Soft Ice Cream Alternative to Nutritional Drinks

Cancer treatment can make it hard to eat.  Both chemotherapy and radiation treatment can cause mouth sores, dry mouth, or poor appetite. Some patients develop thrush, a fungus infection in their mouths and throats, that makes swallowing very painful.

Traditionally canned or powdered nutritional supplement drinks like Ensure® or Boost® have been used to provide support to patients who are having trouble eating during treatment.

As an alternative, soft whip ice cream machines were installed on oncology wards in a hospital in the United Kingdom.  The machines served a premium ice cream which had comparable protein to the nutritional drinks.

Patients were asked to compare the new ice cream to the regular ice cream served by the hospital and to the nutritional drinks.  Results of the patient survey found:

  • 74 percent rated the new ice cream tasted good or excellent.
  • 78 percent said that it was easy to eat.
  • 77 percent preferred the new soft whipped ice cream to regular hospital ice cream.
  • 88 percent preferred the new ice cream to nutritional drinks.

The researchers pointed out the importance of having supportive supplements that patients enjoyed and would eat.

The team, led by C.L. Wright, concluded,

The use of ice cream illustrates a positive way forward for the dietetic treatment of malnutrition in cancer patients and further work is planned for the future. The use of branded ice creams provides an acceptable alternative to oral nutritional supplements in cancer patients with chemotherapy and radiotherapy associated mouth problems.

SOURCE: Wright et al.,Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Volume 21, Number 4, August 2008/

What This Means for Patients

Soft serve ice cream may provide an alternative to nutritional drinks for patients who have difficulty eating.

Discuss it as a possibility with a nutritionist or your doctor.

Cold foods, like ice cream, may cause sudden pain or a feeling that the throat is closing and you can’t get a breath in the days after treatment with Eloxatin® (oxaliplatin).  You should avoid cold foods and drinks during this time.


  1. Deborah Kanter says

    This sounds great; however, some people have trouble digesting the sweet diary confection after surgery and during chemotherapy. I will recommend a personal favorite, Haggen Daaz Sorbet, particularly raspberry. However, the nutritional content is probably nil.

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