I loathe them. Like many other people, I find them very repulsive. But cockroaches may offer the next superfood – a ‘milk’ that’s four times more nutritious than a cow’s. But before you jump on that roach in your cupboard, read this article to the end first.
A group of scientists from India, Japan, Canada, the U.S. and France recently discovered that a particular species of cockroach – the Pacific beetle cockroach – feed their bugs a formula that is rich is in protein, fat and sugar, according to a CNN report.
“It is what one would need: protein, essential amino acids, lipids and sugars,” said Leonard Chavas, one of the scientists behind the research
“The protein crystals are milk for the cockroach infant. It is important for its growth and development,” said Chavas. He explained the crystals have a whopping three times the energy of an equivalent mass of buffalo milk.
The Pacific Beetle Cockroach is the only known viviparous cockroach. Meaning of this? Like humans, the Pacific Beetle Cockroach gives birth to live babies rather than hatching eggs. In other words, it’s basically a mammal.
The cockroach is native to Australia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Hawaii and parts of Asia, such as Thailand, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. I’m not sure if this species can be found in Nigeria.
The idea that the cockroach may offer the world the next superfood may be understood if you consider these outstanding qualities it possesses: it can live without food for up to a month (something any human can hardly do); the adults of the species are chemically defended, having a modified tracheal gland and spiracle on each side which squirts quinones, which can poison or discourage predators. And of course, cockroaches can survive a nuclear blast.
So, how does one milk cockroaches for its milk?
Chavas and his team hope to understand the chemical components of the ‘milk’ and thus embark on reverse bioengineering it.
“They would isolate the gene for this protein from the cockroach and then express it and grow it up in a yeast system in very large microbiological vats and produce large quantities,” said Professor John Carver, Director of the Research School of Chemistry at Australian National University.