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Every year on 1 June, World Milk Day is celebrated around the world. The Day was established in 2001 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations to recognise the importance of milk for our health. The day is also meant to appreciate dairy farmers and the dairy sector for their contribution to the production of this global food.
Donkey milk has recently become popular in the dairy industries due to its magnificent health benefits compared to cow, buffalo and goat milk. This may sound surprising but yes, the benefits of milk obtained from donkey (female Jenny) have been discussed for thousands of years.
In countries like Italy, Greece, Belgium and Germany, donkeys are bred especially on farms for their milk. A research carried out by the National Research Centre on Equines (NRCE) on donkey milk states its benefits related to obesity, cancer and allergies.
Seeing the medicinal benefits of the milk, the NRCE is soon going to start a dairy for donkey milk in Hisar district of Haryana. In this article, we will discuss some evidence-based health benefits of donkey milk, its downsides and other details. Take a look.
Nutritional Value Of Donkey Milk
Health Benefits Of Donkey Milk
1. May prevent cancer
A study has shown that the casein and whey proteins in donkey milk have cytotoxic activity against cells which are responsible for tumours and may produce metastases. It is considered an effective dairy against cancers breast and lung cancer. 
2. May prevent arthritis
Donkey milk has been used by Hippocrates to treat arthritis. A study says that donkey milk is similar to breast milk, except for low calories and fat, which can be compensated by the addition of sunflower oil, which itself has amazing health benefits. Adding 16 ml of the oil to a litre of donkey milk can be a better substitute than cow's milk and may help make bones stronger and prevent related diseases like arthritis. 
3. May prevent obesity
Donkey milk is a low-fat and low-cholesterol superfood. It contains around 8.6 mg of cholesterol per 100 g, which is low compared to 11 mg/100 g of human milk and 15mg/100g of cow's milk. Therefore, it makes a perfect drink for people with obesity. Also, the high content of linoleic acid (19.3%) of total fatty acids may contribute to weight loss. 
4. May treat allergies
Milk allergy (especially due to cow milk) is a common allergy type in children caused due to high casein protein in the cow's milk. Elimination of cow's milk from the diet due to its allergic symptoms can cause a deficiency of nutrients like calcium in the body. Donkey milk makes for a perfect replacement food to cow and goat milk. This is because it contains high whey protein compared to casein protein, the high content of which is responsible for most of the allergic reactions. 
5. May treat whooping cough
Pertussis or whooping cough is a respiratory tract infection caused by a bacteria type called Bordetella pertussis. Natives of Sudan use donkey milk frequently in the treatment of whooping cough due to its antibacterial properties. Also, the anti-inflammatory properties of the milk may help in reducing inflammation of the lungs caused due to the bacteria. 
6. Enhances body immunity
Whey proteins in donkey milk have amazing nutritional value and biological potency due to the presence of proteins, peptides, enzymes, growth factors, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals and immunomodulating factors. These factors enhance the body immunity and may also prevent certain autoimmune disorders like a food allergy. Fresh donkey milk is known to enhance the ability of antibody-secreting cells, leading to a good immune system. 
7. Has anti-ageing properties
Donkey milk has antioxidant activity. A study has concluded that the radicals' scavenging ability of donkey milk is higher compared to cow milk. As we know that ageing is directly related to more free radicals in the body, consumption of donkey milk can help reduce ageing over time by oxidising the free radicals in the body and preventing damage to cells. 
8. Good for skin
The cosmetic applications of donkey milk have been known since the time of Pharoah Cleopatra who used to bathe in donkey milk to maintain the softness and mixture of her skin. In countries like Italy and France, the milk is used as an ingredient in many beauty creams and soaps due to its low pH content compared to cow milk. This helps in deeper permeation of the essential protein in donkey milk into the skin, without any change in pH value. 
9. May treat wounds
The bioactive proteins and peptides in donkey milk may help in wound healing, especially surgical wounds. This is the reason why donkey milk is also added as an ingredient in many prescribed topical creams to treat wounds and help in their early healing.
10. Best substitute for breast milk
Donkey milk is found to be closest to breast milk with a little addition of sunflower oil. When compared to breast milk, it was found that donkey milk has the same pH, slightly fewer fats and calories and increased proteins and minerals compared to breast milk. Children who are diagnosed with milk allergy at an early age are often recommended for donkey milk as the best substitute. 
11. Can treat chikungunya
Chikungunya symptoms are characterised by low blood platelets, extreme weakness and high fever. Donkey milk has high immunoglobulin content that helps in boosting immunity, improving platelet counts and providing energy to people post-chikungunya.
12. Helps with calcium-absorption
The appropriate ratio of calcium and phosphorus in the body is vital for calcium absorption and enhancement of physical fitness. Too much calcium causes constipation and anorexia and with high phosphorus intake, calcium phosphate is formed that results in loss of calcium. Donkey milk contains 68.9 mg of calcium and 41 mg of phosphorus per 100 g, which is lower than cow milk and in a suitable proportion that helps with calcium absorption.
Downsides of Donkey Milk
- There are a few donkey dairy farms in the world.
- The price of one litre of donkey milk is relatively high i.e. around Rs. 7000 in India. Also, it would be so expensive to ship the milk from overseas.
- The nutritional benefits of donkey milk are not known to many.
- Studies based on the benefits and side effects of donkey milk require more research.
- As casein in donkey milk is lesser compared to whey, it can be difficult to make other dairy products from the milk such as cheese.
- Raw donkey milk can cause multiple health hazards due to the presence of bacteria, parasites, fungal toxins and chemical pollutants. 
- It can cause certain gastrointestinal problems like bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea due to its lactose content.
The therapeutic and medicinal benefits of donkey milk can be measured effectively due to the presence of the aforementioned components. In the near future, it can become a widely used dairy in India similar to a cow, buffalo or goat milk due to its multiple uses in different fields of health and food applications.