When you think of superfood crazes, perhaps an exotic berry or nutrient-dense seaweed might come to mind. I’ll bet cockroach milk is the last and most horrifying example you could imagine. Research is showing, however, that milk from lactating cockroaches—yes, there is a species of the creepy crawler that lactates—offers a high protein content and turns into energy in the body almost immediately.
The Pacific beetle cockroach does not lay eggs like other species, but instead births live offspring in what are called brood sacs. The mothers provide food for their young via a milky substance containing crystals packed with protein, sugar and fat, much like mammalian mothers do for their babies with breast milk. Scientists claim this “cockroach milk” is the most nutrient- and calorically-dense substance on Earth.
When compared at the same weight, cockroach milk contains three times as much energy as buffalo milk, one of the animal kingdom’s most highly protein-packed milks. The crystals in the cockroach fluid metabolize amazingly quickly, piquing the interest of athletes who require a fast replenishment of protein to repair and build strong muscles after a workout.
Right now, no one is sure if mama roach’s milk is toxic to humans. Even if it passes that test, Subramanian Ramaswamy, a biochemist at India’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Bangalore and co-author of the study, told The Washington Post, “I don’t think anyone is going to like it if you tell them, ‘We extracted crystals from a cockroach and that is going to be food.’” However, given that cricket flour protein bars are already a thing, maybe there would be more adventurous folks out there than he thinks.
Luckily—or, for some, creepily—the researchers suspect the milk could be artificially made using bioengineered yeast, removing cockroaches from the equation altogether. This might satisfy both ethical vegans and almond milk haters, as both types of those milks tend to drain natural resources, not to mention dairy milk industries cause intense suffering to mother and offspring.
In the future, protein bars, powders and drinks could be filled with artificial cockroach milk. Workouts could be fueled by the stuff and (synthetic) cockroach-built muscles could take the stage at bodybuilding competitions. Television commercials and even professional athlete sponsorships could feature insect lactation fluid as a viable workout supplement. What an incredible time to be alive.