Though the idea of crunching on crickets is repulsive to many people, insects are an important food source in many parts of the world, and there's a growing movement to introduce them into Western diets as an eco-friendly source of protein.
But if bug burgers don't whet your appetite, you're probably not the target audience for this latest insect-related dietary suggestion either: cockroach milk.
Yes, you read that right. There's a species of cockroach, Diploptera punctata, that is viviparous, meaning it gives birth to live young. And just like mammals, this roach feeds its young with milk. Now scientists have discovered a way to produce this milk efficiently in the lab, and the creamy concoction could one day be transformed into a highly nutritious protein shake, reports the Times of India.
The key reason why scientists are interested in extracting this roach's milk is because it's so nutritious. A single protein crystal from the milk is estimated to contain more than three times the amount of energy found in an equivalent mass of dairy milk.
"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," said Sanchari Banerjee, one of the main authors of a recent paper on the new lab-generated substance.
As you might imagine, however, milking cockroaches isn't so easy as milking cows. Even if you do succeed, not a lot of milk is produced by a single roach. So Banerjee and colleagues developed a more sophisticated way of extracting this buggy goodness, by sequencing the genes responsible for producing the protein crystals in a mommy roach's gut. This allowed the researchers to produce the milk in the lab, potentially making it easier to mass produce.
Though these cockroach milkshakes have the potential to be the power protein of the future, there aren't any plans yet to go commercial. No doubt, any product containing milk drawn from a roach will need a pretty amazing ad campaign to turn it into serious merchandise.
But perhaps with some clever labeling, the nutritional benefits might make it worth a shot.