This morning on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, the 08.45 slot covered, ‘Researchers have discovered a naturally-occurring protein that can be used to create ice cream which is more resistant to melting than conventional products.’ Listening to it, I was uneasy on a couple of levels; here’s why:
What was said?
Being interviewed was Professor Cait Macphee of the University of Edinburgh’s school of physics and astronomy, who has led a project looking at a naturally-occuring protein that can:
— Slow down the rate at which an ice cream melts – great for the summer
— Mean fewer calories (fat and sugar) are in the ice cream – great for the weight/health conscious
What is this natural protein?
The interviewers didn’t ask what protein was being used; I immediately wanted to know – after all, deadly nightshade is natural and so are prions*. I commented on the Today Programme Facebook post; someone replied it was BsIA and kindly gave the link to the BBC article on its potential use in ice cream.
BsIA… sounds harmless enough, eh? Well, BsIA stands for the marine toxin bistratene A! On the other hand, the team said it exists in friendly bacteria, so maybe I’m wrong there. We shall see. Frankly, I don’t think there’s room for it in any food product. What could be the unintended consequences on our own gut bacteria, gut cell lining, epigenetics, etc?
On the question of calories, there will be less saturated fat in these ice creams and less sugar. The former was lauded with being a good thing along with the latter. They still haven’t got it – saturated fats in themselves are good for us; it’s sugar that’s not. Of course, some cheaper ice creams manufacturers sneak in polyunsatuated oils, some hydrogenated (that’s bad).
That said, if you eat a mix of fats and sugars, the sugars will be burned preferentially and the fats last – if you don’t use up the energy it will be stored as fat. Remember, fat can’t be stored in fat cells unless insulin is present; fats don’t stimulate the release of insulin, carbohydrates do, (and proteins to a very small extent).
So, the ‘fewer calories’ plautidits are fallacious really. If you want an ice cream, have one… but know it is a treat and nothing more; commercially bought ice cream is not good for you, especially the cheaper types.
Better yet, make your own ice cream using double cream and a mere smidge of sugar if at all. There are plenty of recipes out there – just search for ‘low carb ice cream recipes‘. There are plenty of dairy free ones too.
*Prions are misfolded proteins that make copies of themselves by inducing others to misfold; they are implicated in various illnesses.
Pic by Cherry Darlin’ on Flickr – with permission.