Ice cream puts Ontario teen in weighty tome

She's only 13 years old but already her research is gracing the pages of a major international medical journal - thanks to ice cream. Maya Kaczorowski of Hamilton has had a study on ice-cream headaches published in the special Christmas double edition of the British Medical Journal, 2002. "I like ice cream and I tend to get ice-cream headaches," Maya said in an interview. But it was the young scientist's curiosity that led to her research. After reading an article about the phenomenon on the medical journal's Web site, she noted that the piece generated many reader responses, some offering remedies and theories about the sensation that results from gobbling down cold treats. It piqued her interest and Maya decided to conduct a random control trial of 145 students at Dalewood Middle School in Hamilton as a project for her science class. With some help from her father, Janusz Kaczorowski, an associate professor with the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University, the study went off without a hitch.

Half of the children were instructed to eat 100 millilitres of vanilla ice cream in less than five seconds. The other half were told to eat the same amount - the equivalent of about two scoops - so that some was still left in the bowl after 30 seconds. The kids were then told to report whether they developed a headache. The findings suggest that mom is right when she says you should eat ice cream slowly: 27 per cent of students in the "accelerated eating group" reported ice-cream headache, compared with only 13 per cent in the "cautious eating group," the study says. Of the 29 headaches reported, 59 per cent lasted less than 10 seconds. Prof. Kaczorowski said the headache sensation is caused by the ice cream touching the roof of a person's mouth, and that when one eats ice cream quickly, this is more likely to happen than when eating slowly.

The British Medical Journal, published weekly, receives about 6,000 articles submitted for publication each year. For its annual Christmas edition, the journal solicits lighter or unusual material and Prof. Kaczorowski thought his daughter's study fit perfectly. "We submitted the paper at the end of August and we went through the sort of usual peer review and we had to address some of the questions, some of the issues, and then we were told, 'You are in,'" Prof. Kaczorowski said. Maya said she was "really happy" when the study was published and says she "could follow it up with a different type of ice cream, but I'm not sure if I'm going to do that or not." "I have a lot more school work this year," Maya said. She was in Grade 8 when the study was done but has since started high school at Westdale Secondary School in Hamilton. After high school, Maya is thinking of studying to become a university professor, either in sociology or architecture. Here she's following in the footsteps of her father, who has a doctorate degree in sociology.