Is Octopus Ink Poisonous?

Is Octopus Ink Poisonous?

The octopus ink is used in cooking, primarily in Japan and the Mediterranean. It is used both as a food coloring ingredient and for flavorings, such as in pasta and sauces. But isn’t the octopus ink poisonous? Well, some studies have shown that it is toxic to some cells, including tumor cells, but the research is still currently on-going.

In the past, the ink was used for pens and quills, but it currently remains unclear if octopus ink is truly poisonous through oral consumption. But, since it made its way into some cultures cuisines, it might not be that poisonous. 

If we are to analyze its use in nature, the ink is used primarily as a smokescreen to fend off predators or to confuse them if they are nearing the eggs of an octopus. The ink sometimes irritates predators. Here are some common interesting questions about octopus ink.

Is Octopus Ink Healthy?

The octopus ink contains many compounds such as melanin, enzymes, polysaccharides, catecholamines – hormones, metals such as cadmium, lead, and copper, as well as amino acids like glutamate, taurine, alanine, leucine, and aspartic acid.

The main component responsible for the octopus’ dark ink is melanin. Melanin also occurs in humans, being responsible/determining our skin color.

Octopus ink has been used since ancient times for traditional medicine, writing, art, cosmetics, and as a food additive, coloring, or flavoring foods such as pasta or sauces.

Octopus ink may have some health benefits and maybe partly poisonous but human research is lacking in this topic. The fact is, we consume this in small doses, and it is unlikely that it will affect us negatively or even positively.

Some other studies concluded that octopus ink may have the following health benefits, but keep in mind that these studied were conducted on test-tubes and animals:

Antimicrobial Properties

In these tests, the ink proved to be efficient against bacteria found in dental plaques, such as Streptococcus mutans, Actinomyces viscosus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Candida albicans.

Another test-tube study demonstrated that the ink compounds were able to neutralize bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses, such as Escherichia coli and Listeria Monocytogenes.

Antioxidant Effects

Octopus ink has potent antioxidant properties. These compounds fight potentially harmful molecules called free radicals, which may cause illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Antioxidants are also known to somewhat slow down the effects of aging.

These properties come from a molecule present in the octopus ink, namely the polysaccharides, which are long chains of conjoined sugar molecules, proven to protect against free radicals.

Fighting Cancer

Other test-tube studies revealed that the ink may reduce tumor size and the spreading of cancerous cells, but there are counter studies to this as well. The molecule in the ink responsible for this is again polysaccharides. But further research is needed.

Other Potential Health Benefits

Octopus ink may reduce blood pressure since some compounds in the ink help blood vessels dilate. Stomach ulcers may be combated by this ink since the ink reduces stomach acid production.

Lastly, the ink may boost the immune system since in certain cases, the ink promoted the growth and development of immune cells, and enhanced the immunity system with a control solution.

What Happens When an Octopus Inks?

Octopus ink when they feel threatened, and they do this to hide from predators or to provide a distraction while they flee. This ink sometimes harms the predators as it contains the compound called tyrosinase, which may cause a blinding irritation and garbles the predator’s sense of smell and taste. Some octopus may die in their own ink if they are unable to escape from it.

In other strategic situations, like for example if a predator wants to eat an octopus’ eggs, the mother octopus would ink to scare away the predator or blind it, in order for her eggs to remain safe.

Is Octopus Dangerous to Eat?

In certain parts of the world, it is a delicacy, however, it is sometimes served raw, and even alive. This is very dangerous because the octopus might choke you when you try to swallow it, particularly, its tentacles still move, so, yeah, you get the idea.

But you shouldn’t eat octopus, as these beautiful creatures are part of an already over-exploited marine ecosystem. They aren’t even that great to eat, being mostly rubbery, so you’re not missing out on much.

Are Octopus Aggressive to Humans?

Octopus can deliver venomous bites since they have sharp beaks. But this happens rarely to humans since it has to get really close to you. Most likely, an octopus will try to avoid humans, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful, because they are also extremely curious creatures, and who knows what might set them off.

Octopus bites can cause bleeding and swelling, however, only the venom of the blue-ringed octopus, namely the Hapalochlaena lunulata, is deadly to humans.

The octopus venom usually causes paralysis in its prey. This is because it contains the neurotoxins tyramine or cephalotoxin. It’s best to keep your distance regardless and admire this beautiful sea creature that deserves respect.

Did You Know?

– Octopuses have blue blood, having a copper rather than iron-based blood called hemocyanin. This type of blood is more efficient in transporting oxygen than our hemoglobins. However, this condition also makes octopuses extremely sensitive to changes in acidity.

– Female octopuses lay up to 400,000 eggs which they guard excessievely, as they tend to them. After they mate, the male octopus waders off to die, while the female starves herself to death, with her body undertaking a cascade of cellular suicide, starting from the optic glands and rippling outward through her tissues and organs until she dies.

– The octopuses tentacles have a mind of their own since two-thirds of its neurons reside within these arms. Thus, this makes octopuses quite proficient at multitasking, since one arm can be busy doing something, while the octopus itself may be busy doing something else.

– Octopuses have three hearts, with two of them working exclusively on moving blood beyond its gills, and the third keeps circulation flowing to the other organs.

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