Is camel milk the next big nutrition trend?

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WATCH: Camel milk has been a staple in local diets around the world, but in North America, it's the hottest new alternative dairy source – Aug 22, 2018

Much ado has been made of the problems with cow’s milk. For people who are lactose intolerant, it can cause excruciating digestive issues, while others are concerned about the potential risk factors due to the hormones given to cows.

As a result, a host of cow’s milk alternatives have stormed the supermarket shelves, including nut, goat and even insect milks. But now there’s a new dairy contender that could be headed to the refrigerated section, and it hails from camels.

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Nutrition experts say it tastes a lot more like cow’s milk than any of the other options currently available, and is both satisfying and filling. It also has five times the amount of vitamin C and 10 times as much iron as its bovine counterpart. Even better, it doesn’t have the same allergens that cow’s milk has, like beta-lactoglobulin and A1 beta-casein.

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Furthermore, studies have shown that it can be effective in treating diabetes.

“This is because camel milk has been shown to contain an insulin-like molecule,” Dr. Uma S. Dubey, associate professor of biological sciences at BITS Pilani university, said to The National UAE.

“Diabetes is a disease in which the therapeutic potential of camel milk can be maximally utilised. It has well-observed clinical benefits.”

In addition, camel’s milk has been shown to boost immunity. In a study published in Electronic Physician, researchers found that camel’s milk has the closest nutritional profile to breast milk. It contains large quantities of antibodies and enzymes, including lysozyme and lactoperoxidase, which are credited with helping to combat bacterial infections. It’s also high in sodium, potassium, copper, zinc and magnesium, and is rich in antioxidants and protein — although it doesn’t have as much protein as cow’s milk.

However, it’s also a lot higher in calories than some other milk alternatives.

“Camel milk is more caloric than nut milk, so it’s important to pay attention to portion size if you are swapping out your almond milk in your smoothie for camel milk,” Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, a registered dietitian, said to Shape.

Camel milk is also guilty of making some questionable claims, including that it can help cure or at least lessen the signs of autism. In 2016, the FDA issued a warning to Desert Farms, one of the few producers of camel milk in the U.S., regarding making false claims about camel milk’s ability to cure certain diseases.

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The biggest concern about camel milk for consumers, however, is that many products are unpasteurized. While raw milks are trendy, nutrition experts caution against drinking unpasteurized camel milk, which, like other raw milks, can cause food-borne illness.

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Pasteurization won’t change the milk’s nutrition profile; it only makes it safer to drink.

At the moment, the easiest way to get camel milk in Canada is to order it online, but expect to pay top dollar for it — a 16-ounce bottle can cost as much as US $18. And those prices are dictated by the fact that the milk is relatively hard to come by. While a cow can produce about 25 litres of milk a day, a camel will likely only yield three litres.

It would seem that the milk is just as exotic as the animal it comes from.

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