SLIM WITH PLEASURE! New "Diet Perfume" Claims to Make You Eat Less, Smell French

With top notes of oranges, synaptic transmission, and the placebo effect, HOW CAN IT FAIL?
Publish date:
July 31, 2012
crazy diets, fake science I made up, weight-loss quackery

Such was advertising's loss when I chose to dedicate my life's work to writing about everyday absurdities on the Internet.

You’ve gotta love The Daily Mail. At least, you have to if you work here, because Emily’s kind of obsessed with it. Which means I’m reading it more and more, which means I am coming to hate that part of myself.

But you can ALSO love The Daily Mail for covering news items like this without a whiff of snark or irony. Presenting: THE WORLD’S FIRST WEIGHT LOSS PERFUME. It’s called Prends Moi, and it purports to have a waitlist more than 6,000 people long (not true, as this website has it in stock, right now).

Makers claim the fragrance is designed to ‘slim with pleasure’ and is based on 'aromatherapeutic' and ‘neurocosmetic’ research.

The perfume contains ingredients which release B-endorphins present in the skin and a ‘pleasure message’ is transmitted through the brain triggering a sensation of well being and an increase in contentment reducing the need to overeat.

A ‘Slimming Complex’ formulated with caffeine, carnitine and spirulina extract activates the two key enzymes directly involved in lipolysis (fat degradation).

SCIENCE. Real science, not the kind you just make up to sell people on a placebo effect. I feel like a pert blonde in a white coat who is obviously not a doctor should be explaining all of this to us.

But wait, the product description on the website where you can buy this “slimming revolution” is even better.

Designed to ‘slim with pleasure’ PRENDS-MOI is based on extensive aromatherapeutic and ‘neurocosmetic’ research and contains active ingredients including ‘Betaphroline’ which when it comes in to contact with keratinocytes (cells found in the outer layer of the skin) will induce the release of B-endorphins present in the skin. A ‘pleasure message’ is transmitted through the neurotransmitters (impulse from a nerve cell to another nerve, muscle, organ or other tissue) to the hippocampus (the ‘odour brain’) triggering an immediate sensation of well being, a reduction in stress and an increase in contentment reducing the need to overeat and the scents slimming action is activated.

If you read the above in Werner Herzog's voice, it is the very height of entertainment.

The placebo effect has been acknowledged in medical texts going back to the 1700s, and is most simply described as a fake treatment that has no bearing on whatever ailment is being addressed, but which seems to have a positive effect nonetheless as a result of the human brain being convinced that the simple act of swallowing an inert pill or having some kind of sham surgery or procedure will help them to get well. Placebo effects are usually short-term and do not physically affect the problem they’re supposedly treating; the effect is all in our minds.

The Daily Mail article prominently features a “trial study” administered by the BIO-EC (in English, the Centre of Biological Research and Cutaneous Experimentation), which seems to be a French company whose business is “custom-made studies in claims substantiation for cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies.” So basically you tell BIO-EC what you want to claim your product does and they prove it for you. (For the supernerds, they have a website that is weirdly fascinating.)

The results of the study showed that 82% of users “felt a feeling of comfort after application” and 73% “felt a feeling of pleasure.” I love feeling feelings, myself. Unfortunately, the study results don’t seem to account for the fact that putting on ANY perfume might lead to these feelings being felt, feelingly.

Given the citrus-heavy Prends Moi concoction (Bergamot, mandarin, AND grapefruit? Does this perfume also supply your daily recommended intake of vitamin C? Or does it convince your brain you no longer require vitamin C on its way to deliver its “pleasure message” through your neurotransmitter impulses into your hippocampus where tiny cell-sized Widdlewompuscampic brain-gnomes live and are moved by the correct combination of certain scents to go massage the jolliness-containing parts of your brain with their nimble gnomey fingers while kicking your brain in its hunger impulses with their tiny gnomey feet?) all of this bright and shiny happiness is to be expected.

But there’s more! 75% “felt it limited the need to snack” while 70% “felt it acting on their eating behaviour.” I’d love to assume that this study had the foresight to not announce to the testers “THIS IS A DIET PERFUME THAT WILL MAKE YOU EAT LESS, OK” before having them report their experiences. But I doubt it, because the purpose of this study is to provide quotable statistics, not scientific proof. It’s not surprising, then, that people who have been told that a perfume will make them eat less subsequently eat less while using the perfume. Remember in "Dumbo" when he thinks it’s only by the power of a “magic” feather that he is able to fly? No? Oh god, I am so old.

“Prends Moi” is French, which makes it automatically skinnier and more sophisticated than you. The Internet tells me that the English translation is “take me,” as in sexually, as in “let’s have sex.” Not as in “I am a donut put me in your mouth,” which is what MY signature perfume -- with top notes of sugar and frying medium -- would say. I guess if your perfume is preventing you from eating, you need to get your daily pleasure quota somewhere.