A new study suggests ice cream can do more for your brain than just freeze it.
A Japanese scientist has found that eating ice cream for breakfast enhances your alertness and mental performance - but that probably doesn't mean you should start making it your "most important meal of the day" (at least not every day.)
Yoshihiko Koga, a professor at Kyorin University in Tokyo, recently conducted a series of clinical trials wherein test subjects were instructed to eat ice cream as soon as they woke up. The subjects were then assigned a series of online mental exercises.
The study, which was published on Japan's Excite News website, showed that the subjects demonstrated faster reaction times and improved information-processing abilities compared to a group that hadn’t eaten ice cream for breakfast. Upon further inspection, their brain activity showed an increase in high-frequency alpha waves, which are linked to heightened alertness levels and decreased mental irritation.
Koga repeated the experiment with cold water instead of ice cream to determine whether the subjects’ reactions were simply the result of the brain being shocked into heightened alertness due to cold temperature. While the subjects did show a degree of heightened alertness and mental capacity, the levels were far lower than with those who ate ice cream first thing in the morning.
Koga is continuing the research in efforts to discover a firm connection between the mental boost and a specific ingredient in the ice cream. He surmises that another explanation could be in the perception of ice cream as a treat that fosters positive emotions.
Some nutritionists have expressed skepticism regarding Koga’s findings, adding that you probably shouldn’t start eating ice cream for breakfast every day.
"A possible explanation [for increased alertness]... is the simple presence of consuming breakfast vs. not consuming breakfast," said nutritional psychology doctoral researcher Katie Barfoot from Reading University.
"Our brain needs glucose to function, and a high glucose meal will aid mental capacity considerably compared to a fasted brain.
"This, however, does not condone eating dessert for breakfast. A study which explores the interaction between consumption of low and high GI foods, whilst including a fasted group, would establish a better understanding of this increased mental capacity."
Past research has hinted at ice cream’s positive mental effects. A 2005 study by neuroscientists at the Institute of Psychiatry in London looked at the brains of test subjects as they ate vanilla ice cream. What they found was that eating ice cream activated the same "pleasure spots" of the brain ignited when winning money or listening to a good tune.
"This is the first time that we've been able to show that ice cream makes you happy," Unilever spokesman Don Darling said at the time.
"Just one spoonful lights up the happy zones of the brain in clinical trials."
h/t The Telegraph.