Though we think that regular fatty ice cream is much better than low-fat ice cream, scientists say that there's actually no difference in taste between the two.
Think of it this way: you're trying to keep calories down, so you stick to the low-fat stuff. You keep the “real” ice cream in the back of your freezer for the worst of days, because it's better. However, we may be fooling our own taste buds into telling us that regular ice cream tastes better than low-fat. After all, the more sinful something is, the better. However, higher fat content doesn't actually make ice cream tastier.
Researchers found that people can't actually tell the difference between low-fat and regular ice cream if they don't know which is which. This may be a challenging conclusion for companies that advertise ice cream with higher fat content as better. Of course, for consumers, the findings may also take the comforting aspect of indulging in something that's sinful but better.
292 participants went through a series of blind taste tests in which they sampled two types of vanilla ice cream. One sample had a higher fat content than the other. The researchers found that the participants could not detect a two percent difference in fat as long as the samples had six to 12 percent fat. Participants were also unable to detect a four percent difference in samples that had eight and 12 percent fat. However, the participants were able to detect a four percent difference in samples that had six and ten percent fat.
The researchers also found that the participants didn't like a certain ice cream better because of its fat content. Even when one sample had 14 percent fat and the other had six percent fat, the participants liked both just fine.
Researchers changed the fat content in the samples by adding more or less cream as well as a substance called maltodextrin. Maltodextrin is a starchy substance that can add bulk to certain foods. Manufacturers commonly use it in frozen food products like ice cream.
Now, the most important question here may be this: so what? How do these findings have any bearing in the real world, aside from making low-fat ice cream sound less depressing?
For one thing, we now know that fattier, richer, and more expensive ice cream does not necessarily taste better. Fat is the most expensive ingredient in ice cream, which means less expensive ice cream brands have lower fat content. The findings of the study can let people see right through marketing strategies that rely on selling fattier ice cream as more better and therefore more expensive.
Ice cream manufacturers can also take advantage of the findings. Manufacturers can figure out if they can cut costs by cutting down on fat content, and if doing so can hurt or benefit their brand.
Thus, studies like this can help consumers make better and more informed decisions on what they eat. Be it low-fat ice cream or regular ice cream, studies on food science can improve health and inform both consumers and producers.
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