Researcher Valerio Sanguigni has patented a recipe for an ice cream with antioxidant properties. His tasty creation has proven health benefits and can improve sport performance in young people.
Sanguigni, who is a professor at The University of Rome Tor Vergata, told Repubblica that he wanted to “shed some light on the jungle of substances which contain antioxidants”.
Antioxidants can help improve heart health and prevent certain diseases, and studies have repeatedly linked them to living a longer life.
The antioxidant properties of many traditional Italian foods, such as red wine, extra virgin olive oil and tomatoes, are thought to contribute to the longevity of Italians – a population whose number of centenarians has tripled in less than 15 years.
However, Sanguigni says that many hyped superfoods lose their antioxidant properties before they reach our tables.
The foods which best conserve the substances include dried fruits, cocoa beans and green tea, he says – and low, controlled temperatures help too. So gelato is the perfect way to eat your way to a healthy heart.
The scientist created three types of ice cream (chocolate, hazelnut and green tea flavour) following a secret recipe at a Rome gelateria, before transporting it to the university on his moped.
There, he carried out tests to check the effectiveness of the antioxidant dessert.
Participants took blood tests before and after sampling the gelato (with some taking a placebo, a standard chocolate ice cream) and were also asked to pedal as fast as they could on an exercise bike.
The tests showed that the gelato improved vascular function and also improved participants' physical performance. These changes were not observed in those who ate the placebo ice cream.
“Who says that health foods have to taste bad?” asks Sanguigni.
The results of the study – which the researcher believes is the first in the world to show that a gelato can have benefits for health and physical performance – were published in scientific journal Nutrition.
It will take time before the antioxidant gelato will find its way to your local gelateria, however; for now, it has only been manufactured in small doses for the scientific tests.