Happiness, says the wise, is in the little things. Why not, even in a teaspoon of ice cream. The IGI-Istituto del Gelato Italiano publishes scientific research in Italy that has examined the mysterious link between food and the gratifying emotional sphere, making it possible to draw up an ideal classification of the most popular foods.
The discovery is due to computer scientists Nicu Sebe and Theo Gevers of the University of Amsterdam, who designed software that can relate changes in facial features to the emotions that determine them. The innovative program was applied to measure the expressive reactions to the interaction with food of the over 300 people who "lent their faces" to research.
The results are surprising: when Italians eat ice cream, 86% of their faces express happiness, well above the average (64%) found in other European countries. Ice cream beats even chocolate, universally considered one of the most satisfying foods: for the food of the gods, the happiness meter touches "only" - so to speak - the 61 percentage points. In any case, if we combine the two values, the chocolate ice cream should represent a real "concentrate of happiness". The absolute prototype of the food-satisfaction smile ...
Needless to say, it was less exciting to bite an apple or taste a yogurt: the Italians assume an expression deemed "neutral" to 89% and 86% respectively. In the last place instead, the cereal bar, which the computer classifies as anything but gratifying food: the feeling that inspires on the participants' faces is that of "anger" with a value equal to 26%.
Research on the rewarding value of ice cream has an illustrious precedent: to test the innovative software, the researchers had chosen the most enigmatic expression in the history of art, namely Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, which for five centuries has fixed us by its frame with an ambiguous and charming smile. A real test of nine for the computer, which managed to interpret the secrets of the mysterious painting: the analysis of the features of the Mona Lisa has in fact established that her smile for 83% expresses happiness and is conditioned only in a small part from negative emotions such as disgust (9%), fear (6%) and anger (2%).
The investigation by the University of Amsterdam confirms the results of a study conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry in London, which has shown, through brain imaging techniques, that just a teaspoon of ice cream is enough to "turn on" the same pleasure centers in brain also stimulated by a win of money or by listening to our favorite music. The images, detected by magnetic resonance imaging, have in fact shown the activation of the orbital-frontal cortex, the seat of positive emotional pleasure, and other areas of the brain, such as the primary somato-sensory cortex, activated by the consistency and temperature of the ice cream, the bark of the insula, activated by the flavor of the ice cream, the motor cortex, activated by the movements of the mouth in relation to the act of eating the ice cream, and the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex, activated by the attention to the "exciting" stimulus of the ice cream . In short, these refined experimental techniques have objectively proven how the intake of ice cream provides a strong emotional sensation of pleasure / happiness, linked yes to the memory / image that everyone has of ice cream, but
also to its consistency, to its temperature, to the fact that it melts in the mouth and to a set of other sensations connected to this food which are manifested on the face in an expression of blissful satisfaction and contentment.
According to IGI estimates (which has elaborated AIDI-Association of Italian Confectionery Industries data), 25 million Italians will eat ice cream 2 or 3 times a week from June to September, while 10 million will enjoy this fresh pleasure. the days.
And in the 120 summer days, the consumption of packaged ice cream will be around 2,5 kg per capita compared to a total of 4 kg per year. Less than half compared to the 7,7 kg of Sweden, the 7,6 kg of Finland and the 6 kg of Denmark, which demonstrate how the passion for the cold dessert knows no boundaries and latitudes.
Who smiles the most? Ice cream is a cold pleasure that puts all Italians in agreement, but according to the IGI-Demoskopea "Generation ... Gelato" research, it is the young 14-24 years who lead the patrol of enthusiasts, with an average weekly consumption in the period summer just over 3 portions (3.3, compared to around 2 for adults) and a peak (19%) of aficionados who cannot do without it and eat it every day.
Important numbers, but, once translated into "bites" and "licking", they say that in summer every Italian will consume just under 150 grams of ice cream per week. In other words, one and a half grams of guaranteed happiness. Too little to trigger annoying guilt.
"The advantage of ice cream - and in particular the industrial one - explains Professor Caldarone, is precisely in the great variety of portions and types of products (ranging from very small pieces, just over a bite, to mega cones and sticks and from a minimum of a few tens of calories to a few hundred) which allows us to choose the one that best suits our needs. The important thing is to get informed and read the nutritional labels that are present on each pack on industrial ice creams, adjusting accordingly ... In short, given that ice cream, like any other food, must be inserted correctly in the daily meal plan and consumed in quantity and frequency commensurate with one's lifestyle, these latest researches on "happiness" confirm what I have been saying for some time, namely that everyone, absolutely everyone can and must be able to enjoy a good ice cream in peace and "happily".