Is Camel’s Milk Paleo? | The Paleo Diet®
noun_Search_345985 Created with Sketch.
noun_Search_345985 Created with Sketch.

The latest from The Paleo Diet®, just for you.

Hot topics, new recipes, and science

Is Camel’s Milk Paleo?

By The Paleo Diet Team
May 23, 2016
Is Camel’s Milk Paleo? image

A reader recently asked if camel’s milk was different from cow’s milk and if it could be considered a good Paleo alternative. He cited claims that camel’s milk is gluten free, casein free, lower in fat, and contains insulin. Periodic thePaleoDiet.com contributor Pedro Bastos dug through the research to provide a side-by-side comparison of Dromedary camels (the major breed of Arabian camels) to the standard cow’s milk we can all find in the supermarket:

  • Obviously Camel milk is gluten free, as is any milk or meat that hasn’t been in contact with gluten containing foods. Casein is the MAJOR PROTEIN in Dromedary camel’s milk, which represents 52-87% of total protein (camel’s milk is 2.15 to 4.9% protein).1 The casein fractions and their ratios are not exactly identical to cow’s milk.1
  • Fat content of Dromedary camel’s milk ranges from 1.2 to 6.4% (average: 3.5%).1 In cow’s milk, fat varies between 3,4 to 5,4%2, which is similar to camel’s milk. Nevertheless, it appears that milk from thirsty camels has a lower fat content.1
  • There is indeed some evidence that camel’s milk may decrease postprandial glucose (possibly because it might contain bioavailable insulin or insulin-like molecules).1 Although this would appear beneficial, it could also have a dark side, such as causing insulin resistance when consumed in high amounts and perhaps triggering type 1 diabetes in genetically susceptible individuals (as it appears to be the case with cow’s milk3). Molecular mimicry between camel’s insulin and human insulin may be a possible cause. To my knowledge, this hasn’t been confirmed, but it is plausible, since it occurs with bovine insulin present in cow’s milk3-7.
  • There is some preliminary evidence for the use of camel’s milk in Autism,8 possibly because if it is used to replace cow’s milk, the different protein fractions of both types of milk may affect Autism differently.8
  • Because cow’s milk and camel’s milk do not contain the exact same protein fractions, people with allergy to cow’s milk might not react to camel’s milk.1,9
  • Dromedary camel’s milk does contain lactose, which varies between 2.4 to 5.8% (average: 4.4%),1 although pasteurization may reduce it to less than 2.4%.10 Indeed, there is a study from Brazil suggesting that camel’s milk is tolerated by people with diagnosed lactose intolerance.10 However, I am skeptical of this study, since it was not a double-blind experiment and also because only clinical symptoms were analyzed,10 which is not a very reliable method to assess lactose tolerance.11

References:

[1] haj Al OA, Kanhal Al HA. Compositional, technological and nutritional aspects of dromedary camel milk. 2010 Dec;20(12):811–21.

[2] Gall CF. Production systems around the world. In Park YW, Haenlein GFW, editors. Milk and Dairy Products in Human Nutrition: Production, Composition and Health. John Wiley & Sons; 2013: 1-30.

[3] Hoppe C, Mølgaard C, Vaag A, Barkholt V, Michaelsen KF. High intakes of milk, but not meat, increase s-insulin and insulin resistance in 8-year-old boys. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2005 Mar;59(3):393-8.

[4] Vaarala O, Knip M, Paronen J, et al. Cow's milk formula feeding induces primary immunization to insulin in infants at genetic risk for type 1 diabetes. Diabetes. 1999 Jul;48(7):1389-94.

[5] Vaarala O. Is it dietary insulin? Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Oct;1079:350-9.

[6] Mäkelä M, Vaarala O, Hermann R, et al. Enteral virus infections in early childhood and an enhanced type 1 diabetes-associated antibody response to dietary insulin. J Autoimmun. 2006 Aug;27(1):54-61.

[7] Vaarala O, Ilonen J, Ruohtula T, et al. Removal of Bovine Insulin From Cow's Milk Formula and Early Initiation of Beta-Cell Autoimmunity in the FINDIA Pilot Study. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2012 Jul 1;166(7):608-14.

[8] Zibaee S, Hosseini SMA-R, Yousefi M, Taghipour A, Kiani MA, Noras MR. Nutritional and Therapeutic Characteristics of Camel Milk in Children: A Systematic Review. Electron physician. 2015 Nov 25;7(7):1523–8.

[9] El-Agamy EI, Nawar M, Shamsia SM, Awad S, Haenlein GFW. Are camel milk proteins convenient to the nutrition of cow milk allergic children? Small Ruminant Research. 2009 Mar;82(1):1–6.

[10] Cardoso RRA, Santos RMDB, Cardoso CRA, Carvalho MO. Consumption of camel's milk by patients intolerant to lactose. A preliminary study. Rev Alerg Mex. 2010 Jan;57(1):26–32.[11] Misselwitz B, Pohl D, Frühauf H, Fried M, Vavricka SR, Fox M. Lactose malabsorption and intolerance: pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment. United European Gastroenterol J. 2013 Jun;1(3):151–9.

Even More Articles For You

Dairy: Milking it for all it's worth
Dr. Cordain discusses dairy's unfavorable effect on health and how milk proteins and peptides can promote allergies, inflammation, and autoimmune disease.
By Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
Anti-Aging Benefits of The Paleo Diet
Take advantage of a Paleo diet's anti-aging properties by eating clean, healthy whole foods and moving every day. You'll be amazed by how youthful you feel.
By Dr. Marc Bubbs
Vegetable Oil Fatty Acid Composition
Some vegetable oils promote health and facilitate getting the correct balance of good fat in your diet. Learn more from The Paleo Diet and Dr. Loren Cordain
By Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
Paleo Leadership
 
Trevor Connor
Trevor Connor

Dr. Loren Cordain’s final graduate student, Trevor Connor, M.S., brings more than a decade of nutrition and physiology expertise to spearhead the new Paleo Diet team.

Mark J Smith
Dr. Mark Smith

One of the original members of the Paleo movement, Mark J. Smith, Ph.D., has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the benefits of Paleo nutrition.

Nell Stephenson
Nell Stephenson

Ironman athlete, mom, author, and nutrition blogger Nell Stephenson has been an influential member of the Paleo movement for over a decade.

Loren Cordain
Dr. Loren Cordain

As a professor at Colorado State University, Dr. Loren Cordain developed The Paleo Diet® through decades of research and collaboration with fellow scientists around the world.