Multifunctional ice cream on the horizon

By Helen Glaberson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Ice cream Nutrition

A US scientist says he is in the final stages of creating the first ever multifunctional ice cream.

In a bid to try and create a healthier ice cream product, the food chemist Ingolf Gruen of Missouri (MU) is adding fiber, pro-biotic bacteria and antioxidants to the food.

“I might be wrong, but the current “functional ice creams” have either probiotics, fiber or are antioxidant rich, but none that has all three,”​, Gruen told


The fiber is added to the ice cream through a modified malto-dextrin, called Fiber-Sol2, manufactured by Archer Daniels Midland (ADM).

However, Gruen said the addition of fiber introduced texture challenges, which were overcome by finding the right fiber and testing which level was acceptable.

To add antioxidants to the food, the scientists are using an Acai puree. Although Gruen said the amount of antioxidant still needs to be determined.

The team is also adding a probiotic strain called Lactobacillus rhamnosis​ to their laboratory samples, along with a prebiotic substance called inulin, which is intended to stimulate the growth of beneficial intestinal microbes.

However, getting just the right amount of inulin is vital, as the substance, taken from chicory roots or artichokes, is also a laxative, said Gruen

The addition of probiotics also introduced potential problems such as added crunchiness and a slightly acidic flavour.

This formulation headache was tackled by growing the probiotics on a different substrate and making sure they did not clump together, said Gruen.

Ice cream benefits

The scientist said there are two reasons why ice cream in particular makes a good functional food “carrier”.

Firstly, the degree of liking of ice cream by the majority of the population, ​and secondly, because it is a frozen product, stability of whatever ingredient has or will be added is usually not an issue, he said.

“We have been working on a “probiotic processed cheese” product and have not been very successful!” ​he added.

The scientist said he saw potential in the wider functional foods market. According to Gruen, it is the only food sector — with the exception of organic — that is growing at the moment.

While the researcher agreed that ice cream is high in fat — particularly saturated fat — he claims that the food also has health benefits.

“Dairy proteins are good proteins, no doubt about it,”​ he said.

Ice cream also has a low glycemic index — the measure of how quickly your blood sugar goes up when you eat it. In addition it has high levels of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, pantothenic acid and vitamins B2 and B12, added Gruen.

He said some local dairy companies have already contacted him with interest in the ice cream.

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