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People may choose to consume camel milk for a variety of reasons, including its nutrient-rich profile or as a milk alternative for those with lactose intolerance. But it may be unpasteurized, which can lead to food poisoning.
For centuries, camel milk has been an important source of nutrition for nomadic cultures in harsh environments like deserts.
It’s now commercially produced and sold in many countries, as well as available online in powdered and frozen versions.
With cow’s and various plant- and animal-based milks readily at your disposal, you may wonder why some people choose camel milk.
Here are 6 benefits of camel milk — and 3 downsides.
Camel milk is rich in many nutrients that are important for overall health.
When it comes to calorie, protein, and carb content, camel milk is comparable to whole cow’s milk. However, it’s lower in saturated fat and offers more vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, iron, and potassium (
One-half cup (120 ml) of camel milk contains the following nutrients (2):
- Calories: 50
- Protein: 3 grams
- Fat: 3 grams
- Carbs: 5 grams
- Thiamine: 29% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Riboflavin: 8% of the DV
- Calcium: 16% of the DV
- Potassium: 6% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 6% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 5% of the DV
Camel milk has a similar nutritional composition to whole cow’s milk but provides less saturated fat, more unsaturated fat, and higher amounts of several vitamins and minerals.
Lactose intolerance is a common condition caused by a deficiency of lactase, the enzyme needed to digest the sugar in dairy known as lactose. It can cause bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain after consumption of dairy products (
Camel milk contains less lactose than cow’s milk, making it more tolerable for many people with lactose intolerance.
What’s more, camel milk has been used to treat diarrhea caused by rotavirus for hundreds of years. Research suggests that the milk contains antibodies that help treat this diarrheal disease, which is especially common in children (
Camel milk may be a better choice for people with lactose intolerance or cow’s milk allergy. Plus, it may have antidiarrheal properties.
The milk contains insulin-like proteins, which may be responsible for its antidiabetic activity. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels.
In a 2-month study in 20 adults with type 2 diabetes, insulin sensitivity improved among those drinking 2 cups (500 ml) of camel milk, but not among the cow’s milk group (
Another study found that adults with type 1 diabetes who drank 2 cups (500 ml) of camel milk daily in addition to diet, exercise, and insulin treatment saw lower blood sugar and insulin levels than those not given camel milk. Three people no longer needed insulin (
Camel milk may lower blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, especially in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Camel milk contains compounds that appear to fight various disease-causing organisms. The two main active components in camel milk are lactoferrin and immunoglobulins, proteins that may give camel milk its immune-boosting properties (
Lactoferrin has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. It inhibits the growth of E. coli, K. pneumoniae, Clostridium, H.pylori, S. aureus, and C. albicans, organisms that can cause severe infections (
What’s more, one rat study found that camel milk protected against leukopenia (low white blood cell count) and other side effects of cyclophosphamide, a toxic anticancer drug. These results support the immune-boosting properties of the milk (
Additional research suggests that camel whey protein is responsible for the milk’s ability to fight harmful organisms. It may have antioxidant properties that help your body fight free radical damage (
Camel milk contains lactoferrin, immunoglobulins, and camel whey protein, which may be responsible for its ability to fight organisms and boost immunity.
Camel milk has been studied for its effects on behavioral conditions in children, and people suggest that it may aid those with autism. Most of the evidence is anecdotal, though a few small studies indicate potential benefits for improving autistic behaviors (
Autism spectrum disorders is an umbrella term for several neurodevelopmental conditions that can impair social interactions and cause repetitive behaviors (
One study found that camel milk may improve autistic behavior in children on the spectrum. However, this study used cow’s milk as a placebo and noted that many of the participants had lactose intolerance or milk allergy (
Another study in 65 children with autism ages 2–12 years old noted that 2 weeks of drinking camel milk led to significant improvements in autistic behavioral symptoms, which were not seen in the placebo group (
Though research is promising, replacing standard treatments for autism with camel milk is not recommended. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns parents that these claims are not warranted and lack sufficient evidence (
Camel milk may aid certain behavioral and neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism, as well as neurodegenerative illnesses like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, but evidence is limited.
Camel milk can almost always replace other types of milk.
It can be consumed plain or used in coffee, tea, smoothies, baked goods, sauces, soups, mac and cheese, and pancake and waffle batters.
There may be subtle differences in taste depending on where the milk comes from. American camel milk is said to have a sweet, slightly salty, and creamy taste, while camel milk from the Middle East has a more nutty and smoky flavor.
Camel milk is fairly versatile and can replace other types of milk in most cases. However, it’s difficult to make into cheese, yogurt, and butter. As a result, these products are not widely available.
Though it offers various benefits, camel milk has certain downsides as well.
1. More expensive
Camel milk is significantly more expensive than cow’s milk, for various reasons.
Like all mammals, camels generally only produce milk after having given birth, and their pregnancies are 13 months long. This can place challenges on production time. In places where camel milk is gaining interest, demand is exceeding supply (
Camels also produce far less milk than cows — around 1.5 gallons (6 liters) per day, compared with 6 gallons (24 liters) for a typical domesticated dairy cow (37).
In the United States, where camel milking operations are new, there are only a few thousand camels. The FDA also significantly limits imports of camel milk to the United States, driving up the price of consumer products.
2. May not be pasteurized
Traditionally, camel milk is consumed raw without heat treatments or pasteurization. Many health professionals do not recommend consuming raw milk in general due to the high risk of food poisoning (3,
What’s more, organisms in raw milk may cause infections, kidney failure, and even death. This risk is especially concerning for high-risk populations, such as pregnant women, children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems (
In particular, camel milk has been found to contain organisms that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome and brucellosis (Mediterranean fever), which are highly contagious infections passed from unpasteurized dairy products to humans (
3. May pose ethical concerns
Camel milk has been consumed in many Eastern cultures throughout history but has only recently become a commercialized food trend in Western societies.
This means that camels are being imported to areas in which they don’t traditionally live, such as the United States, where camel dairy farms are being created to produce milk on a larger scale (44).
Many people argue that humans don’t need to drink milk from other mammals and that doing so exploits these animals, including cows, goats, and camels.
Many camel farmers report that the animals are not well adapted to machine milking and that selective breeding is needed to boost their milk production and improve the ease of milking them (45).
Therefore, some people avoid camel milk and other types of animal-based milk due to ethical concerns.
Camel milk is more expensive than other types of milk, as demand outweighs supply in most Western countries. The milk carries a high risk of harmful organisms, as it’s most often sold raw. Plus, some consumers have ethical concerns.
Camel milk has been a part of traditional diets for certain nomadic populations throughout history. It has recently gained attention as a health food in more developed countries.
Research shows that camel milk is better tolerated by people with lactose intolerance and allergies to cow’s milk. It may also lower blood sugar, boost immunity, and aid certain behavioral and neurodevelopmental conditions like autism.
Still, this milk is significantly more expensive than other types and is often unpasteurized, which poses a health risk, especially in high-risk populations.
If you want to try camel milk but cannot find it locally, you can purchase it online in powdered or frozen form.