Ice Cream Doesn’t Need High Fat Levels For Best Taste, Study Finds

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — You might have sworn off low-fat ice cream altogether because you feel that fat is necessary for the best possible taste, but a recent study reveals that fat doesn’t always equal quality in the delicious frozen dessert.

A survey headed by Penn State University researcher student Laura Rolon found that most people can’t tell the difference between low-fat ice cream and high-fat ice cream in taste tests.

Ice cream cone
A survey headed by Penn State University researcher student Laura Rolon found that most people can’t tell the difference between low-fat ice cream and high-fat ice cream in taste tests. (Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash)

Researchers recruited 292 regular ice cream consumers to see how they reacted to various fat levels in the dessert. They found that participants couldn’t distinguish between two types of vanilla ice cream with a two percent difference in fat content as long as the samples were in the 6% to 12% fat-level range.

“I think the most important finding in our study was that there were no differences in consumer acceptability when changing fat content within a certain range,” says Rolon in a university news release. “There is a preconception of ‘more fat is better,’ but we did not see it within our study.”

Results also showed that when the fat content of the ice cream was decreased from 14% to 6%, this didn’t negatively affect the subject’s opinion of it. The researchers argue that their results may force consumers and manufacturers alike to reconsider the perception that high-quality ice cream requires high levels of fat.

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“People think premium ice cream means only high fat ice cream, but it doesn’t,” says Robert Roberts, professor and head of the food science department at the university.

Ice cream manufacturers typically replace fat content with the compound maltodextrin, a tasteless, starch-based material used to bulk up certain products. This compound isn’t necessarily healthier than fat, the researchers warn.

The study was published in the July 2017 edition of the Journal of Dairy Science.

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