Steve Bond enjoying a ice cream cone

Recently, a friend sent me a post where the author was suggesting that ice cream may reduce the incidence of heart disease in diabetic patients. My first thought was, “Who are the authors of this study? Ben and Jerry?”. Naturally, it piqued my interest, so I decided to keep an open mind and follow the evidence.

The concept came from a 2018 Harvard University doctoral thesis. The researcher looked at data from two large observational studies over 20 years. During this period, the university tracked the health of participants and looked at links to certain diseases and lifestyle factors such as diet.

When they looked at people with diabetes, they found that those who admitted to eating ice cream twice per week were 12 percent less likely to have heart disease than those who did not consume any ice cream. Wow! Sounds great. The problem is that these are observational studies — that is, they look at connections but not necessarily a cause. For example, those who ate ice cream twice a week may have also eaten a healthier diet. We don’t know all the other variables. Another consideration is that those people who admitted to eating ice cream may have stopped and adopted a healthier lifestyle once they knew that their habits were being monitored.

Ice cream is considered a high processed food, very high in calories, fat and sugar. This makes it likely that too much ice cream may have a negative effect on health. So please do not change to a three meal a day ice cream diet for your health; it likely will not end well.

Ice cream does have some redeeming qualities. It is a source of calcium and vitamins such as A & D, and protein. Eating ice cream can also increase chemicals in our brain such as dopamine and serotonin, which improve our mood.

For now, I simply cannot tell you there is compelling evidence to suggest that ice cream has any health benefits. A couple of small portions a week, however — paired with an otherwise healthy diet and exercise regime – is unlikely to do significant damage. So, enjoy in moderation, take care of yourselves and each other.

By Steve Bond BScPhm, RPh, CDE, FASCP