Scientists apparently believe that cockroach milk could become the next craze among health food enthusiasts.

Researchers have sequenced a protein which is found in the digestive system of cockroaches that is four times as nutritious as cow’s milk. A substance which packs in so many nutrients could be incredibly valuable as the world faces resource scarcity in the future, writes Ari Phillips for Fusion.

cockroach milk
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Cockroach milk to solve world hunger?

If we can manage to keep it down, cockroach milk could become a big part of our future food supply. While it may seem disgusting to many people, the truth is that we are making food scarcity worse through our existing wasteful practices.

In the United States around 40% of food is wasted. Worse than that number is a survey which suggests that a majority of U.S. residents would not change their behavior despite the fact that they are aware of the environmental costs and feel guilty about it.

Hundreds of millions of people around the world survive on a very poor diet, and the United Nations estimates that there are 795 million undernourished people alive today. This means that 1 in 9 humans “do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life.”

More research needed into nutrient source

These people could be among the first to benefit from the latest scientific breakthrough. As a high-calorie fatty addition to a diet, cockroach milk could go some way to making up the nutrient deficit. Another positive is the fact that insects are already a common part of the food supply in many cultures.

“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 authors of the paper published in July in the International Union of Crystallography’s journal, told the Times of India. “If you need food that is calorifically high, that is time released and food that is complete. This is it.”

However harvesting large amounts of cockroach milk crystals will be difficult as scientists are only aware of one species that give birth to live young. The Pacific beetle cockroach (Diploptera punctate) lives along the Pacific rim in Asia, and lactates to feed its young.

According to Subramanian Ramaswamy, a biochemist at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Bangalore, India, the milk crystals could be used for protein shakes rather than milk. He believes that if cockroach milk were to hit the mass market, it is likely come from yeast.