Fermented Ice Cream: Creamy and Probiotic Science


Breaking down the microbiology world one bite at a time

Fermented Ice Cream: Creamy and Probiotic Science

Ice cream, undoubtedly, is a dessert that has captured the hearts of people of all ages. But what if there’s a way to take this beloved treat up a notch? What if I told you that researchers have discovered a way to make ice cream not just delicious but also healthier? In a recent study, scientists have formulated a new type of ice cream that is not only good for your taste buds but also your health. This study explores the creation of fermented ice cream with improved health benefits. 

So, what is fermented ice cream? It is a type of ice cream made by using live microorganisms, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis, which are commonly found in probiotic foods. These microbes ferment the lactose in the ice cream mixture, creating lactic acid, which leads to a tangy taste and a creamier texture. What makes this type of ice cream truly unique is its potential health benefits. The live cultures in the fermented ice cream can help promote gut health and boost the immune system. So, go ahead and give it a try!


Scientists played with different combinations of microbes with added dietary fibre and ended up creating 9 different compositions of fermented ice creams! In the end, they discovered that the most delicious ice cream was made by fermenting milk with a particular type of bacteria known as L. casei F14.

Let’s see how they prepared the fermented ice cream-

  1. The researchers prepared the ice cream base using cow milk, cream, sugar, and stabilisers.
  2. The ice cream base was pasteurised to eliminate any harmful bacteria and then cooled down.
  3. The researchers added specific strains of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) to the cooled ice cream base.
  4. The mixture was then fermented at a controlled temperature to allow the LAB to grow and convert lactose into lactic acid.
  5. After the fermentation process, the ice cream was cooled again to stop the fermentation process.
  6. The researchers also prepared ice cream samples with added inulin (a type of fibre) to see the effect on the sensory and biochemical properties of the ice cream.

Now that the ice cream is ready, the next step is to analyse the fermented ice cream and the inulin-added ice cream for their sensory, biochemical, and microbial properties.


The researchers conducted various tests on the fermented ice cream and found some interesting results. First, the sensory tests showed that the addition of fibre improved the overall acceptability of the ice cream, making it more appealing to the  tasters. 

Further, they tested the ice cream to measure its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on the gut microbiota, which showed promising results. They used a human intestinal epithelial cell line (Caco-2 cells) and treated them with ice cream samples. The researchers measured the antioxidant activity by assessing the cells’ ability to scavenge the reactive oxygen species (ROS). Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are unstable molecules that contain oxygen and can damage cells in the body. Excess ROS can cause oxidative stress, which has been linked to various diseases. A higher ability to scavenge ROS indicates a higher antioxidant activity, which can help protect cells from oxidative damage.

They also measured the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (tumour necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-8) in the treated cells to evaluate the anti-inflammatory effect. The results of this test showed that the ice cream samples containing inulin and Lacticaseibacillus strains, F1 and F14,  had higher antioxidant activity and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines compared to the control sample (here control sample would be a non-fermented “regular” ice-cream).  

Although the ice cream sample fermented with L. paracasei F1  showed some antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, it was not as much as the samples containing inulin.

Based on these results, the researchers concluded that the ice cream samples containing inulin and fermented with Lacticaseibacillus strains had potential health benefits as they exhibited antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities on intestinal cells.

To understand the digestion of the formulated ice cream in our intestines, another interesting test was carried out. The in vitro gastrointestinal batch digestion of ice cream and short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) analysis is a laboratory test that mimics the digestion process of food in the human gastrointestinal tract. In this test, ice cream samples are subjected to a simulated digestion process that involves exposure to enzymes and fluids that are present in different parts of the human digestive system, such as the mouth, stomach, and small intestine.

The purpose of this test is to understand how ice cream is digested in the gut and how this process affects the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are produced by the fermentation of undigested food in the colon. SCFAs are important for maintaining the health of the intestinal lining and regulating inflammation. After the digestion process is complete, the samples are analysed for the production of SCFAs. Interestingly, the batches containing fermented ice cream had high levels of butyric acid. They benefit the gut and have anti-inflammatory effects.

Overall, the use of lactic acid bacteria for ice cream fermentation has shown to improve its texture, flavour, and other desirable qualities such as melting resistance. These findings suggest that fermented ice cream could potentially offer a superior sensory and physicochemical experience compared to non-fermented ice cream.

Figure 1- Experimental setup for the investigation of the potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of fermented ice cream on intestinal epithelial cells. These effects of fermented ice cream were measured by a) TEER experiment to evaluate the integrity of the monolayer of Caco-2 cells b) IL-6 and IL-8 cytokine release  c) intracellular ROS production in Caco-2 cells (intestine epithelial cell line). Image source: Created by author using Canva and Bioicons 


Fermented ice cream, as revealed by this study, holds great promise as a functional food that offers a range of health benefits. Admittedly, the study has certain limitations, including its small sample size and the lack of long-term analysis. Nevertheless, it offers a new perspective on crafting more nutritious options for a much-loved dessert. 

These innovative formulations can be a game-changer for the food industry, offering a healthier and tastier alternative to traditional ice cream. Fermented ice cream may not sound like the most appetising dessert but next time you indulge in a scoop of ice cream, consider opting for it.

Link to the original post: Polo A, Tlais AZA, Filannino P, Da Ros A, Arora K, Cantatore V, Vincentini O, Nicolodi A, Nicolodi R, Gobbetti M, Di Cagno R. Novel Fermented Ice Cream Formulations with Improved Antiradical and Anti-Inflammatory Features. Fermentation. 2023; 9(2):117.

Featured image: Created by author using Bing Image Creator