ICE CREAM ADDICTION By Ijeoma Ezenne

We like to indulge ourselves in some ice cream treats every now and then. Be it a “reward” for good behavior, achievement or as an ’emotional pat on the back´ during psychological and mental crisis; or as desserts after meals. This specially sweetened cream have the ability to give certain levels of satisfaction that make us feel good and even happy. However, this satisfaction can be addictive.

Ice cream is a sweetened, frozen food made from milk, sugar and cream. It could be combined with ruits, flavours, colourings and even stabilizers. It is usually eaten with a spoon or cones (edible or plastic) served as dessert and also used to prepare other desserts e.g milk shakes. Ice cream is said to have originated in the 5th century when ancient Greeks ate snow mixed with honey and fruits sold in the local markets of Athens. There were similar accounts in Persia, China and India later on. It wasn’t until the 16th century that the trade was commercialized in Paris with it spreading all over Europe and America.

Ice cream is composed of water, ice ,milk fat, mil proteins, cream (in some cases),sugars (sucrose and lactose) and air; whereby water and fat have highest proportions by weight. This composition forms a colloidal emulsion which when frozen forms dispersed ice cells. Due to the presence of fat globules which are non-polar (non-water absorbing), emulsifiers are needed for dispersal of fat globules. Milk protein (casein) are amphillic (water absorbent) and form micelles which also contribute to the consistency of the nature of the ice cream. Sucrose is used as sweetening agent while lactose causes freeing point depression(freezing point below 2⁰c). This means some water will remain unfrozen and then give the ice cream, it’s malleable texture. Ice cream is composed of:-

  • More than 10% milk fat
  • 9 -12% of non-milk fat (milk proteins and lactose)
  • 12 -16% of sweeteners (sucrose or glucose)
  • 2 -0.5% of stabilizers and emulsifiers
  • 55 -65% of water

Note that % composition is by weight. These % composition can be interchanged depending on the type of ice cream being made but the % composition of milk fat must be at least 10%.

Different cultures have also developed unique versions of ice cream suiting the local taste and preference of the consumers with the inclusion of coconut milk, avocado, black sesame seeds amongst others.

 HOW IS IT ADDICTIVE ?

Recent researchers at the Oregon Research Institute have found that repeated consumption of high fat or high sugar foods appear to change how the brain responded and in turn downgraded the “mental reward”. These brain responses are similar to what is seen in drug addiction. This is due to the brain releasing low levels of dopamine. These foods tend to overload the pleasure centres in the brain much like cocaine and heroin. This tolerance is thought to increase use or eating as in this case, in a bid to trigger that previously level of satisfaction. Regardless of being full, people who have developed tolerance for ice cream continue to eat even though the food satisfies less and less. The downside is that it is not just people struggling with weight issues who can be addicted, people who maintain normal weight can also lose control of their eating behaviours.

When next you catch yourself reaching for that bowl of ice cream have these information  at the back of your mind.

(iezenne@yahoo.com)

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