Cephalopods are notoriously intelligent. YouTube is littered with videos of octopi working their way out of traps or puzzles. Cuttlefish possess an incredible camouflage ability that they are able to use as a deceptive manipulation tactic during mating. When courting a female, male cuttlefish will display the color patterns of his own gender. Should another male intrude, he will change the other half of his body to display the color patterns of a female to fool the intruding male into thinking that he is not a threat. The black ink of squids has been used culinarily for centuries in Eastern Asia, but the strange delicacy is beginning to gather more popularity in the western world. Cancer is one of the last terrifying illnesses that is still considered “incurable,” but studies show that the secret to cancer evasion may be held in the undersea evasion tactic of squids.
Squid ink is a dramatic addition to any meal. The deep color adds a rich contrast to vibrant greens, colorful vegetables, or even a white plate. The ink’s flavor is surprisingly delicate and subtle, almost nonexistent. The above is a photo of squid ink meringue with sea urchin and mango-cheese mousse from Covelli Italian Bistro & Wine Bar in Singapore. The black, sometimes purple squid ink is composed primarily of melanin, which is the pigment that affects skin color. The ink also holds proteins, mineral (rich in iron), taurine, lipids and dopamine. The presence of taurine and dopamine are exceptionally interesting. Taurine, an amino acid often found in energy drinks, regulates the mineral and water levels in the blood, and aids neurological development. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and hormone that is associated with positive moods. Parkinson’s Disease, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are associated with a dysfunction of the dopamine system.
Tumors are able to induce the growth of new blood vessels that will, in turn, bring it the nutrients and oxygen that it requires to continue growth. Studies have shown that the ingestion of black squid ink can prevent these additional blood vessels from growing, thereby discouraging the growth of the cancer. Chinese researchers in Shenyang also discovered that squid ink encourages natural killer cell activity in lab mice, thereby significantly curbing tumor growth. This lends additional credence to the idea that a cephalopod’s clever undersea evasion tactic may be the right way to go about evading the growth or metastasis of cancer.
Additional studies in Zhanjiang, China found that the nutrient-dense ink may have antibacterial qualities that could be useful to combat antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Among those pathogens already tested are Staphylococcus epidermidis, Pseudomonas aerugonosa and Escherichia Coli. Researchers at Cairo University conducted an animal study that found anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits related to the ingestion of squid ink.
The inky black stuff can be purchased on its own from specialty stores, and most grocery stores carry a tin filled with a brutal combination of cooked squid parts bathed in its own ink. An interesting company called Calamari Ink markets and sells their cleverly named squid ink supplements from their website. One of their products, Calagenesis, is a combination of squid ink, non allergenic crushed shellfish, green tea extract and ganoderma powder, and goes for about $1 per pill. The manufacturer claims this preparation can maintain a healthy immune system, healthy cell growth, breast and colon health, bones, joints and muscle health, memory and concentration, healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels, energy level, cardiovascular health, healthy skin and hair, a healthy anti-inflammatory response, healthy menstrual flow, and cartilage liquidity. That is a tall order for a supplement.
If further research proves the immense value of the squid’s inky evasion tactic as an effective means of evasion for cancer, the possible outcomes could mean a proliferation of “squid” related headlines. The desire to acquire the cephalopod’s dark defense could lead to overfishing, artificial synthesis of ink, and a growing number of captive breeding programs. Once again, the depths of our own ocean prove to be just as mysterious and interesting as any extraterrestrial body.
By Faye Barton