Scientists develop protein which could improve icy treat

Ice cream fans could soon savour a slower-melting treat on a hot day thanks to a new ingredient developed by scientists.

Researchers discovered a naturally occurring protein that can be used to create ice cream which is more resistant to melting than conventional products.

It works by binding together the air, fat and water – creating a super-smooth consistency.

The development could also allow products to be made with lower levels of saturated fat – and fewer calories.

Scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Dundee estimate that ice cream made with the ingredient could be available within three to five years.

As well as keeping ice cream frozen for longer in hot weather, it could prevent gritty ice crystals from forming – ensuring a fine, smooth texture like those of luxury brands.

Cait MacPhee, of the University of Edinburgh’s school of physics and astronomy, who led the project, said: "We’re excited by the potential this new ingredient has for improving ice cream, both for consumers and for manufacturers."

The team developed a method of producing the new protein – which occurs naturally in some foods – in friendly bacteria and it works by adhering to fat droplets and air bubbles, making them more stable in a mixture.

They believe using the ingredient could benefit manufacturers as it can be processed without impacting on performance and can be produced from sustainable raw materials.

The protein, known as BslA, was developed with support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Nicola Stanley-Wall, of the University of Dundee, said: “It has been fun working on the applied use of a protein that was initially identified due to its practical purpose in bacteria.”

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