Why Does Eating Ice Cream Make You Thirsty?
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Why Does Eating Ice Cream Make You Thirsty?

By Dustin Rowles | Miscellaneous | June 20, 2013 | Comments ()


Tomorrow is the first official day of summer, and as the weather heats up, I often occasionally dabble in less sedentary activities than watching television or attending a screening. To offset the winter weight I might lose by engaging in activities that might involve more than lifting up a heavy remote, I like to eat ice cream. I prefer peanut butter and chocolate ice cream, but I'm sure many of you have your own preferences.

But a question I've often wondered, because I'm lousy with science and biology, is this: Why does ice cream make me so thirsty? Ice cream is basically frozen milk, and milk doesn't make me thirsty (although, it does make me gag unless it's heavily flavored with Cinnamon Toast Crunch debris), so why should ice cream make me thirsty? It seems counterintuitive, and yet, that cold, refreshing dessert gives me that same dehydrated feeling I get after a heavy night of drinking.

How does that make sense? We checked in (i.e., looked it up on the Internet)with Michael Gasink an, undergraduate in Biology/Environmental Science at College of William and Mary, who provided a very simple explanation:

"Salt is one of the ingredients of most ice creams. Salt makes you thirsty."

This is overly simplified, I know, but in all honesty that is pretty much what happens. Ice cream makes you thirsty on the same principle. For those with more biology, it all boils down to osmosis.

Osmosis is the tendency for water to travel across a semi-permeable membrane from a place of low concentration of solutes to a place of high concentration of solutes.

When you eat ice cream, you blast your body with all sorts of solutes. Ice cream has salts, but also sugars fats, amino acids, and more for your body to absorb into the blood stream. When your blood becomes laden with these chemicals, (mostly sugars) your blood becomes more "concentrated," giving your brain (hypothalamus) the signal of dehydration. When water in the hypothalamus leaves to the blood through osmosis, then the blood concentration is greater than that of the hypothalamus. This triggers the thirst response in the body and brain.

If you were dehydrated, there would be a high concentration of solutes in your blood, so you would become thirsty. Eating ice cream, in a sense, makes your body think it is dehydrated, and in a sense, I suppose it is.

This is one of the reasons that diabetics are thirsty all the time. Diabetes causes high blood glucose, and that increased concentration of blood solutes makes the diabetic feel thirsty.

In short: It's the salt. Why is there salt in ice cream? Because salt allows you to bring the mixture of ingredients in ice cream below the freezing point of water without turning it into a frozen block, like an ice cube.

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  • googergieger

    It doesn't.

  • e jerry powell

    My goodness but you're contrarian this week.

    Go to Miami and make sure that if the refs swallow those whistles again that they damn sure choke on them.

  • Ferrous Bueller

    The truth is a little more complicated and involves some biochem and organic chem. Ice cream is made with sucrose which is cane, beet or table sugar, a disaccharide meaning it is made of two simpler sugars. In order to split the disaccharides into the simple sugars that the body runs on like glucose requires water. If you figure out the amount of sugar there is in ice cream or even standard soda pops you will be amazed. Try eating the amount of sugar in a bowl of your favorite ice cream and see how quickly this happens without any of the fats or salt from the ice cream. Lactose which is another disaccharide is the sugar naturally in milk and it is split the same way.

    Fat is also split into free fatty acids and glycerine which also requires water for the body to do and adds to the water deficit. Proteins are broken down into amino acids in a similar process. As for the salt there is no more in ice cream than there is in custard and the best ice cream is frozen custard IMHO so it's strictly there for taste say like in bread.

  • Those fuckers at Haagen Dazs have put about 5 pounds on me since the start of the summer, which in Memphis begins around the middle of May where you sweat profusely in the 30 seconds it takes to walk from your front door to the car. I'd rather be thirsty from stuffing my face with that stuff than of the near heat stroke you get from just walking around this city.

  • e jerry powell

    At least in San Antonio you can get Häagen-Dazs at the shop on the Riverwalk, so then you can walk it all off and go get more. But if you stand under the trees by the shop too long, the birds will shit on you, so you have to move faster.

  • ed newman

    Sure you can explain it with science. But in this case only I think there is a more appropriate philosophical reason. Ice cream makes you thirsty because it is trying to reach its preferred state, its ultimate form, and its reason for being: the milk shake.

    Milk shakes cure all thirst. All other explanations are lacking.

  • Lauren_Lauren

    Ice cream is the fruit of dairy products. You can melt it, scoop it, bake it, blend it. There's, uh, ice cream cones, ice cream sundaes, ice cream floats. Deep fried ice cream, Baked Alaska ice cream. There's pineapple ice cream, lemon ice cream, coconut ice cream, peppermint ice cream, soft ice cream, ice cream cakes, ice cream and fruit, ice cream and sprinkles, ice cream sandwich. That- that's about it.

  • e jerry powell

    But if we're being real, soft ice cream is mostly cellulose. You could insulate your house with it, if you could find enough.


  • Maguita NYC


  • e jerry powell

    It's been summer in Texas since mid-May. I bid the rest of you welcome.

  • Bodhi

    Here in Oklahoma, too. If you're able to dodge the spring tornadoes, you get to boil in your flesh until September. As gross as they are, I have to thank Godtopus for public splash pads. The toddler & I would kill each other without them

  • Maguita NYC

    It still isn't in my neck of the woods. It only gets warm late afternoon, and we still need to wear long sleeves in the morning. forget sandals, toes might fall off!

  • e jerry powell

    Somehow, though, I suspect you don't much want to trade with us. Heatsickness is already a serious problem around these parts.

  • Frankly, it's not the heat-sickness that bothers me. Not even the stiflingly, oven-hot insides of cars this time of year. No, what bothers me is the sweating for no damn good reason whatsoever.

    Seriously, people. You shouldn't break into a sweat just getting dressed in the morning. You shouldn't step out of the shower and already be sweaty. I'm sitting in my cube at work even now and I'm sweating.

    And...okay if you're sensitive stop reading now...ball sweat. There I said it. When it's so toasty that your sack always sits in a puddle of its own perspiration, it's TOO DAMN HOT.

    Years ago, my ancestors relocated from Scotland and ended up in Texas. They moved from a place where the ambient summer temperature is 65F. I still don't know what the Hell they were thinking. One day I'll meet them in the Great Beyond...and I'm going to kick their asses.

  • e jerry powell

    And they would be well-deserving of such an ass-kicking.

  • Maguita NYC

    But I love the humid-over-the-top heat. Serious. Went to Greece 3 summers ago and let me tell you, while everyone was (literally) dying of heatstroke, I was feeling glorious. And I'm a pasty white girl, who has to watch for sunburn.

  • e jerry powell

    I threw up twice week before last. There is just no way to make that read as cosmic fabulosity.


  • Mrs. Julien

    I made Mr. Julien chocolate malt ice cream for Father's Day. It was, if I may, my best effort to date. You can't have any. It's all gone.

  • Pseudonym

    You bitch!

  • e jerry powell

    Yeah, but she's standing on my street corner, so she's my bitch. Keep walking.


  • Pseudonym


  • e jerry powell

    I'll show you what love's got to do with it!

  • Mrs. Julien

    What a legacy, eh? My brain goes pimp --> Ike Turner.

    Although I did watch a documentary called American Pimp and they all noted Turner as their hero. If I'm looking for (P)IMP, I go with Dinklage.

    Back to ice cream! I applaud Dustin's flavour choice.

  • e jerry powell

    From the way he comported himself over the years, it's a fairly easy connection to make. Down to the very end, he was still expecting Tina Anna Mae to make his money.

  • MelBivDevoe

    I'm guessing you've never made ice cream at home? You ahould learn how to do it; your kids would love it, I bet.

  • Cazadora

    In the summer, when my mother and aunts made peach ice cream with fresh peaches and where we all had to take a turn at turning the crank to make it go round and round, are some of my favorite memories.

  • Rochelle

    Are we related? The same thing used to happen in my family. I can't eat peaches without wanting ice cream.

  • Three_nineteen

    I was just about to say that. Homemade ice cream is the best. You can buy an electric ice cream maker or I believe certain food processors have some kind of attachment for it. Of course, if you REALLY loved your kids, you would get a hand operated ice cream maker. Turning the crank on an ice cream maker for about 45 minutes puts your love into the ice cream and makes it taste all the better.

  • e jerry powell

    And raises my blood pressure to the point of nausea.

  • You can homemake your own homemade ice cream maker quite easily. Put the ice cream components in a gallon ziplock. Put a bunch of ice in one of those round water coolers (or in a large plastic container). Put the ziplock in the ice. Sit and play video games while rolling the cooler back and forth under your feet.


    Materials on hand + video games = homemade ice cream

  • Three_nineteen

    Foot cream?

  • e jerry powell

    You should have your own DIY show!

  • BigBlueKY

    Lieutenant Dan... ice crayyummmmmmmmmm

  • Lauren_Lauren

    To this day, I still say that randomly all the time.

  • BWeaves

    1. Ice cream is loaded with salt. I thought that before I even read the article. Cold items have no flavor, so they up the salt and sugar content so they have flavor.

    2. Ice cream is loaded with sugar. Again, they up the sugar because the food is cold and you wouldn't be able to taste it otherwise. Sugar messes with your blood.

    3. Ice cream is not frozen milk. Ever try Ice Milk? Yeah, it's obvious it's not Ice CREAM. Ice cream is loaded with dairy fats. That's what gives it its "mouth feel."

    4. Ironically, salty ice cream is really delicious, and is a nice complement to a chocolate lava cake. I don't want to know how much extra salt they put in that.

  • Maguita NYC

    My favorite is caramel and sea salt Ice cream. There is a specialty place near my house that has homemade ice cream; They have this Vanilla, chocolate-dipped Macadamia with a thick swirl of caramel and sea salt ice cream that is to die for! I just love sweet and salty flavors.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    Sea salt and caramel from Paciugo is the best! mmmmmmm...

  • e jerry powell

    No, you don't want to know. It will make you cry.

  • BWeaves

    Luckily, ice cream does not agree with me, so I don't eat it. Gives me the worst gas.

  • e jerry powell

    Welcome to the wonderful world of lactose intolerance. I'll be your tour guide...

  • BWeaves

    You're going to milk that joke for all it's worth.

  • e jerry powell

    Oh, I just can't...

  • JJ

    "Ice cream is basically frozen milk"

    Oh, honey, no.


  • L.O.V.E.

    Let me be the first to say, "Yeah science!"

    (SLW, a little too eager to jump on my placeholder post. You grammar nazi's are a tenacious bunch :)


  • Well, *it's* certainly not grammar. ;-)

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