In the May 2023 issue of The Atlantic, an article written by David Merritt Johns titled “Nutrition Science’s Most Preposterous Result” made waves through the fitness world. The most noteworthy part was the subtitle, which read: “Studies show a mysterious health benefit to ice cream. Scientists don’t want to talk about it.”
Well, it’s not that cut and dry. That mysterious health benefit is the consistent findings that “eating half a cup of ice cream daily was associated with a lower risk of heart problems” in diabetics. On May 10, 2023, nutritional scientist Dr. Layne Norton took to his YouTube channel to explain what that means for everyone thinking of scooping ice cream more freely. Check it out below:
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As Norton explained in the video above, the findings in the article show ice cream’s consistent “protective effect…against type 2 diabetes” and a protective effect against heart disease for those who already have type 2 diabetes.
[It’s] in the literature and it’s basically been buried.
Norton broke down a study from Harvard University at the turn of the millennium that suggested ice cream consumption was associated with an approximate 20 percent decrease in the risk of type 2 diabetes. A more recent Harvard meta-analysis published in BMC Medicine in 2014 specifically cites “higher intake of yogurt…with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.” (1)
The protective effect is basically the same as drinking skim or low-fat milk or eating yogurt.
Yogurt, and more specifically Greek yogurt, is a source of high-quality protein for a relatively low amount of calories. Per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), six ounces of nonfat Greek yogurt is about 100 calories, 68 of which are derived from protein.
Why Not Talk About Ice Cream?
Norton expressed that essentially the reason why the positive findings of ice cream consumption and the associated lower risk of type 2 diabetes were not openly discussed is due to nutrition scientists being scared to talk about it.
Posing that ice cream has a potentially protective effect against type 2 diabetes runs the risk of losing credibility for all the reasons mentioned above — the notion that a dessert with high sugar and high saturated fat could have a positive effect is laughable at face value, despite the research suggesting the aforementioned protective effect.
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Norton explained how these findings about ice cream highlight how personal bias can influence what gets published and therefore receives further discussion. The significant effects associated with ice cream and lower risk of type 2 diabetes have been consistent for decades. However, the bias of how that would be perceived influences scientists’ willingness to bring that research to light.
This research got buried for 30 years because people are going to say we’re crazy…nobody will believe the rest of our data.
Ultimately, the neglect of these findings about ice cream, in Norton’s view, is a matter of trying to change the data to fit a conclusion rather than changing a conclusion to fit the data.
- Chen, M., Sun, Q., Giovannucci, E., Mozaffarian, D., Manson, J., Willett, W., & Hu, F. (2014). Dairy consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: 3 cohorts of US adults and an updated meta-analysis. BMC Medicine. Retrieved from https://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/13454648
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