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Camel Milk and Diabetes

Camel Milk and Diabetes

We are often asked about how Camel Milk or reconstituted Camel Milk Powder can be of benefit to those struggling with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes mellitus (or as commonly known, diabetes) is a condition where the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to control the amount of glucose, or sugar, in the blood. Articles frequently appear on health websites touting the benefits of Camel Milk and its therapeutic benefits for diabetes, and population studies in traditional Camel herding communities have shown a remarkable lack of diabetes in those who regularly consume camel milk1. Other studies have shown that while the results are all highly promising, research needs to move from basic research to more rigorous clinical studies to allow camel milk’s therapeutic value in diabetes treatment and management to become clearer. A recent study released from the University of Melbourne has been an exciting development for research in Australia.

For now, here is a summary of where some of the research is at ...  

In 2017 a review was conducted by researchers from Iran of all clinical trials and animal studies up to 2015 which focused on the effects of Camel Milk on diabetes markers. The studies that they included all needed to meet strict quality requirements, and the paper “Camel Milk Has Beneficial Effects on Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review” was published in the International Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism2.  

The researchers qualified 11 animal studies and 11 clinical trials. Ten of the animal studies showed significant reductions in diabetes markers. In the clinical trials, with a dose of 500ml of camel milk per day, all trials led to significant improvement of diabetes markers, some within 3 months.  

So how does this work? Camel milk has an insulin-like protein which does not form coagulum in the the acidic environment of the stomach and it also contains a high concentration of insulin. Camel milk also contains large concentrations of immunoglobulin, lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase, and peptidoglycan recognition protein, all of which have biological and pharmacological properties3.  

Some definitions:  

Coagulum  

Coagulum means a coagulated mass, or clot. In the stomach, dairy products typically coagulate which can alter how the food is digested4. By not coagulating, the insulin-like properties of camel milk can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream5.  

Immunoglobulin  

Immunoglobulins, also known as antibodies, are molecules produced by white blood cells. They act as a critical part of the immune response by specifically recognising and binding to particular antigens, such as bacteria or viruses, and aiding in their destruction6.  

Lactoferrin  

Lactoferrin is a nutrient found in mammalian milk. It binds iron and is transferred via a variety of receptors into and between cells, serum, bile and cerebrospinal fluid. It has important immunological properties, and is both antibacterial and antiviral7.  

Lactoperoxidase  

Lactoperoxidase is an enzyme secreted from glands that functions as a natural and the first line of defense against bacteria and viruses8. Because of its effectiveness as an antimicrobial and antiviral agent, applications of lactoperoxidase are used in wound treatment, and as an anti-tumor agent9.  

Peptigoglycan recogniction protein  

These are “pattern recognition receptors” which can recognise the components in the cell wall of bacteria, and kill the bacteria by activating a biological pathway.

PGRPs can also modulate inflammation and support the microbiome10.  

 

The following table summarises some of the experimental findings of Mirmiran et al with regard to the effectiveness of Camel Milk in animal trials:

Study (Lead Author, Year)  

Target Species  

Intervention Group Number  

Duration

 Outcomes (Camel Milk Group)  

Korish, 2014  

Rats  

20  

8 weeks  

↓ blood glucose, serum insulin, lipid profile  

Khan, 2013  

Rats  

8  

30 days  

↓ blood glucose, total cholesterol, triglycerides  

Alabdulkarim, 2012  

Rats  

12  

6 weeks  

No changes in plasma glucose or cholesterol  

Al-Numair, 2011  

Rats  

6  

45 days  

↓ plasma glucose, ↑ insulin levels  

Al-Numair, 2010  

Rats  

8  

45 days  

↓ blood glucose, ↑ insulin levels  

Sboui, 2010  

Dogs  

4  

5 weeks  

↓ blood glucose, cholesterol  

Wang, 2009  

Rats  

32  

14 weeks  

↓ blood glucose, plasma insulin, cholesterol, triglycerides  

Overall, camel milk treatment led to improvements in blood glucose, serum insulin, and lipid profile in diabetic animals.  

Human clinical trials, investigating the effects of Camel Milk on Type 2 diabetes mellitus are summarised: 

Study (Lead Author, Year)  

Intervention Group Number  

Duration

 Outcomes (Camel Milk Group)  

Ejtahed, 2015  

11  

2 months  

Inconclusive  

Agrawal, 2011  

14  

3 months  

↓ fasting blood sugar, haemoglobin A1c*  

Wang, 2009  

6  

-  

↓ blood sugar, plasma insulin, dose insulin, cholesterol, triglycerides  

*The hamoglobin A1c test tells the average level of blood sugar over the past 2-3 months  

This table summarises the findings of more recent clinical human trials, on the effects of camel milk on Type 1 diabetes mellitus.  

Study (Lead Author, Year) 

Intervention Group Number 

Duration

 Outcomes (Camel Milk Group) 

Agrawal, 2011 

12 

2 years 

↓ insulin dose, haemoglobin A1c, fasting blood sugar 

Mohamad, 2009 

27 

16 weeks 

↓ insulin dose, fasting blood sugar, haemoglobin A1c, ↑ serum insulin 

Agrawal, 2009, 2007, 2005, 2005, 2003, 2003 

Various 

Various 

↓ insulin dose, lipid profile. No change in haemoglobin A1c 

Dr Amal Bakr Shori from Saudi Arabia completed a similar study in 201611. In this study she concluded that Camel Milk had a powerful effect in reducing blood glucose levels and insulin requirements, it limited diabetic complications and was effective in wound healing. Further in vitro and in vivo studies were highly recommended.

Most recently, in 2021, a study was published in the Journal of Dairy Science, from researchers at the United Arab Emirates University, entitled “Molecular basis of the anti-diabetic properties of camel milk through profiling of its bioactive peptides on dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP-IV) and insulin receptor activity”. In short, the researchers here were attempting to shed more light on the above results, working out the how and why of the mechanism by which camel milk could achieve the observed positive benefits. They believe that one of the pathways revolved around the actions of the Camel Whey Protein on the human insulin receptors, and the subsequent pathway regulating glucose homeostasis (the balance of insulin and glucagon to maintain blood glucose)12.  

One of the most prolific researchers in this area is RP Agrawal, Senior Professor of Medicine and head of the Diabetes Care and Research Centre, in Rajasthan, India who has carried out multiple studies over the past twenty years. As camel milk is traditionally consumed in India, Africa and the Middle East, long term studies do tend to come from universities and medical centres from these areas.  

An exciting Australian development has seen the publication of research from the University of Melbourne which shows that camel milk exhibits insulinogenic properties in pigs. Because pigs have many points of similarity with humans in diabetes development and symptoms, studies that use pigs are more likely to contribute to the knowledge base on the treatment of diabetes in humans, and measures of complications from diabetes13. The Melbourne study has reported results14 that suggest that Camel Milk is improving insulin effectiveness and uptake, and also is acting as a source of insulin. Additionally, the study found no significant difference between the effects of Raw or Pasteurised Camel Milk. This research is invaluable for the camel milk industry in Australia.  

Another clinical trial, looking at the effects of camel milk on insulin response is currently underway by Dr N Lessan and Dr A Buckley, endocrinologists at the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Preliminary findings from Lessan and Buckley have highlighted that variability in the quality of the milk and individual response factors will play an important part in their conclusions, but that it appears that the composition of camel milk offers particular anti-diabetic properties15.  

To conclude, the research finds a consistent positive effect from adding 500ml of camel milk per day to the human (or animal) diet for those affected by diabetes mellitus. (However, Patients with type 1 diabetes are strongly advised against treating camel milk as complete insulin substitute16). The precise mechanism of how these results arise is still being studied, and as resources become available to researchers to do so, we will find out more about the benefits of camel milk in preventing and treating diabetes mellitus. 

 

References

  1. Agrawal RP, Budania S, Sharma P, Gupta R, Kochar DK, Panwar RB, Sahani MS. Zero prevalence of diabetes in camel milk consuming Raica community of north-west Rajasthan, India. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2007 May;76(2):290-6.
  2. Mirmiran P, Ejtahed HS, Angoorani P, Eslami F, Azizi F. Camel Milk Has Beneficial Effects on Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review. Int J Endocrinol Metab. 2017;15(2): e42150. Published 2017 Mar 11.
  3. Sugarman JR, Gilbert TJ, Weiss NS, Prevalence of diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance among Navajo Indians. Diabetes Care. 1992 Jan; 15(1):114-20.
  4. Thom Huppertz, Loo Wee Chia, Milk protein coagulation under gastric conditions: A review, International Dairy Journal, Volume 113, 2021, 104882
  5. Amal Bakr Shori, Camel milk as a potential therapy for controlling diabetes and its complications: A review of in vivo studies, Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, Volume 23, Issue 4, 2015, Pages 609- 618
  6. Thermo Fisher Scientific, Introduction to immunoglobulins, https://www.thermofisher.com/au/en/home/life-science/antibodies/antibodies-learning- center/antibodies-resource-library/antibody-methods/introduction-immunoglobulins.html 
  7. Kell Douglas B., Heyden Eugene L., Pretorius Etheresia, The Biology of Lactoferrin, an Iron-Binding Protein That Can Help Defend Against Viruses and Bacteria, Frontiers in Immunology vol 11, 2020
  8. Pruitt KM, Eriter B, “Biochemistry of peroxidase systems: antimicrobial effects”. In Tenovuo JO, Pruitt KM (eds.). The Lactoperoxidase system: chemistry and biological significance. New York: Dekker. P 272, 1985.
  9. Harper WJ, Biological properties of why compoenents a review. American Dairy Products Institution, Chicago IL, p.54, 2000  
  10. Royet, Julien; Gupta, Dipika; Dziarski, Roman (11 November 2011). "Peptidoglycan recognition proteins: modulators of the microbiome and inflammation". Nature Reviews Immunology. 11 (12): 837– 51.
  11. Amal Bakr Shori, Camel milk as a potential therapy for controlling diabetes and its complications: A review of in vivo studies, Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, Volume 23, Issue 4, 2015, Pages 609- 618
  12. Ashraf A, Mudgil P, Palakkott A, Iratni R, Gan CY, Maqsood S, Ayoub MA. Molecular basis of the antidiabetic properties of camel milk through profiling of its bioactive peptides on dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP-IV) and insulin receptor activity. J Dairy Sci. 2021 Jan;104(1):61-77.
  13. Kazuhiro Umeyama, Masami Nakajima, Takashi Yokoo, Masaki Nagaya, Hiroshi Nagashima, Diabetic phenotype of transgenic pigs introduced by dominant-negative mutant hepatocyte nuclear factor 1α, Journal of Diabetes and its Complications, Volume 31, Issue 5, 2017, Pages 796-803
  14. DiGiacomo, Zamuner F, Sun Y, Dunshea F, Raynes J and Leury B, 2022, “Effects of Raw and Pasteurized Camel Milk on Metaboolic Responses in Pigs Fed a High-Fat Diet”, Animals, vol.12, p.1701.
  15. Watson, J, Camel Milk: A Centuries old ‘Superfood’ as Diabetes Treatment, WebMD, Aug 20, 2021, https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20210810/camel-milk-superfood-for-diabetes
  16. Watson, J, Camel Milk: A Centuries old ‘Superfood’ as Diabetes Treatment, WebMD, Aug 20, 2021, https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20210810/camel-milk-superfood-for-diabetes

Last updated: 4 August 2022 

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