What Happens When You Eat Ice Cream On An Empty Stomach

Ice cream often serves as the perfect healing balm after a hard day or a difficult breakup. You open the freezer, and it seems to welcome you with open arms. You grab a spoon, open the lid, and dig in. Bowl? Nah. You're a big kid. Besides, eating ice cream right out of the container means you can ignore the serving size, which is typically the size of your spoon anyway.

Sometimes that craving for ice cream comes before you've had something substantial to eat. That leaves more room in your stomach for a few extra gobs of cookie dough and fudge. But here's the reality. A half cup of vanilla ice cream (55 grams) is 137 calories, 7 grams of fat (4.5 saturated fat), and 14 grams of sugar. A pint of Ben & Jerry's has three 137-gram servings, so if you eat the whole pint, you'll be eating 1170 calories, 67 grams of fat, and 101 grams of sugar, depending on the flavor.

It's one thing if you're eating ice cream after a healthy meal. Your stomach might be relatively full, so a scoop of ice cream might satisfy. Eating ice cream when your stomach is empty or instead of foods rich in nutrients could mean some physical and mental health problems over time. According to Delish, if you eat something high in sugar and fat on an empty stomach, it could make you sick.

How ice cream affects your body

When you eat too much sugar from ice cream and your liver doesn't need any more glycogen, your body stores it as fat, per Women's Health Network. Fat cells produce more estrogen. Not only that but when your blood sugar spikes, your pancreas produces more insulin as a response. The increased insulin means a decrease in the protein that balances your hormone levels, which leads to irritability and anxiety. As women enter perimenopause, they could experience more night sweats and hot flashes.

As MedlinePlus noted, replacing a meal with ice cream not only could cause you to gain weight but also could raise your LDL cholesterol. Too much LDL cholesterol in your system could clog your arteries and put you at risk for heart disease.

Many brands of ice cream also have emulsifiers and processed ingredients that aren't great for the bacteria in your gut. According to a 2022 article in Foods, food emulsifiers found in ice cream such as polysorbate 80, propylene glycol alginate, and carrageenans could contribute to metabolic syndrome and other chronic inflammatory diseases because they promote the pathogenic bacteria in your gut while decreasing the beneficial bacteria.

How ice cream affects your brain

According to the Texas Institute for Neurological Disorders, your brain needs glucose for energy, but too much glucose doesn't make you Einstein. It could lead to memory and cognitive issues. Eating sugar gives your brain a quick hit of dopamine, but as your brain gets used to the sugar, it disrupts your dopamine levels.

The sugar-fat combo is also much more addicting, even if you're already full, says Scientific American. It's called hedonic hunger, and it makes you crave certain foods even if you're not hungry. Hedonic hunger is about eating for pleasure, and you tend to eat way more than what your body needs. It also disrupts your body's natural process of reducing your appetite so you can manage your weight. Foods high in sugar and fat trigger the reward centers of your brain, and you continue to seek those similar rewards in the same way people struggle with other addictions.