unlike other species of cockroaches, the Pacific beetle cockroach doesn't lay eggs, it gives birth to live young.
"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, one of the main researchers, told the Times of India.
The research was actually published in 2016 but has gained traction recently due to a cultural shift towards more environmentally friendly non-dairy alternatives.
Gourmet Grub is a South African ice-cream company at the forefront of this movement - using insects as the main ingredient in their product. They market something called "entomilk" made from sustainably farmed insects.
"This is considered to be significantly more environmentally friendly than the traditional farming of dairy cows," it says on its website.
"One of the most pivotal benefits of entomilk is that it has a high protein content and is rich in mineral such as iron, zinc, and calcium."
So could we soon see cockroach milk as an option for our lattes? Subramanian Ramaswamy, a biochemist and co-author of the study told the Washington Post that he could "see them in protein drinks" but there are a few hurdles to jump over.
For starters, cockroaches don't have nipples, therefore "milking" a cockroach is a labour-intensive process and in terms of production, the little critters can't physically produce as much as a cow.
Leonard Chavas, another co-author of the study published in the Journal of the International Union of Crystallography told science publication Inverse that ten cockroaches produce about half a millilitre of product. As such, he estimates that 100 grams would involve killing upwards of 1000 cockroaches.
In addition, the science isn't 100 per cent sure yet that cockroach crystals aren't toxic to humans.
But perhaps the biggest hurdle is image. Would you be comfortable drinking milk from cockroach?