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The delicious and debatable health benefits of ice cream

By Ansharah Shakil, September 27 2023—

Is there any dessert better than ice cream? If you’re lactose-intolerant you might disagree, but the cool and sweet versatility of ice cream has made it a classic choice for dessert. Though prefaced with knowing it wasn’t exactly a healthy choice, new research shows there may be numerous health benefits to ice cream. This year, David Merrit Johns in the Atlantic, looked into the research of a Harvard doctoral student who found that for diabetics, eating half a cup of ice cream a day led to lower heart problems. 

Admittedly, the idea of ice cream being healthy is a bit silly. Nutrition researchers have given the idea a chilly reception, likely because admitting there was any truth in this research would have contradicted years of accepted scientific theory. The idea was mainly suppressed, even though the research checked out and even though this wasn’t the first time such ideas had been brought to light — during the 1980s Harvard food-frequency questionnaires showed that higher consumption of low-fat dairy was associated with a lower risk of diabetes. The results were the same whether milk or ice cream was used. Mark Peirera, another researcher, found in 1985 that dairy-based desserts like ice cream can reduce the chances of insulin-resistance syndrome, the precursor to diabetes. 

Professor of nutrition Dariush Mozaffarian argued that dairy products shouldn’t be classified together anyway, considering how varied they are and how the idea that they should be avoided often only stems from a misguided fear of lipids. Ice cream’s glycaemic index is also lower than brown rice. According to a scientific study in the Olive Oil Times, extra virgin olive oil in ice cream can lead to further health benefits. Ice cream can be consumed in healthier forms, like plant-based ice cream and low-fat frozen yogurt.

As students, we often treat ourselves to ice cream, an easy dessert to get in a busy, budgeted life. So is ice cream actually good for us? The results are still up in the air. Perhaps there should be more research invested in the idea, challenging existing scientific assumptions, instead of it being dismissed from the get-go. But ice cream shouldn’t be considered a health food; in excess, it can be harmful. However, it’s a treat we don’t need to feel bad about having unless we have existing health problems that could be exacerbated by indulging in it. 

As far as I’m concerned, the joy which arises from ice cream outweighs most concerns. Jokes aside, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful about your diet, but it does mean that you shouldn’t get too bogged down in statistics to forget that as long as we keep nutritional information in mind. We shouldn’t feel guilty over eating ice cream.

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