California-based Desert Farms has launched what it calls the first commercially available line of camel milk products, including raw and pasteurized camel milks and a raw camel milk kefir (a fermented drink).
The company is touting the health benefits of camel milk, saying it provides “more absorbable calcium than available in other milks” and it “may enhance diabetic wound healing,” among other benefits. But it’s also saying camel milk is simply a milk for our times — “richer, more filling, more easily digested, and more satisfying than cow, goat or dairy milk.”
The product line is already being featured in more than 40 Whole Foods stores throughout California and is starting to be distributed elsewhere. And that’s in spite of the fact it doesn’t come cheap — a pint of Desert Farms camel milk runs $18.
But Abdul-Wahab isn’t the only entrepreneur who sees the potential of these hump-backed animals. Another major player is Frank King, a chiropractor and founder and president of King Bio, a North Carolina company that specializes in homeopathic medicines and other natural products. After successfully marketing bison meat as a leaner alternative to traditional beef, King is now looking to camels (he’s got a herd of 23) and the milk they provide. He also talks of its healing properties, pointing to research that has shown the milk can help those with conditions ranging from autism to hepatitis.
“It’s the next superfood,” says King. And it’s a tasty one, too, he says. Like other camel milk connoisseurs, he describes it as having a slightly saltier taste than cow milk. “As well as a hint of vanilla,” he says. (In a MarketWatch taste test of the Desert Farms milk, the saltiness was definitely there. “It tastes like someone left a pretzel in a glass of regular milk,” one colleague said. But the vanilla? Not so much.)
Camel milk, used medicinally for centuries by nomadic people, is the closest to human mother’s milk and contains 10 times more iron and three times more vitamin C than cow’s milk, according to The Huffington Post. Camels possess unique, powerful immune-system components, which are contained in their milk. Camel milk might potentially benefit disorders including diabetes, autism and people usually allergic to milk. As with any natural remedy, consult your doctor before drinking camel milk.
It has natural antibiotics like lac-toferrin, which keeps the milk fresh for longer and means bacteria cannot grow quickly like in cow milk.
Low-fat camel milk not only contains healthy vitamins and minerals, but also is a rich source of insulin. This milk reportedly has about a quart of insulin in each liter, making it a potential treatment option for diabetics. The Huffington Post cites a 2005 study by India’s Bikaner Diabetes Care Research Center that observed the effects of camel milk on type 1 diabetes. Researchers determined that consuming camel milk significantly reduced insulin doses required to maintain long-term glycemic, or blood sugar, control. According to lead researcher Dr. R.P. Agrawal, 500 ml of raw, fresh camel milk daily improves the lives of diabetics due to an insulin-like protein that is absorbed rapidly and does not coagulate. However, Agrawal also states that insulin remains the most efficient treatment for diabetes, unless it is not an option. While research appears promising, additional scientific studies are needed to prove the effectiveness of camel milk for the treatment of diabetes.
Some camel milk proponents believe that camel milk might benefit people with autism. A study published in the 2005 edition of the “International Journal of Human Development” observed the effects of camel milk consumption, instead of cow milk, on autistic people. Researchers discovered that after a 4-year-old female participant drank camel milk for 40 days, her autism symptoms disappeared. A 15-year-old boy also recovered after 30 days of drinking the milk. In addition, several autistic 21-year-olds consumed camel milk for two weeks and were observed to be quieter and less self-destructive. Though the milk is believed beneficial, insufficient scientific evidence exists to prove the effectiveness of it in the treatment of autism.
Camel milk lacks two powerful allergens found in cow milk and contains immune system components that might benefit children allergic to milk and other foods. A study published in the December 2005 edition of the “Israel Medical Association Journal” 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 the direction of researchers. 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. Disease-fighting immunoglobulins in camel milk were believed to play a key role in reducing allergic symptoms; however, additional scientific research is needed to sufficiently prove the effectiveness of camel milk in treating allergies.
The potent immune-system components in camel milk might help fight diseases. Purportedly, the small size of the immunoglobulins, or antibodies, found in camel milk enables easy targeting and penetration of foreign disease-causing substances, called antigens, for destruction by the immune system. People with autoimmune system disorders, such as Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis, have immune systems that attack their own body tissues. Although traditional treatments for autoimmune disorders suppress the immune system, camel milk benefits these disorders by boosting it, according to Israeli physiology professor emeritus Dr. Reuven Yagil. Despite conventional wisdom, Yagil asserts that his observations over a five-year period indicate that camel milk can control or even heal autoimmune disorders, but insufficient scientific evidence exists to prove the effectiveness of camel milk in the treatment of autoimmune diseases.