I had to. Skepticism made me. It came to me in the night and whispered into my gastrointestinal tract. Seductive words, about enquiry and the quest for truth. What skepchick wouldnâ€™t succumb?
The chocolate is called Naturally Gorgeous. You can already see where this is going, canâ€™t you? The claim on the packaging is that Naturally Gorgeous â€œkeeps you fuller for longerâ€. So does that mean if you eat it, you will feel satiated andâ€¦erâ€¦wonâ€™t want to buy more? No, thatâ€™s not a great business model, it canâ€™t be that. You snack on chocolate and that curbs your appetite so you donâ€™t want any dinner? No, thatâ€™s not right either, cause that could be dangerous. Vitamins, kids.
Happily, the website sheds some light on their intentions: â€œOur aim was to create a gorgeous tasting chocolate which you didnâ€™t need to feel guilty about eating.â€ and â€œit has allowed us to create the first â€˜guilt-freeâ€™ chocolate.â€
Guilt-free chocolate? How?
The packaging gives us a bit more of a clue:
â€œpine kernel oil contains essential fats which helps take away the need to be naughty keeping you fuller for longerâ€.
Next to that is a logo for something called PinnoThin. So what is it? Here we go!
â€œSpecific hormones in our body send messages to our brain which trigger or reduce feelings of hunger. PinnoThinâ„¢ works by stimulating the release of two hunger-suppressing hormones, CCK (cholecystokinin) and GLP1 (glucagon-like peptide 1). CCKand GLP1 send signals of satiation to the brain (similar to saying ‘I am full’) – which reduces the urge to eat.
PinnoThinâ„¢ stimulates these hormone releases. PinnoThinâ„¢ comes from a natural plant source. It is based on pine nut oil derived from the nuts of the native Korean pine tree, which are especially rich in long chain fatty acids, such as pinolenic acid. The Korean pine tree contains more than 40 times as much pinolenic acid as other types of pine nuts. PinnoThinâ„¢ simply offers the highest concentration of this all-natural satiety and appetite suppressant. Its effectiveness has been scientifically proven.â€
Ignoring that tasty and tempting last morsel of a sentence for a moment, whatâ€™s not clear is how much pine nut oil (or PinnoThin) is actually in there. The PinnoThin people are up-front about the fact that you need 3g of the stuff to have any alleged effect. The listed ingredients of Naturally Gorgeous are:
Dark chocolate (73%), cocoa solids 69% minimum (cane sugar 26.5%, cocoa butter 4%), Emulsifier: soya lecithin, pine nut oil, mint oil.
So, I called Naturally Gorgeous to ask. The woman I spoke to was very nice, and happily answered my questions. Yes, itâ€™s PinnoThin thatâ€™s in the chocolate. And she informed me that there are â€œtwo to three gramsâ€ of it in a 35g bar. Well, thatâ€™s problematic. If there is less than 3g then their claims about fullness are untrue.
Now letâ€™s go back to the wording on the packaging: â€œpine kernel oil contains essential fats which helps take away the need to be naughty keeping you fuller for longerâ€.
But if Iâ€™ve eaten the chocolate containing the oil, Iâ€™ve already been naughty. How is this anything but a major flaw in their argument?
Naturally Gorgeous contains nearly 10g of fat per 100g. Thatâ€™s roughly 12 bananas worth of fat. If I ate 12 bananas I bet I wouldnâ€™t want to eat again forâ€¦oh, at least an hour.
The brochure for PinnoThin shows a young woman saying â€˜Noâ€™ to a slice of chocolate cake. This is where I get super confused. The implication of that picture is that consuming PinnoThin will stop you eating the stodgy chocolatey stuff that makes you fat. Soâ€¦if you put the PinnoThin in the stodgy chocolatey stuffâ€¦
Naturally Gorgeous call it â€œGuilt-Free Chocolateâ€. That makes me angry (pass the sugar). It has ten grams of fat in it, about the same as any other chocolate. Itâ€™s not guilt-free. Itâ€™s a bar of chocolate. If eating chocolate is meant to be a guilty pleasure, Naturally Gorgeous is no different, because it contains just as much fat. Whether or not it helps to stop you having another one in an hourâ€™s time does not make it â€˜guilt-freeâ€™.
And thatâ€™s before we get to the â€˜scientifically provenâ€™ claims of PinnoThin. Youâ€™re going to like this, I can tell. The National Advertising Division (NAD. Tee hee!) ruled on PinnoThinâ€™s claims just a few weeks ago:
â€œThe advertiser presented evidence that included two well-designed, placebo controlled clinical studies that were conducted on two variations of the advertised product, as well as a placebo.
Following its review of the evidence, NAD” (chortle) “determined that the advertiser did not have a reasonable basis for its claim that it has â€œclinically provenâ€ that PinnoThin promotes the feeling of satiety, suppresses the desire to eat or provides control over oneâ€™s appetite. However, NAD” (snort!) “did determine that the advertiser could support a more limited claim that PinnoThin â€œmay help toâ€ promote a feeling of fullness, reduce prospective food intake, suppress the desire to eat, provide control over oneâ€™s appetite or increase the release of GLP-1.â€
Zing! Dubious scientific claims akimbo. PinnoThin â€˜mayâ€™ indeed help to promote a feeling of fullness. So may eating 12 bananas, or thinking about mashing those 12 bananas and smearing them over a naked Ron Jeremy. â€˜Mayâ€™ is the advertiserâ€™s get-out-of-jail-free card. Anything may do anything else, given the right circumstances. And itâ€™s certainly the case that eating something may make you feel full for a while. Thatâ€™s kind of the point of food, in fact.
So what they mean is â€œif youâ€™re going to eat a bar of chocolate, you might as well eat one that may make you feel fullerâ€. In which case, it needs to hold up in a taste test. Which is why I ate it. 35g of Naturally Gorgeous Dark Chocolate and Orange. I had a famous food blog, so I feel more than qualified to rate the bar.
It was average. Too bitter (chocolate has sugar and vanilla added for a reason, folks), and not a particularly satisfying orange tang compared to, say Green & Blacks, and with far too smooth a consistency for a dark chocolate, which may or may not be the pine nut oil. They make a deal of the â€˜smoothnessâ€™ on their website, so theyâ€™re obviously aware that the mouthfeel is different to other chocolate.
My conclusion is this: if you are addicted to chocolate, then two bars of Naturally Gorgeous will give you enough PinnoThin to maybe put you off having another bar after Desperate Housewives has finished. For everyone else, I recommend a glass of pine nut oil followed by an entire box of handmade chocolates from my local artisan Chouchoute, the greatest chocolate-maker in the country. I just ate six of their truffles. For skepticism. Really.
Edited to add: Sorry I screwed up the quantities. I don’t think it affects my stellar argument, though, particularly the Ron Jeremy part. I’ve changed them for accuracy.