Health Dr Karl: Is cockroach 'milk' really a superfood?

04:00  12 june  2018
04:00  12 june  2018 Source:   abc.net.au

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Since 2016, there's been a stream of articles in the media about cockroach " milk ". Dr Karl washes away this notion with a cold, hard glass of myth-busting facts.

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For the past two years, the idea of cockroach milk has whipped up a media storm.

One of the latest examples comes from the Daily Mail in May 2018.

It ran a story with the headline: "Beetlejuice for breakfast? Experts say COCKROACH milk could be the next non-dairy fad and claim it tastes just like cow's milk".

A subheading in the piece shouted: "Cockroach milk may be a new superfood as study found high nutritional values".

What's going on here? Is cockroach milk a superfood? Do cockroaches even make milk!?

As clear as milk

Milk is defined as a liquid, coming from the mammary glands of a mammal.

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We are a bit loose with milk labelling, given we have soy, rice and almond milk.

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Food trends like cronuts and charcoal come and go, but one bizarre " superfood " is back, two years after it first debuted: Cockroach milk . The pesky bug is actually filled with an energy-rich milk -like substance.

Is Cockroach Milk Really the Next Big Superfood ? Probably not. As The Independent reports, it takes a lot of cockroaches to make ample amounts of milk for human consumption.

But, do cockroaches have tiny little udders?

To answer that, we have to go back a step to 'Cockroach Parenting 101'.

There are three main options for a cockroach to raise its babies.

First, dumping them somewhere safe to slowly mature. Second, attaching the eggs somewhere on the outside of its little cockroach body. The third option is to keep its eggs inside a small pouch-like brood sac until they mature.

This is very similar to what happens with baby joeys reared in a kangaroo's pouch.

Only one species of cockroach uses this third approach, and that's the Pacific beetle cockroach, which is found in Australia.

Inside a female's brood sac, there are often about 9–12 cockroach embryos.

To feed these embryos, the mother simply exudes a liquid through the wall of the brood sac for the embryos to drink up.

This liquid is very rich in fats, proteins and carbohydrates — like milk.

So, that's cockroach milk? Not quite

Not all this liquid is immediately absorbed by the baby roaches. They convert some of it into tiny crystals.

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It was these crystals, that eventually led to the Daily Mail headline, and the torrent of superfood claims.

Back in 2016, an international team of crystallographers from India, the USA, Japan and France published a paper in a journal accurately named the International Union of Crystallographers Journal.

The researchers looked at the crystals inside the cockroach embryos' stomachs.

In the summary of this paper was the phrase: "crystalline cockroach-milk proteins" — now we're listening: "cockroach-milk".

While the Daily Mail took the story one way, others, such as Inverse, wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece about cockroach "milk".

It had the headline: "Everyone Calm Down, Cockroach Milk Isn't Taking Over Just Yet", and the subheading: "We're here to report that it's not even really milk".

It also went on to point out that to get 100 ml (or a cup) of cockroach milk, more than 1,000 mother cockroaches would have to be harvested.

Why do some say it's a superfood?

The original journal article did say crystalline cockroach milk is loaded with fats (about 20 per cent of the dry weight), so it's very high in calories or kilojoules.

And perhaps that's all you need for a new superfood.

One of the main superfood claims of cockroach milk is based on the fact it has about four times the energy content of cows' milk.

But if you just want energy content, why stop at milk? The highest energy content you can get is pure oil, such as olive oil, which is 100 per cent fat.

I should also point out that cockroach milk has never been tested in humans, and so, has never been found to give them wondrous health benefits — so it's impossible to back up the superfood claim at this point.

The Daily Mail's phrase "... tastes just like cow's milk" comes from one biochemist who apparently told US National Public Radio a colleague of his sampled a tiny amount of cockroach milk and found it "tasted like pretty much nothing".

Still, these pesky facts haven't stopped the tabloids from milking the story for all it's worth.

Dr Karl explains the difference between A1 and A2 milk .
A2 milk is one of the more interesting additions to the ever-expanding varieties of milk — but the science behind its benefits is a little murky. A1 and A2 are specific proteins found in cow's milk, though in different proportions depending on the breed of cattle.

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