Entries in Ice Cream (4)


Study: Understanding 'Brain Freeze' May Be Key to Migraine Treatment

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While most of us love ice cream, we certainly don't love the jarring headache, commonly known as "brain freeze," that happens to some people after eating it.

What causes this phenomenon has long baffled scientists, but in new research presented at this year's Experimental Biology meeting, scientists may have identified the cause as a change in the brain's blood flow associated with consuming cold drinks or desserts.

Researchers led by Jorge Serrador of Harvard Medical School and the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center of the Veterans Affairs New Jersey Health Care System induced brain freeze in 13 adults.  They monitored subjects' blood flow using diagnostic imaging while they sipped ice water with the straw pressing on the upper palate, and then while they sipped room-temperature water.

Participants raised their hands once the ice cream headache hit and then again when the pain went away.  The researchers found that blood flow increased rapidly in one of the arteries of the brain at the onset of brain freeze, and diminished when the pain receded.

Serrador said in a statement that the study, which isn't yet published, suggests that the increased blood flow can cause pain and the quick arterial constriction that follows may serve to bring pressure down.

He also explained that changes in blood flow to the brain may play a role in migraines and other types of headaches.  If subsequent studies confirm these findings, they could have implications for treatment.  Drugs that prevent the sudden arterial dilation could potentially be an effective remedy for these debilitating headaches.

But experts not involved in the study argued that the majority of headaches are not caused by alterations in blood flow.  Migraine, for example, is widely considered to be a brain disorder, not a blood vessel disorder.

"We have known for decades that migraine is caused by nerve dysfunction.  There may be vascular changes, but they are only secondary," said Dr. Teshamae Monteith, director of the headache program at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.  "Patients experience warning symptoms such as food cravings, frequent yawning, fatigue, and neck stiffness a day before the pain, suggesting that migraine is a state of brain dysfunction as opposed to one of vascular dysfunction."

Dr. Joel Saper, director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, added that the study doesn't seem to provide any evidence that the altered blood flow actually caused the pain.

"It could be that the cold is irritating the nerve and it's causing pain, and maybe the blood flow is the result of the pain, or the result of something being that cold," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cravings for Ice Cream Similar to Those of Drug Addicts, Study Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(EUGENE, Ore.) -- Cravings for ice cream can be just as strong to those urges experienced by drug addicts, according to a new study.

Research published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who regularly eat ice cream needed more and more of the cold stuff to get the same "high."  This effect is similar to those who use cocaine and other class-A drugs.

More than 150 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 16 took part in the study, which required them to scarf down chocolate milkshakes before being interviewed about eating habits and cravings.  Teens also had their brains scanned while looking at ice cream.

This new research supports the previous claim that junk food can become addictive.  According to Oregon Research Institute's Dr. Kyle Burger, a co-author of the study, the brain responds in a certain pattern to high fat and sugar.

"This down-regulation pattern is seen with frequent drug use, where the more an individual uses the drug, the less reward they receive for using it.  This tolerance is thought to increase use, or eating, because the individual [is] trying to achieve the previous level of satisfaction," Dr. Burger told The Telegraph.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


We All Scream for Ice Cream, But Can We Become Addicted?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(EUGENE, Wash.) -- There are people who say that for them, food is like a drug, and a new study suggests that high-calorie foods like ice cream can affect the brain in some of the ways drugs do.

Researchers Kyle Burger and Eric Stice of the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene tested whether eating ice cream very often would lead the brain to require more and more of it before sending signals that it's an enjoyable treat.

They surveyed 151 adolescents who were a healthy weight about their food cravings, and then scanned their brains while showing them images of a chocolate milkshake to determine how strong their cravings were. The researchers also measured brain activity when the subjects drank a tasteless liquid as a comparison. The teenagers were then fed actual milkshakes.

The participants who reported eating more ice cream over the previous two weeks enjoyed the shakes less -- at least according to the brain scans. The scans showed less stimulation in the area of the brain associated with reward.

The experiment, the authors wrote, show that frequently eating ice cream "is related to a reduction in reward-region responsivity in humans, paralleling the tolerance observed in drug addiction."

The notion that food can be physically addicting is a controversial one. Researchers are divided.

"I think ice cream use is like a drug in that it can become a strong reward for some people," said Dr. John Hughes, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont in Burlington, who was not involved in the Oregon study. But, he added, "not all strong rewards are addictive."

True addiction, he said, is characterized by tolerance, withdrawal and loss of control over use. Ice cream does not have these effects on people.

Dr. Bob Gwyther, a professor of family medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, disagreed.

"Addicts exhibit behaviors that are harmful to themselves (and they know it), yet they continue to engage in the behavior," he said in an email to ABC News. "Picture someone standing in front of the refrigerator with a pint of ice cream, eating the entire carton, despite the fact that they are obese, diabetic or whatever."

Gwyther said many of his patients have tearfully described times when they gulped ice cream, knowing it was unhealthy but unable to stop their behavior.

While Burger and Stice's study does not go so far as to say that ice cream is addictive, they said they hope their findings can contribute to the understanding of how the brain's reward centers function, and how they are linked to obesity.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Health Officials Stop Sales of Cicada Ice Cream in Missouri

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(COLUMBIA, Mo.) -- Cicadas are out again this summer across Missouri, so why not try to beat the heat and eat a bowl of cicada-flavored ice cream?

That was the special treat being offered at Sparky's Homemade Ice Cream in Columbia, Missouri when the shop opened for business about a week ago.

The owners prepared the cicada frozen snack by collecting the insects, removing their wings, boiling the bugs and slathering them in brown sugar and milk chocolate.  The ice cream base consisted of brown sugar and butter flavor.

Customers loved the cicada-flavored frozen desert so much that Sparky's quickly ran out of it.

That's just as well for Columbia public health officials, who told the store to quit selling the snack because of health concerns.  That's also just as well for Sparky's, since this species of cicada only shows up every 17 years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio