How Fat Burner Dinitrophenol (DNP) Kills Those Who Take It
A 21 year old university student, Eloise Parry, was pronounced dead in April 2015 after having taken eight pills of the dangerous fat burner 2,4-dinitrophenol, or DNP.
At the inquest into her death, it became clear that Eloise had no intention to die but was struggling with a serious and untreated eating disorder.
Despite knowing the risks involved, that DNP could easily kill you, Eloise ordered the toxic pesticide anyway from an online vendor based in London, Dr Muscle Pharmaceuticals.
Dr Muscle Pharmaceuticals has since been taken down by UK government agencies. This, however, did not seem to resolve the issue as there were a further ten deaths related to DNP in the UK in the three years after Eloise passed away.
Despite being banned in both the UK and United States, 2,4-dinotrophenol is still widely available online to anyone who looks for it. A recently published FDA report estimated that there are currently over 100 websites that sell the stuff directly to eager consumers.
As someone who has struggled with body image issues and an eating disorder in the past and (this is hard to admit) used DNP myself..
I urge anyone considering taking DNP to reconsider.
DNP is unsafe and it could very easily kill you. If it doesn’t kill you, it may leave you with permanent disability. Hopefully, the very real dangers of DNP will become clear by the end of this article.
2,4-dinitrophenol is a yellow crystalline solid that is often sold illegally, typically through online forums, in the form of powder, tablets or capsules.
And it’s proving to be very popular for its powerful fat burning effects, specifically with bodybuilders looking to reduce their body fat percentage and better define specific muscle groups.
It’s also used by other people outside the bodybuilding community who may be looking to lose some weight relatively quickly, albeit its use comes with significant adverse effects.
DNP wasn’t always a fat burner, however, and it wasn’t always illegal and considered to be unfit for human consumption.
2,4-Dinitrophenol was first used by the French during the First World War to manufacture explosives.
After the war, people took notice of its brilliant yellow colour and it was regularly used as a dye in the textile industry and as a general pesticide.
In the early 1930s, Maurice Tainter at Stanford University, realised that the factory workers who dealt with DNP often lost vast amounts of weight and so he began to investigate DNP as a possible fat burner.
And so from 1933 to 1938, DNP was freely sold over the counter to hundreds of thousands customers looking to slim down.
The FDA eventually intervened in 1938 when it became clear that DNP was too toxic, having caused several dozen deaths and, according to one estimate, 2,500 cases of blindness due to cataract by 1935.
My name is Hesham and I’m a University of Cambridge graduate and Student Doctor and this is “Doctor, Tell Me Why” — a medical YouTube channel where I explain the science behind better health.
You can use this link if you prefer to watch a video format of this article on YouTube.
Today I plan to explain how DNP burns fat resulting in weight loss and why it is so dangerous and considered too toxic for human consumption. I’ll also discuss some of the treatments available as well as give some personal anecdotes from my experience using DNP.
This piece is part two of a three part series. Once you’re done watching, feel free to check out part one; all about the black market supplement “Cardarine” and the science behind how it improves athletic performance, as well as some of the risks involved when taking it.
The first thing anyone who has ever used DNP will tell you is that you will feel hot — so unbearably hot.
I remember taking DNP in the middle of winter in the UK and it was very cold, it was basically snowing outside and I felt absolutely nothing. I was in shorts and I was still panting trying to cool myself down and sweating profusely. My sheets were soaked every morning.
This is because DNP will raise your core body temperature and increase your basal metabolic rate — by a substantial amount.
Most estimates suggest that consuming just 100mg of DNP a day is enough to raise your basal metabolic rate by 11%and that this is enough to result in around 1lb of weight being lost each week.
Most of the people using DNP, however, look for much quicker results and many regimens online recommend taking more doses throughout the day; sometimes up to 400mg each day — which significantly accelerates the weight loss.
Personally, I was taking roughly 400mg a day and managed to lose six pounds in a single week. It’s also worth noting that I lost all that weight without doing any meaningful exercise, there were days when I genuinely felt so weak I struggled to get out of bed..
And despite having a pretty ravenous appetite where I must have been consuming in excess of 3,000 calories a day, I was still losing weight.
The DNP was burning through all of that food — and so much more.
This is because DNP really does cook you from the inside out.
This is because DNP really does cook you from the inside out.
There were days where I lay in bed and genuinely wondered if I’d taken too much and if I was going to die. It didn’t matter how much water I drank because I was always dehydrated, hot and a little delirious.
Which makes reports of people accidentally taking an extra dose of DNP and ending up in hospital or even dead — very believable.
When you’re on DNP, your head is in up the clouds and you struggle to think clearly due to being both feverish and dehydrated. It can be so easy to take an extra capsule of DNP that you did not intend to take — and very often that will be all it will take to push your body over the edge and kill you.
Temperatures above 40 degrees centigrade are not uncommon with DNP and there have been reports of dinitrophenol raising core body temperatures up to 44 degrees centigrade — with often fatal consequences.
This acute hyperthermia is often the cause of death. However, there have also been reports of cardiac arrest and acute renal failure resulting in death too. Those who survive can sometimes end up losing muscles which literally just die and go on to need amputations.
Others, taking much lower doses of 100mg a day may go on to complain of vision and hearing loss as well as peripheral neuritis; a condition affecting the peripheral nerves causing numbness, weakness and sometimes pain.
But how does 2,4-dinitrophenol do all this?
DNP uncouples oxidative phosphorylation.
This means it gets into the mitochondria, the organelle that’s present in every single one of your cells and is responsible for turning energy rich glucose into actual energy that your cells are able to use (ATP)..
..and it breaks this vital link.
Hence glucose is consumed but its consumption no longer leads to the production of ATP.
It’s not actually the ATP molecule that holds the energy but the chemical bonds between adenosine and the phosphate groups that hold the energy.
Under normal circumstances, glucose will be spent within the mitochondria building up an electrochemical proton gradient which will then be used to provide the energy to build these chemical bonds.
Turning adenosine diphosphate, or ADP, to adenosine triphosphate, ATP.
When DNP is present; however, it allows the protons to leak; a process which is very exothermic, releasing a lot of heat, and so instead of releasing useful energy for your cells in the form of ATP — your cells begin producing heat.
I wasn’t joking when I said DNP cooks you from the inside out.
When your body finds itself low on ATP, its currency for energy, it will compensate by burning through its carbohydrate and fat reserves — often leading to even more heat being released.
But DNP isn’t actually the only chemical that can do this. It’s actually a fairly weak uncoupler of oxidative phosphorylation. There exist other more powerful uncouplers that are just so powerful and so toxic no one actually uses them for the purpose of losing weight. They’ll just kill you. period.
These uncouplers include FCCP and CCCP.
Now you may be wondering if there is a specific antidote that we can give people who present to the emergency room with DNP toxicity.
And the answer is no.
There are no specific antidotes for DNP toxicity and treatment is largely supportive.
If a patient presents early enough you may try activated charcoal.
However, it’s important to remember that DNP is a Class I molecule meaning it’s very small and lipophillic and therefore is rapidly absorbed by your cells and body so activated charcoal is unlikely to help after the first hour post ingestion.
Aggressive fluid resuscitation is often required for dehydrated or unconscious patients and benzodiazepines are often needed if the patient is delirious, agitated or presents with seizures; which happens due to the elevated temperature.
Dantrolene and ice baths have also been used to cool patients down.
The use of dantrolene, however, is relatively controversial as there really is no evidence to recommend its use — except for a single case report which is just the anecdotal report from the treatment of one single patient.
In conclusion, the key to managing DNP poisoning is a high index of suspicion and being able to recognise cases early enough to begin supportive treatment.
DNP should clear out of the system within 3–4 days, usually through urine, except in cases of impairment of kidney function — bearing in mind DNP can itself impair kidney function.
I have no shame in admitting that I was extremely stupid in using DNP.
I was 19 years old and frankly reckless. I also hated everything about my body and was really struggling to come to terms with all the weight that I’d gained in my first year at university.
DNP seemed like an attractive choice. After all, the supplement market is saturated with fat burners — so how bad could DNP really be?
Like very bad.
I didn’t think carefully about the consequences — because.. I was 19 years old and I was reckless. I was also desperate and really struggling. This was not the first time that I’d struggled with my weight.
I was really not very well supported and was making a lot of bad decisions.
And so to keep this short and sweet, I think you all will be very glad to know that I’m doing much better now and making smarter decisions because I have a healthy mindset to do so.
I find exercise to really be one of the best ways to stay in shape and keep the weight off as it’s pretty hard to exercise or engage in sports when you’re starving yourself or letting your demons get the better of you.
And remember to be nice to people because you just don’t know what they may be going through.
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