Tag Archives: Ice Cream

Sweetness And Light

Sweetness is the one drug we all crave.

Don’t try to tell me any differently, because you’ll be lying.

Even me. I’m not a big sweets person. That is, I’d rather have an extra slice of the entree than a dessert, but. . . Leave a bowl of chocolate pieces sitting out and I’ll have a handful scooped up and be walking off without even noticing it.

Sweet food is the universal appeal. And it sits right along near the throne with that other dietetic nightmare delight: fat. Why else would we love ice cream so much? Combine sweetness and fat and, dudes, you’re got a winner.

And it’s been that way for a long, long time. Because, for a long, long time, fats and sugars have been exceedingly difficult for humans to consume.

For the past 200,000 years or so, fatty and sugary foods were hard for humans to come by and well worth gorging on. Fats help maintain body temperature, sugars provide energy, and craving such food is hardwired: Eating fats and sugars activates reward centers in the brain.

Popular Science, a fantastic magazine with the tagline of “The Future, Now,” recently ran an interesting little article about how our genes might influence our cravings for sweet foods. In addition to things like, if our blood sugar drops, it could trigger a craving for sweet food and that craving also will annihilate our self control — say hello to Krispy Kreme — there’s something in the genes that tells us to eat sweets.I'd eat that.

 Obesity runs in families, and although scientists still don’t know just how much of craving is hereditary and how much is learned, they have located more than 100 genes that seem to be linked to the disease. To evolve out of cravings, we’d need to stop passing down these genes.

The problem with that is that evolution doesn’t work in a straight line. And, in addition, many genes don’t act on a single trait. That is, you might try to eliminate the gene for blue eyes (I’ve never trusted those blueies.), but find that, once that’s gone, the gene that coded for that blue protein also assisted the production of the enzyme that enabled those folks to digest protein, say.

Evolution is a messy process that plays out over millions of years. It typically lags far behind changes in species behavior. Until about 50 years ago, craving fats and sugars actually helped us survive. Then fast food became abundant, and the number of obese people in the U.S. tripled between 1960 and 2007. Half a century is “just not enough time to counteract millennia,” says Katie Hinde, a human evolutionary biologist at Harvard University.

So, really, it looks like if we want to master our cravings for fat and sugar, we’re going to have to stop hoping that the evolution fairy will come by and wave shir’s magic wand and wipe away the problem. If we want to stop eating too much sugar and fat, it’s going to be up to that three-pound wrinkled mass we’ve got up between our ears.

Self-control, dudes. That’s where the solution lies.

I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling I’m going to be more part of the problem than part of the solution.

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The Future In The Palm Of Your Hand

No, not like that, dude. Geez. Get your mind out of the gutter.

And, no, I’m not talking about your futurephone this time, either.

Nope, what’s got me all riled up today is the pure, tasty, deliciousness of ice cream. Ice cream you can eat from your hand without having it melt all over and drop onto the ground.wiki2

In a little shop near the Louvre museum in Paris, a very strange type of ice cream is being sold. At the counter customers don’t order cups, cones or shakes; here they ask for WikiPearls, little donut hole-sized balls of ice cream that are covered in a flavored, protective skin. “People come in and say, ‘What’s this all about?’” says David Edwards, the mastermind behind WikiPearl and the newly opened WikiBar. It’s a very good question, actually. Much like Dippin’ Dots, the pearl-like ice cream that blew kids’ minds in the ‘90s, WikiPearls is angling to change the way we eat ice cream. But it’s not just frozen snacks that Edwards is looking to revolutionize—the Harvard bioengineering professor has bigger plans than that.

Now this, dudes. . . This is a future I can get behind and start pushing.

Edwards and a French designer began working on these things in 2009 as a way to eliminate packaging from foods, as a way to minimize waste. Good idea. Wrapping it around ice cream?

Brilliant.

Called WikiCells, the edible soft skins are made from natural food particles that are bound together by nutritive ions. The goal was to reduce plastic waste while improving human health through portion control and vitamin-supplemented skins. WikiPearl is the first commercialized product born from the technology, mainly because ice cream is delicious, and it’s the least weird form his WikiCells could possibly take.

Of course, I’m pretty sure that anything would be improved by the addition of ice cream stuffing. Let’s just close our eyes for a moment and savor that delicious thought.

. . .

mmmmmmmmmmm

Yeah. That’s nice.

Even better, the WikiPearl ice cream melts much slower than traditional ice cream. And check the flavors.

Three 50-calorie balls roughly equals a cup of Häagen-Dazs ice cream, and so far they come in three flavors: mango with a coconut skin, chocolate with a hazelnut skin and vanilla with a peanut skin.

I think we need to start some kind of petition or a movement or something so we can get this technology over here to the states as soon as possible. I want me some of this stuff and, dude, I want it now.

Who’s with me?

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Memories Not So Reliable After All

Paper trails and electronic logs are all well and good, but it’s eyewitness testimony that really seals the deal.

But it probably shouldn’t be the case.

New research is showing that the human memory is a lot less like a reliable camera recording everything that happens and then transcribing it back unchanged and a lot more like a game of telephone with a bunch of drunks passing the information along down the line. Although that might be a bit insulting to the drunks.

Elizabeth  Loftus is a cognitive psychologist and expert on the malleability of human memory. You might remember her from the hullaballoo her work has caused in the past. Or maybe not.

Her first big foray into the public consciousness was when she began researching car wrecks in the early 1970s. She would show video of car collisions and then ask questions of the viewers. Even though they saw the same thing, the subjects certainly didn’t see the same thing.

Their answers depended greatly on how she phrased the question. For instance, if she asked how fast the cars were going when they “smashed” into each other, people estimated, on average, that the cars were going 7 mph faster than when she substituted the word “hit” for “smashed.” And a week after seeing the video, those who were asked using the word “smashed” remembered seeing broken glass, even though there was none in the film.

When she asked the subjects about “a broken headlight,” only a few remembered seeing one, even though there were no broken headlights before the collision. When she asked about “the broken headlight,” people were much more likely to misremember it as being present.

In the mid 1990s, Loftus again bloomed in the public eye when her research showed the hazards and pitfalls of believing in the truth of repressed memories. Those are memories that are so traumatic that the person pushes them down and completely forgets about them. Until a skillful therapist begins working with them and bringing the truth out.

It was Loftus’ contention, backed by research, that these memories were, rather than being repressed by the patient, actually being created by the therapist.

“I don’t think there’s any credible, scientific support for this notion of massive repression,” Loftus says. “It’s been my position that, you know, we may one day find (the evidence), but until we do, we shouldn’t be locking people up.”

There’s even some current talk about how dudes can learn to lose weight by using false memories. In the past, Loftus has caused people to create false memories of getting sick from eating strawberry ice cream as a child. This has caused the folks to swear off the sweet stuff. Could we use that to help our adult selves, or even growing selves, rethink how we approach food?

It’s some really fascinating stuff. The CNN article where I found most of this stuff has some more great information in it, including a fascinating discussion on whether or not people would choose to take a drug that would demolish a highly traumatic memory. Go read it. Definitely worth your time.

 

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