The McMath ice cream licking hypothesis

Massey food technology senior lecturer Kay McMath thinks so. Although she is not aware of any specific scientific evidence to prove it, she says “there are some physical and physiological reasons why there are likely to be differences in flavour”.

“Flavour in ice cream is only released when the fat content – which carries the flavour – is warmed in the mouth to at least body temperature,” she says. “During licking, the tongue is coated with a thin layer of ice-cream which is more quickly warmed and the flavour is detected by the large surface area of the taste buds present on the tongue.” By comparison, the spoon provides insulation to keep the sample colder when put into the mouth. Once in the mouth the tongue pushes the ice cream to the roof of the mouth to melt before swallowing. A smaller surface area is therefore involved in warming the ice cream to release the flavours….

However Mrs McMath acknowledges “it’s a difficult hypothesis to prove as it involves such different procedures. The consumer will psychologically believe there are likely to be differences – whether real or not.

So says an October 24, 2008 report by Physorg.

(Thanks to investigator Don Troop for bringing this to our attention.)

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