What’s So Special About Camel Milk?
The Camel Milk Story
CameLife doesn’t sell camel milk; we develop and market skincare products that harness its benefits. But we are often asked about the health advantages of the milk. We work with some passionate advocates for camel milk, including our Scientific Advisor Professor Reuven Yagil, who has dedicated much of his life to understanding and promoting its health benefits.
In the UK, mainstream supermarket Asda is now selling camel milk. Asda is the UK arm of US giant Walmart; when a big chain supermarket starts selling a new food, its a pretty clear indication that the product is going to become full-on trend. Maybe we should be asking why no major Australian supermarket chain is stocking camel milk; after all, we have camels and dairies here. Asda is importing milk to the UK from the United Arab Emirates yet still manages to sell it at $20 a litre compared to the usual retail price here of $25 (if you can find it).
There’s a wealth of articles around promoting the health benefits of drinking camel milk. There’s also plenty of scepticism, some of it well argued by healthcare professionals and some of it downright unfair. Choice magazine gave Camel Milk Victoria one of its Shonky Awards for referring to commonly acknowledged benefits of consuming camel milk. Choice seemingly made the award based solely on the price point; not once did they consider the wealth of research and anecdotal evidence describing the benefits. Nor did they acknowledge that the costs of producing and distributing camel milk dwarf those of producing cow’s milk. Come on; stop knocking small businesses!
So here’s our spin on this very special milk and why we should all consider drinking it.
Is Camel Milk Nutritious?
Animal milks are an important source of energy, protein, calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, and many other essential nutrients.
Dromedary milk has been the staple animal milk source in some Middle Eastern, North African, and Asian cultures for millennia. Adapted to ensure the survival of baby camels in harsh desert environments, the milk is higher in calcium, thiamine, niacin, iron, potassium, copper, and manganese than cow’s milk, while containing three times the level of Vitamin C. It is also lower in calories, saturated fat, and sugars than the cow’s milk. In short, it is highly nutritious.
Promoting Gut Health?
The nutritional value of camel milk is significantly enhanced because, unlike cow’s or goat’s milk, it doesn’t coagulate in your stomach, making it far more digestible. People often report that drinking a glass of camel milk for breakfast fill them up and kills their appetite. Our co-founder Dr Pauline Roberts is a working vet, often up very early has noted that a glass of camel milk sustains her through a busy morning however early she starts.
When Saturday Night presenter PJ Madam drank camel milk for a month , her first impression was that “I wasn’t hungry. There were some days I skipped and even forgot about breakfast. It stole my appetite“. Over a month of drinking the milk, she noted a significant improvement in her Irritable Bowel Syndrome, reporting that after a month “my stomach symptoms didn’t stop entirely, but they weren’t as severe. Very little cramping, and the bloating disappeared”.
Boosting the Immune System?
Camel milk contains over two hundred proteins, many of which are unique to the camel. The protective proteins and enzymes found in dromedary milk; lysozymes, immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, and lactoperoxidase, to name a few, may have anti bacterial and anti microbial effects that appear to promote the body’s natural defences. The camel is unique among mammals in having a single domain anti-body; only sharks have similar.
There are plenty of peer reviewed research papers out there, but little, if any of it originates in Australia. Here at CameLife, we believe there is a need to draw together the multiple threads of global research and identify where more is needed. Australia has over 500,000 feral camels; we should be leading this, not sceptically standing at the sides.
A Safe Substitute for Milk Allergies?
Camel milk does not contain beta-lactoglobulin or A1 casein, the two proteins found in cow’s milk that are responsible for allergic reactions. People who are allergic to cow’s milk can often safely consume camel milk, thereby benefiting from the nutritious properties of milk. Those with lactose intolerance, too, may benefit from drinking the milk.
Reuven Yagil published a paper in the December 2005 edition of the “Israel Medical Association Journal” that investigated the effects of camel milk on eight children with severe milk and other food allergies. After failing to respond to conventional treatments, study participants consumed camel milk under control. Daily progress reports indicated that all eight children fully recovered from their allergies with no side effects. In fact, researchers stated that results were spectacular when compared with traditional treatments. As ever, more research is needed!
Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid and inhibitory neurotransmitter found in the brain and available as a health supplement. But surely it’s better to get GABA from a natural source than in an expensive dietary supplement?
Goat’s milk and camel milk have significantly more GABA than cow’s or human milks, but camel milk has been found to be more efficient in activating GABA receptors than goat’s milk, making it much more easily absorbed by the body.
We often hear people say that they and their families are much calmer when they drink camel milk, an experience we share.
Lowers Blood Sugar Levels?
Dromedary milk contains an insulin-like protein; some studies suggest that it contains the equivalent of 52 units of insulin per litre. For diabetes sufferers, drinking camel milk may offer a natural way to improve blood sugar levels while significantly reducing the need for daily doses of insulin.
According to Lori Chong, a dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Centre, “Studies have also shown that daily consumption of camel’s milk can improve glycemic control while also lowering the insulin requirement of people with Type 1 diabetes.”
Science Direct published a summary paper from a Saudi university which gives an overview. Meanwhile, research published in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice showed that camel’s milk as an adjunct to insulin therapy improves long-term glycemic control and reduction in doses of insulin in patients with Type 1 diabetes.
Here at CameLife, we are not qualified to comment on the validity of any of this; we simply point it out.
A Viable Therapy for Autism?
One of the most commonly challenged claims made about camel milk is that it “treats” autism, yet there is published research and a wealth of anecdotal evidence of camel milk helping autism sufferers. Autism spectrum disorders believed to be caused by a number of factors, one of which is a phenomenon called oxidative stress. Camel milk may help reduce oxidative stress; according to Lori Chong at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Centre “Studies have shown that the consumption of camel milk increases the bodies’ production of antioxidant enzymes thereby lowering oxidative stress within the body”.
CameLife are members of the Healing with Camel Milk Facebook group, which has just shy of 10,000 members and is packed with often inspirational stories about using camel milk to aid autism spectrum disorder sufferers.
Bedouin cultures have long used camel milk to treat wounds and skin problems. Traditionally, they just applied the milk. Professor Yagil was one one of the first to take this traditional treatment and make skincare creams to treat severe and chronic skin problems like psoriasis and eczema or to promote wound healing, particularly burns. There is research reporting significant improvement in wound healing using dromedary milk, particularly for diabetics with suppressed wound healing ability.
Camel Milk – Its Just Milk!
So here’s our spin. Camel milk is a food. Just a food. OK, so it’s a premium food sold at a high price, particularly when compared with other milks. But no-one is being ripped off by the suppliers; a female camel produces about a quarter of the milk that a cow does and she only does so when she has a calf present. There aren’t many farms and there’s no viable supply chain from farm to supermarket in Australia. You simply can’t compare the price of camel milk with that of cow’s milk.
Camel milk may, or may not, have profound healing qualities. The research simply hasn’t been done and certainly not to a standard that would satisfy the Therapeutic Goods Agency and allow therapeutic claims to be made in Australia. But there are credible scientific proponents for every benefit claimed for camel milk, as well as plenty of user-advocates.
But if you are suffering form any on the conditions that camel milk is purported to aid, what do you have to loose? Its just milk after all.