Science With Hannah: Bugging Out

Hannah Narvaez ~ Staff Writer

There are always new trends starting that are a bit “out there,” but these days it seems the weirder the better. According to Susan Scutti, from CNN Health News, the next possible trend in the world of food and health is cockroach milk!

That’s right, an insect that provides “milk” for their young – well it’s not actually milk you can dip your Oreos in, but it is composed of similar protein crystals. This protein mixed together with certain sugars and fats provide essential nutrients young cockroaches need. But researchers are asking, could it be something the human population can use as well?

According to the research done by scientists of the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, in Atlanta, cockroach milk has 12 times the energy of an equivalent mass of cow’s milk. Can you imagine the effects of their milk on humans?

This specific type of roach, commonly known as the Pacific Beetle Cockroach, is the only one of its kind. Instead of females laying eggs outside of their bodies like all other known species, the Pacific Beetle develops embryos inside and brings forth live babies just as we know mammals do.

However, unlike mammals, these roaches do not have a uterus or mammary gland that produces milk.  So I bet you’re wondering how they’re “milked.” The current strategy is actually harvesting them before birth.

“The crystals are extracted from the midgut of cockroach embryos,” stated Scutti, “perhaps not the most efficient way of feeding a growing world population.”

She does have a point: if all this hype is to be made about the consumption and potential uses of insect super-milk, then a more efficient way of mass-production needs to be established. Recent efforts in China have helped obtain large quantities of the raw milk crystals through cockroach farming – now we just need the science to catch up.

So far the magic milk has been confirmed as a “complete food” meaning it includes all the elements required for growth and development.

The ultimate goal of continued research is to “reverse bio-engineer” the crystals to make it more applicable to the needs for growth and development of the human body. We live different lives than the cockroaches we may one day rely on, so it is important to conduct extensive studies on possible effects from long-term exposure.

This newly discovered “protein powerhouse” has a future in being used for human consumption – maybe even a supplement for food entirely. With the world’s population rising at such an exponential rate and natural resources slowly depleting, exploring alternative food options is a smart solution.

I think I would find myself curious about the finished product. The idea of just having to drink a glass of “milk” or eat a “protein bar” that has all the nutrients my body needs, while giving me extreme amounts of energy to get through the day is mind blowing.

It’s the future! The possibilities for this product are endless if it becomes easy and cheap to mass-produce. It has potential to help with world hunger, lowering rates of overeating and obesity, elevating the limitations of the human body, and possibly changing our current view of a healthy lifestyle. The excitement continues in the world of trends; is drinking a glass of cockroach milk in the morning something you think you can get used to?