You may think you have a refined enough pallette to tell the difference between a taste of high-fat versus low-fat ice cream, but a new study demonstrates people really can’t tell the difference between regular and light ice creams. The study out of the University of Pennsylvania challenges to the commonly-held opinion that ice cream with higher fat content is superior in taste to the lighter kinds. Not only did the study’s authors find that people couldn’t tell the difference between high and low-fat ice creams, but that the fat content didn’t change the study participant’s preference.
According to a study press release, study participants could not tell the difference between ice creams with a 2 percent difference in fat content, so long as the overall fat content of the ice creams fell between the 6 and 12 percent range. Participants were also unable to detect a 4 percent difference in fat content for ice creams within the 8 and 12 percent fat range. The one range where a change was detectable was 6 and 10 percent, when the difference in the ice cream samples was 4 percent.
But even when people could taste the difference, it didn’t necessarily impact how much they liked the ice cream. As associate professor of food science and director of the Sensory Evaluation Center at Penn explained in the study’s press release, “Differences in perception and differences in liking are not the same thing.”
The study’s authors concluded that the perception that high-fat ice creams are better just didn’t bare out in their findings. “People think premium ice cream means only high fat ice cream, but it doesn't,” professor and head of the University of Pennsylvania’s food science department says in the press release. This type of information could be very valuable to ice cream-makers who may be able save costs if they opt for lower-fat products, or market their existing ice creams differently.