Scientists Actually Tested Whether High-Fat Ice Cream Really Does Taste Better

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Science. Tackling the big questions in life. Who are we? What are we? Where do we come from? Does higher fat ice cream actually taste better? Wait, what?

A new study has discovered that the assumption that higher fat content equals better taste is not actually true. In fact, when it comes to the creamy deliciousness of a certain frozen treat, humans generally can’t taste a difference in fat content.

The study, from Penn State’s Department of Food Science, looked at whether people could detect a difference in fat levels of vanilla ice cream based purely on taste. Their results are published in the wonderfully specific Journal of Dairy Science.  

"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," said Laura Rolon, lead author of the study, in a statement. "There is a preconception of 'more fat is better,' but we did not see it within our study."

There will, of course, be some people who read this, roll their eyes and ask “Is this what science is wasting its time on?”

But establishing taste limitations actually has important implications, from furthering our understanding of the human body to preventing unscrupulous marketing strategies from using untruths to sell food products to even lowering the production cost of what many would try and claim is an essential food.

"I think this [study] shows how interdisciplinary and translational food science is," co-author John Hayes, associate professor of food science at Penn State, said. "You take a physical chemist, a behavioral scientist and someone who knows ice cream processing and put us all together and you can investigate questions like these."

Through a series of taste tests, where the fat content was altered in the samples of vanilla ice cream, the researchers were able to determine that differing fat levels did not sway the 292 participants’ preference in taste. A drop in fat content from 14 percent to 6 percent produced no difference in their taste preferences.

I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to conduct my own experiment to verify this. Cineberg/Shutterstock

This will be a blow to the ice cream companies who claim the richer, creamier products taste better, or that higher fat ingredients, which cost more, make their products taste better, justifying the higher price of their products.

It could even mean that ice cream producers could adjust the fat content in their products to a healthier degree, or even be more inclusive to those with stricter dietary requirements, without losing out on taste or customers. 

Essentially, the more information a consumer has, the easier they can cut through the marketing waffle and pseudoscience thrown at them and make better-informed choices.

Now, go forth and verify. 

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