The newest wave in dairy products could be heading this way — and the source could be the Middle East. The newcomer on the scene could be a boon to allergy sufferers, diabetics, and other individuals who prefer to consume alternatives to regular dairy products.
Camel’s milk, once the fare of nomads and a few lucky villagers, is now going into large-scale production in the Middle East. Since the early ’90s, camel’s milk, cheese, chocolate, and ice cream have all been rolled out as commercial products in that area of the world. Unfortunately, the products haven’t made it to Europe or North America, but I wouldn’t count out the possibility just yet.
Camels are mammals that have the distinctive humps and are native to the dry areas and deserts of North Africa and Asia — they are known as camels (two humps) or dromedaries (one hump). The often ornery creatures have been herded and used for different purposes by humans — as dairy and meat sources — for around 3,000 years.
Camel’s milk is purported to be more nutritious than cow’s milk. It is low in fat and cholesterol, has less lactose than other milk, and contains tons of minerals (e.g. sodium, potassium, magnesium, and iron), vitamin C (thrice that of cow’s milk), and calcium. This beverage is also different from other milk in that it does not curdle (which makes it harder to make cheese, but makes it easier to digest for humans).
According to scientists, camel’s milk does not contain the forms of protein found in cow’s milk that seem to be responsible for allergies. There are many beliefs held by the nomadic tribes about the food, including that it could work as an aphrodisiac and a face cleanser, it could be beneficial for the liver, and that it could eliminate bacteria from the body. None of these claims have been proven in studies, so they should be considered as being not valid until proven otherwise.
One small study done in Beersheba, Israel, which was published last year, did show that camel’s milk could have the potential to treat serious food allergies. Researchers looked at eight children with severe food allergies that brought on symptoms such as rash, asthma, and lactase deficiency.
Within 24 hours of being given defrosted camel’s milk (not heated up, as that eliminates the beneficial properties of this kind of milk), the subjects showed improvement. Amazingly, after four days, all of the children’s food allergy symptoms were gone. There is a larger study in the works, which is going to take a closer look at this potential allergy remedy.
Another example of the potential for camel’s milk in the health arena is as a supplement for diabetics. In an experimental study out of Jaipur, India, researchers looked at the effects of raw, unpasteurized camel milk on blood sugar levels in rats. The milk is said to contain large amounts of insulin, in addition to the other aforementioned components. At the end of the study, it was found that the diabetic rats that had been fed camel’s milk had a much greater decrease in blood sugar levels than those consuming cow’s milk did.
Since camel’s milk is so new to the world dietary scene, a great many more studies must be done in order to look into every one of its effects, particularly in Europe and North America. Camel’s milk is not yet available on these continents due to the fact that it does not meet certain guidelines set by health authorities and because it’s difficult to mass-produce and ship/store. For example, again, camel’s milk cannot be pasteurized, as this destroys many of its healthy ingredients.
However, there’s still hope, as camels are gaining in popularity as farm animals, even in the U.S. Keep an eye out for this dairy alternative, as its potential for health benefits appears to be huge.