It’s substantially more nutritious than cow’s milk, according to a new study.
Reporting in the journal of the International Union of Crystallography, a team of scientists has identified the structure of milk proteins inside the midgut of a cockroach
Though insects do not normally produce milk, there is one cockroach species called Diploptera punctata that gives birth to live young and secretes a protein-rich milk to nourish their offspring, similar to mammals.
In terms of nutritional content, it appears these researchers have hit a gold mine. As study lead author Sanchari Banerjee of the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in India tells The Times of India, "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."
Further, the researchers found that as the milk is digested, the crystals continue to slowly release nutrients as they are needed.
The high calorie content of the milk — more than three times as high as cow’s or buffalo’s milk — means that it is not an ideal addition to the diets of most western countries, where calories are certainly not lacking.
But the milk could make a useful dietary supplement for people who are unable to get sufficient calories from their available foods.
Large-scale production of the substance would not involve milking millions of cockroaches or extracting it directly from their guts. Rather, the researchers hope to completely remove cockroaches from the process by manufacturing the milk in giant vats of yeast.
The yeast approach is likely a good idea from a marketing standpoint as well — somehow, “cockroach gut extracts” just doesn’t have the right ring.
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