Could ice cream be healthy?
Posted on the 26th April 2023
It seems almost too good to be true, but evidence collated by an American public health historian has revealed the potential health benefits of ice cream.
While the findings have received the cold shoulder from many within the scientific community, David Merritt Jones has been exploring the claims after studying research from 2018 that found eating half a cup (64g) of ice cream a day was associated with a lower risk of heart problems for diabetics.
Writing in Atlantic magazine, Johns examined work conducted by Harvard University student Andres Ardisson Korat and found the suggested health benefits of ice cream were actually more than two decades old.
In 2002, Mark Pereira, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, published a paper that looked at the emergence of heart disease risk among more than 5,000 adults on data that had been gathered since 1985.
The study found that for the most part, dairy foods seemed to help prevent overweight people from developing insulin-resistance syndrome, a precursor to diabetes.
Specifically, the researchers found that a ‘dairy-based dessert,’ which according to Pereira, mostly consisted of ice cream but also included foods like pudding, saw a 2.5 times greater risk reduction of developing insulin-resistance syndrome than what the researchers found for milk.
Despite this, the health benefits of ice cream remain debatable.
John Ford, an academic public health doctor and senior clinical lecturer at Queen Mary University London, says several other factors must also be considered.
“There are lots of other potential explanations – it may be that people are more likely to have an ice cream to cool down after a walk or some exercise, or it may be that people who tend to choose ice cream as a dessert instead of a high-calorie slab of chocolate cake are also likely to substitute other high-fat foods,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Duane Mellor, a senior lecturer and dietitian at Aston Medical School, cautioned against homing in on the health benefits of a single type of food.
Dr Mellor also warned of the potential inaccuracy of food intake studies, which are usually conducted using questionnaires.
He said: “The problem ultimately is that we try to link a health effect or benefit to a single food, when in reality we eat a variety of foods, and it is our whole dietary pattern that counts.
“So, overall, we should not be considering ice cream as a health food, only something which can be enjoyed in small amounts as part of an overall healthy dietary pattern.”