Camel Milk Research

July 15, 2015 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

One of the fastest growing food categories is cow milk alternatives. By now, many consumers are aware of both animal and plant-based beverages that are targeted to those who need or wish to avoid conventional milk. On the animal side of the aisle, you can now easily find goat and sheep’s milk in health food stores and specialty markets. Plant-based “milks” aren’t actually milk at all. But, these fortified drinks made from almonds, coconuts, cashews, hemp and soy can and do substitute quite well for milk under some circumstances. The bottom line is that milk has become a major component in the modern diet, and that has spurred a rapidly evolving revolution in dairy and dairy substitutes.

The latest entry into the US dairy market is camel’s milk (CM). It has a very long history of use in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and is now positioning itself as a medicinal food for diseases ranging from autism to diabetes. But, unlike some other traditional remedies, researchers from around the world are scientifically investigating the potential of CM.

At this year’s Natural Products Expo West, I had the opportunity to sample fresh camel’s milk produced by Desert Farms. The taste was rather unremarkable. According to my taste buds, it was pretty mild and much like cow’s milk. But, there are some meaningful, nutritional differences such as a higher level of vitamin B1 and a lower concentration of saturated fat. Also, the camels that provide this particular brand of milk are 100% grass fed, pasture raised and aren’t given any growth hormones. These are admirable practices. Still, it’s a stretch to say that camel’s milk is vastly superior to cow’s milk from a nutritional standpoint. It should also be noted that CM is much more expensive than cow’s milk – even when comparing it to grass fed, organic cow’s milk.

Thus far, several trials have demonstrated the potential of CM for patients with type 1 & 2 diabetes. The latest study involved the daily use of 500 ml of either camel’s or cow’s milk in a group of twenty type-2 diabetics. After two months of use, CM intake increased insulin concentrations from 64.59 pmol/L to 84.03 pmol/L – a statistically relevant change. Having said that, raising insulin production alone isn’t necessarily a welcome development. Higher insulin can be indicative of insulin resistance. What’s more, the participants receiving camel’s milk didn’t show a decline in blood pressure, fasting blood sugar or lipid profile. Interestingly, previous investigations reported distinctly positive changes, such as decreased long- and short-term blood sugar and insulin output. Additional trials have found benefits in type-1 diabetics as well. There’s even some preliminary research indicating that diabetic complications, including diabetic nephropathy, improve after chronic ingestion of CM.

Presently, it’s not possible to determine why the most recent study in type-2 diabetics revealed less promising results than previous trials. What has been noted over the past decade is that camel’s milk protein “has many characteristics similar to insulin” and there is actual insulin contained in the milk itself. These factors could partially explain the anti-diabetic activity of CM. Another possibility is that CM may minimize autoimmune and inflammatory activity that is associated with diabetes and various other diseases. This finding was recently documented when Saudi Arabian researchers uncovered improvements in autistic children who were fed 500 ml/day of CM. Other research corroborates a likely anti-inflammatory, immunomodulating effect of CM in patients with hepatitis B. Even so, at the moment, this is simply an intriguing, working hypothesis that requires much more substantiation.

Thanks to many positive anecdotes and the research detailed above, some health advocates and nutritionists are now recommending CM as an alternative to cow’s milk. There is some evidence showing that CM is well tolerated by many children with cow milk allergy and lactose intolerance. One study went so far as to conclude that CM may promote recovery from food allergies. Again, while the data is encouraging, such conclusions should be interpreted with caution. Most of these experiments involved relatively small numbers of participants. Therefore, I advise anyone with a cow milk allergy to experiment with CM carefully and conservatively. Start slowly and pay close attention to your personal reactions. Ultimately, your body will dictate whether camel’s milk truly is healthy for you as an individual.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 - Effect of Camel Milk on Blood Sugar and Lipid Profile of Patients with (link)

Study 2 - Effect of Camel Milk on Glucose Metabolism in Adults with Normal (link)

Study 3 – Camel Milk: A Possible Boon for Type 1 Diabetic Patients (link)

Study 4 - Effect of Camel Milk on Glycemic Control and Insulin Requirement (link)

Study 5 - Beneficial Effect of Camel Milk in Diabetic Nephropathy (link)

Study 6 - Camel Milk as an Adjuvant Therapy for the Treatment of Type 1 (link)

Study 7 - Camel Milk as an Adjunct to Insulin Therapy Improves Long-Term (link)

Study 8 - A Study of the Anti-Diabetic Agents of Camel Milk (link)

Study 9 - Effect of Camel Milk on Thymus and Activation-Regulated Chemokine (link)

Study 10 - Influences of Camel Milk on the Immune Response of Chronic Hepatitis (link)

Study 11 - Camel Milk: An Alternative for Cow’s Milk Allergy in Children (link)

Study 12 - Consumption of Camel’s Milk by Patients Intolerant to Lactose (link)

Study 13 - Camel Milk for Food Allergies in Children (link)

Pasteurized & Raw Camel’s Milk May Improve Autism Symptoms

Source: Pediatr Res. 2014 Apr;75(4):559-63. (link)


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12 Comments & Updates to “Camel Milk Research”

  1. JP Says:

    Update 07/15/15:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4458354/

    Jundishapur J Microbiol. 2015 May 31;8(5):e16750.

    Study of Lactic Acid Bacteria Community From Raw Milk of Iranian One Humped Camel and Evaluation of Their Probiotic Properties.

    BACKGROUND: Camel milk is amongst valuable food sources in Iran. On the other hand, due to the presence of probiotic bacteria and bacteriocin producers in camel milk, probiotic bacteria can be isolated and identified from this food product.

    OBJECTIVES: The objectives of the present research were the isolation and molecular identification of lactic acid bacteria from camel milk and evaluation of their probiotic properties.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: A total of ten samples of camel milk were collected from the Golestan province of Iran under aseptic conditions. Bacteria were isolated by culturing the samples on selective medium. Isolates were identified by amplification of the 16S rDNA and Internal Transcribed Spacer (ITS) region between the 16S and 23S rRNA genes by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and were then screened and grouped by the Amplified Ribosomal DNA Restriction Analysis (ARDRA) method. To evaluate probiotic properties, representative isolates of different ARDRA profiles were analyzed. The antimicrobial activity of Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) against Pediococcus pentosaceus, Escherichia coli and Bacillus cereus was examined by the agar diffusion assay. Acid and bile tolerance of isolates were evaluated.

    RESULTS: A total of 64 isolates were analyzed based on biochemical tests and morphological characteristics. The most frequently isolated LAB was Enterococci. Weissella, Leuconostoc, Lactobacilli and Pediococci were less frequently found. Based on restriction analysis of the ITS, the isolates were grouped into nine different ARDRA patterns that were identified by ribosomal DNA sequencing as P. pentosaceus, Enterococcus faecium strain Y-2, E. faecium strain JZ1-1, E. faecium strain E6, E. durans, E. lactis, Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Lactobacillus casei and Weissella cibaria. The results showed that antimicrobial activity of the tested isolates was remarkable and P. pentosaceus showed the most antibacterial activity. In addition, E. durans, E. lactis, L. casei and P. pentosaceus were selected as probiotic bacteria.

    CONCLUSIONS: This study revealed the presence of bacteriocin-producing bacteria and probiotic bacteria in camel milk from the Golestan province of Iran.

    Be well!

    JP

  2. JP Says:

    Updated 07/15/15:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25477694

    J Food Sci Technol. 2014 Dec;51(12):4138-42.

    Antioxidant activity and fatty acid profile of fermented milk prepared by Pediococcus pentosaceus.

    Probiotics are the class of beneficial microorganisms that have positive influence on the health when ingested in adequate amounts. Probiotic fermented milk is one of the dairy products that is prepared by using probiotic lactic acid bacteria. The study comprised preparation of fermented milk from various sources such as cow, goat and camel. Pediococcus pentosaceus which is a native laboratory isolate from cheese was utilized for the product formation. Changes in functional properties in the fermented milks obtained from three different species were evaluated. Antioxidant activity determined by DPPH assay showed activity in probiotic fermented milk obtained from all the products being highest in goat milk (93 %) followed by product from camel milk (86 %) and then product from cow milk (79 %). The composition of beneficial fatty acids such as stearic acid, oleic acid and linoleic acid were higher in fermented milk than the unfermented ones. Results suggested that probiotic bacteria are able to utilize the nutrients in goat and camel milk more efficiently compared to cow milk. Increase in antioxidant activity and fatty acid profile of fermented milks enhances the therapeutic value of the products.

    Be well!

    JP

  3. JP Says:

    Updated 07/15/15:

    Note: Gentamicin is an antibiotic.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4269313/

    J Toxicol. 2014;2014:917608.

    Camel milk beneficial effects on treating gentamicin induced alterations in rats.

    The potential effect of camel milk (CM) against gentamicin (GM) induced biochemical changes in the rat serum was evaluated. Four groups of six albino rats were used for control, CM fed, injected with GM(i.p.), and then fed and injected with GM. The results showed that the administration of GM significantly altered the levels of aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity in rat serum. CM restored these parameters to almost their normal range in group IV. Additionally, the present study showed that injection of rats with gentamicin caused an increase in malondialdehyde (MDA) and myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity while the antioxidant enzymes like superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione s-transferase (GST) activity decreased significantly (P ≤ 0.05). Administration of CM significantly (P ≤ 0.05) inhibited the formation of MDA and activity of MPO and upregulated the antioxidant enzymes (SOD and GST) activity. The overall findings of this study demonstrated that pretreatment with CM gave protection against GM induced hepatic damage possibly by inhibiting oxidative stress and inflammation, and hence camel milk can be identified as a new therapeutic agent.

    Be well!

    JP

  4. Kelly Says:

    So interesting! I tried a camel milk chocolate bar a while ago that was delish. I’d be interested to see if camel milk ever hit American supermarkets

  5. JP Says:

    Thank you, Kelly!

    Look for it at larger health food stores or specialty markets. You just might see some there!

    Be well!

    JP

  6. Jody H. Says:

    Wow this is a very cool post. I would have never thought of camels milk. Is it pretty easy stuff to get your hands on? I’m actually a type 1 diabetic, so if I find anything that is supposed to improve my health and my diabetes I’m on board. Thanks for this post, and if you have any insight on places to purchase it please let me know.

  7. JP Says:

    Hi, Jody.

    Thank you! In southern California, I’ve seen it in various health food stores. Here’s a store locator resource that may be helpful:

    http://desertfarms.com/apps/store-locator

    Be well!

    JP

  8. Jody H. Says:

    I live in Georgia, so the closest store to me is in Houston! Hopefully it will come my way very soon. I’m very interested in trying it!

  9. JP Says:

    Hi, Jody.

    You might try requesting it at your local health food stores. If there is enough demand, they’ll usually stock it! Also, it can be ordered online if all else fails!

    Be well!

    JP

  10. JP Says:

    Updated 1/19/16:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4700900/

    Electron Physician. 2015 Nov 20;7(7):1523-8.

    Nutritional and Therapeutic Characteristics of Camel Milk in Children: A Systematic Review.

    INTRODUCTION: Camel milk is the closest to a human mother’s milk. Camel milk is different from other milks, however, having low sugar and cholesterol, high minerals (sodium, potassium, iron, copper, zinc and magnesium, and vitamin C). The milk is considered have medicinal characteristics as well. This systematic review is aimed at determining and reporting nutritional values and medicinal characteristics of camel milk in children.

    METHODS: The search strategy of the current review is “(camel AND milk) AND (autism OR food allergy OR milk allergy OR children OR diarrhea.” The search was conducted via PubMed, Scopus, and Google scholar. Also two Persian scientific databases (SID and Iranmedex) and international congresses were investigated. Full-text papers and abstracts on the topic of camel milk, evaluating nutritional value and medicinal properties, were included in this systematic review.

    RESULTS: Out of the 472 records found in the resources, 35 related studies were included in the final analysis. The result showed that camel milk is highly nutritious and is safe for consumption by children.

    CONCLUSION: It seems that many researchers did not follow a specific guideline for reporting and confirming the therapeutic properties of camel milk in children, but there is evidence denoting the importance, trials, and investigations of its usability and benefits. Camel milk as a supplemental treatment seems less invasive and costly than specialist care, medications, alternative treatments, and behavioral interventions. Based on our findings, camel milk is safer for children, effective in the treatment of autism, improves general well-being, promotes body natural defenses, is a good nutritional source, and can helps the daily nutritional needs of humans.

    Be well!

    JP

  11. JP Says:

    Updated 08/13/16:

    http://chp.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/07/15/2156587216658846.abstract

    J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2016 Jul 18.

    The Therapeutic Effects of Camel Milk: A Systematic Review of Animal and Human Trials.

    The clinical effectiveness and value of camel milk as a therapeutic agent is currently unclear. MEDLINE (1946 to March 2016), EMBASE (1974 to March 2016), and Google Scholar were searched using the following terms: milk, bodily secretions, camels, camelus, camelini, camelidae, dromedary, bactrian camel, body fluid, and bodily secretions. Articles identified were reviewed if the study was investigating the use of camel milk for the potential treatment of diseases affecting humans. Of 430 studies, 24 were included after assessment. Identified studies highlighted treatment with camel milk of diseases, including diabetes, autism, cancer, various infections, heavy metal toxicity, colitis, and alcohol-induced toxicity. Although most studies using both the human and animal model do show a clinical benefit with an intervention and camel milk, limitations of these studies must be taken into consideration before widespread use. Based on the evidence, camel milk should not replace standard therapies for any indication in humans.

    Be well!

    JP

  12. JP Says:

    Updated 04/18/17:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28413471

    Exp Ther Med. 2017 Apr;13(4):1313-1320.

    Influence of camel milk on the hepatitis C virus burden of infected patients.

    Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection represents a world health problem and no protective vaccine or effective drug currently exists. For economic reasons, many patients use traditional medicines to control the infection. In Egypt, camel milk is one of the traditional medicines widely consumed by patients infected with HCV. The present study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of camel milk in the treatment of patients infected with HCV. Whole camel milk from a local farm was administered to patients for 4 months (250 ml/day/patient). Patient sera were collected prior to and following camel milk drinking, and three markers were set-up for sera-evaluation. The three markers indicating the effect of camel milk on HCV infection were: Liver function assays [alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST)]; a viral load assay; and anti-HCV antibodies profile and isotyping against synthetic HCV epitopes. Camel milk demonstrated the ability to improve general fatigue, health and liver function (ALT and AST levels); ALT was reduced in ~88% of patients and AST was reduced in all patients subsequent to drinking camel milk for four months. The majority of patients responded positively to camel milk treatment; RNA viral load decreased in 13 out of the 17 patients (76.47%) and one patient exhibited undetected viremia following camel milk treatment. The anti-HCV antibodies profile and isotyping were significantly decreased (P<0.05) in immunoglobulin (Ig)G1 following treatment in 70-76% of patients. However, the treatment was ineffective in 23.53% of patients who experienced no reduction in RNA viral load following treatment with camel milk. In conclusion, whole camel milk treatment demonstrated efficacy in vivo; the viral load in the majority of patient sera was reduced and the IgG isotype profile was converted to Th1 immunity.

    Be well!

    JP

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