Swathes of research on mice alone suggest camel’s milk is a superfood

Camel’s milk can cure mice, but we still don’t know how much it helps humans

By Richard Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Camel milk has long been believed to offer significant health benefits.
Camel milk has long been believed to offer significant health benefits.

Related tags Camel milk Milk

A flurry of research published recently by a number of academics across all manner of countries presents more evidence that camel’s milk is an all-round superfood.

The most recent of these, published this month in the Emirates Journal of Food and Agriculture​ by researchers in Jordan, is said to be the first to look at the effect of camel milk on the development of colorectal cancer in a whole organism.

Another, from the less camel-dense principality of Wales, learnt that camel milk reduces cell inflammation associated with diabetes. The nutrition value contained in camel milk’s fat, with lots of vitamin C, iron, calcium, insulin and protein, helped reduce inflammation produced by the body’s macrophage cells.

And a recent review of medical literature by South Dakota State University, Brookings, declared that camel’s milk “solves the problems of autism in children, enhances the immunity of the body and fights the microbes that attack the human body because it contains many organic compounds and proteins. In addition, it is useful to cure hepatitis, addresses the allergy caused by some types of foods​.”

Based on the evidence, we should all be drinking camel’s milk, and do so until we are well into our second century of life, given how protective it is. But with most of the studies so far carried out in mice, nobody is completely certain about its therapeutic effects.


Camel milk has long been believed to offer significant health benefits, and has a strong following especially in the Middle East, where it has traditionally been used for the “maintenance of good health and treatment of diverse diseases​,” according to the Jordanian researchers.

Compared to the milk of other ruminants, they say it contains less sugar and cholesterol, but has higher mineral content. It is also recognized for its “potent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties​”.

The Jordanian study looked at 30 mice with colorectal cancer. Some of these were given camel’s milk whey, or the water-like liquid left behind after curd is removed; others were given whey from cow’s milk, while the control group received neither.

After a postmortem examination, six out of 10 mice not given any whey were found to have tumors in their colon, while six out of eight of those fed cow milk whey had tumors. Among the mice that had been given camel milk whey, however, just one out of eight had tumors.

Genetic tests carried out on the tissue of the mice found that certain genes in those given camel’s milk whey, which governed the production of proteins associated with inflammation, became less active. In the same animals, genes that suppressed the activity of these inflammatory proteins were more active.

Our data represent a valid rationale for the use of camel’s milk as a complementary approach, with nutritional value, safety and no side effects, during the management of colorectal cancer​,” the researchers concluded.

The Welsh study set out to further some of the published evidence that suggests the consumption of camel’s milk could prevent or halt diabetes. Researchers at Cardiff Metropolitan University wanted to see if camel’s milk lipids, or fats, could prevent macrophages similar to those found in fat from becoming inflamed when in the presence of the proteins found in diabetics. Macrophages are present in abdominal fat, and are a major player in the development of inflammation that can lead to many of diabetes’ complications, including heart disease and strokes.

The actual basis of these benefits is poorly understood and few studies have investigated what component or components present in camel milk convey any of its supposed anti-diabetic benefits​,” wrote Keith Morris, a professor of biomedical science and biostatistics and one of the study’s authors, wrote in a commentary posted in The Conversation​.

Studies that increase our understanding of the benefits or otherwise of dietary components are very challenging, but particularly for a food as complex as milk​.”

Milk is made up of lipids and proteins, including immunoglobulins, as well as vitamins and minerals. “Given this complexity, we chose to investigate only the lipids in camel milk, and their effect on an aspect of diabetes known as inflammation​,” Morris added.

The researchers incubated macrophages with saturated and unsaturated lipids taken from camel’s milk, both individually and in a mixture of the two. The experiments showed that the fatty acids from camel’s milk reduce the inflammation produced by the macrophages. The effect was more pronounced in the mixture of the lipids than when the camel milk was with only unsaturated fatty acids.

Interestingly, a complex of proteins known for their role as a central driver of inflammation, was found to be reduced by these lipids. Another triumph for camel’s milk, it would appear.

But before everyone rushes out to milk the nearest camel, there is a huge great caveat that covers nearly all research into the benefits of camel’s milk which should not be ignored. The benefits derived from it have all been shown to apply to animals, and not humans.

Dietary studies are littered with experimental data such as these, suggesting that different foods have a wide range of beneficial or harmful effects, though these can be less convincingly found in actual people, Prof. Morris said.

We can’t say for certain whether camel milk ‘​cures’ diabetes, or if it would reduce inflammation if a person with type 2 diabetes regularly consumed it. Our new data suggests that it ​may play a role in reducing the inflammation that is a major part of type 2 diabetes. Far more experimental work and at some point human trials are required to demonstrate if these results have relevance to people​,” he concluded.

Related topics R&D Fresh Milk Functional Dairy

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