A Moment of Science

A Sweet Tooth Means a Numb Tongue

Ice cream seems to be the worst offender in terms of calories. Is there a reason why it has to be so very fattening?

Ice-Cream In A Bowl

Photo: jessicafm (flickr)

To get all the yummy flavors, lots of sugar is added to get it. Not only is it filled with calories, but its cold enough to numb your tongue to the point where you cant taste it. Results in more sugar needed.

In an ideal universe you could scarf cartons of super vanilla swirl ice cream every night after dinner without remorse.

In the real world, however, there’s a price to pay for such indulgence, and ice cream seems to be the worst offender in terms of calories. Is there a reason why it has to be so very fattening?

In fact, there is. The amount of sugar needed to produce a specific taste is what puts ice cream over the edge on calories.

Ice cream, unlike, say, chocolate chip cookies, numbs your tongue as you eat it. This is the natural effect of applying something cold to the tongue. The more cold ice cream you eat, the harder it becomes for your tongue to register its taste at all.

Producers of ice cream are aware of this restriction, and counter it by a very rational method: they load enough sugar into their product to continue to produce the sensation of sweetness even after the tongue has started to become numbed by the coldness. In other words, the amount of sugar necessary to give a distinctive taste in the chocolate chip cookie, is much less than that needed for the same taste in ice cream. You have to bombard your tongue with sugar in a frozen medium to make sure it can still register “sweet” the entire time you’re eating.

The strategy is very successful, keeping well-made ice cream yummy, even at the bottom of the bowl. However, the price you pay is a double helping of sugar, which means calories, which means fat.

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