Dinitrophenol: Pros and Cons[pullquote]I hope that the seriousness of this article will act to encourage others not to try this compound or any of the act alike thermogenic compounds. Even if you are an athlete and model and your fitness and body weight are essential for your career, it is not worth the risk. [/pullquote]
Losing weight is not easy. There’s no shortage of new products claiming to be weight-loss miracle supplements. They often claim to burn calories and hence fat with little to no effort. The supplement 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP) is no different.
This question is very timely. A new case report was released in October. I am glad the question was asked because researching this topic has taught me a lot that will help me with my patient advice. First, before we answer your question, I want to discuss what 2,4 dinitrophenol or DNP is and a few of the advantages and disadvantages of taking it.
DNP was once widely used in the United States for weight loss, but it was banned in the 1930s due to adverse effects, and now they are making a comeback in the United States. Two researchers published a study in JAMA in 1933 that highlighted the promising metabolic effects of DNP.
What is DNP?
DNP is an organic compound that is a yellow, crystalline solid that has a sweet buy musty odor. It is biochemically similar and is a precursor to adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is how our bodies utilize energy as we break down food and without it, we cannot use food directly for energy. It currently used as an antiseptic, dye, explosives, herbicide, pesticide, photographic developer, and wood preservative.
How does DNP work?
Dinitrophenol short circuits mitochondrial production of ATP and causes us to leak energy. The process is called uncoupling and produces heat. This cessation of ATP production via the mitochondria then leads to an increase in the metabolic rate to make up for the leaking of energy. This process eventually ends with weight loss because of the lost energy.
What are the adverse effects?
- Brain Damage
- Flushed skin
- High potassium
- Increased breathing
- Increased or irregular heart rate
- Kidney Failure
- Metabolic Acidosis (high body and blood acid levels)
- And may result in death
DNP is one of the few chemical compounds directly linked to death. A single dose of Dinitrophenol can lead to toxicity via excessive heat production, irregular breathing and heart rate, and mitochondrial dysfunction. You might get away with it once and then it hits you and overdosing on this compound requires a surprisingly small amount.
Does it work for weight loss?
Yes. DNP increases your metabolic rate, but once you read through the adverse effects, I am sure you understand that this is not a recommended supplement. No supplement that has the high rate of complications and death is worth the risk. Sure, arsenic works for weight loss because it kills you and your body rots. DNP is not licensed for human consumption in any amount, and I strongly recommend against taking anything that may have this compound. Heck, I will not even consider a supplement that has DNP in its name.
In recent years, DNP has begun being sold illegally on the internet. It is ill-advised to purchase anything on the internet because how do you know it is what they claim. The use has recently been a contributing factor in the death of multiple users. A recent case presentation was published in Chest in 2017 highlights this potential outcome. In the article, an 18-year-old male presented to an emergency department with shortness of breathing, palpitations (skipped heart beats), dizziness, nausea and bilious (yellow) vomiting for one day. He had consumed 1g of DNP daily for three days for weight loss. He appeared restless, diaphoretic, tachypneic, flushed and warm. He quickly became increasingly lethargic, cyanotic (blue), hypotensive (low blood pressure) and tachycardia (rapid heart rate). Unfortunately, his condition rapidly declined, and he developed cardiac arrest and died.
The bottom line: DNP is highly toxic and dangerous compound that is a practical solution for weight loss, but you would have to be crazy to take it. It is still available on certain websites online and used for weight loss. It frequently causes toxicity at a surprisingly low dose and death even at the proposed recommended doses. There are at least 63 published case reports of deaths caused by DNP, and some of them were by a single dose of 300-400 mg. There is no antidote. It’s still available illegally on some websites and is used by bodybuilders for rapid weight loss purposes. This compound results in various reported side effects. The use of DNP is prohibited by the FDA as a supplement and is not safe.[pullquote]I hope that the seriousness of this article will act to encourage others not to try this compound or any of the act alike thermogenic compounds. Even if you are an athlete and model and your fitness and body weight are essential for your career, it is not worth the risk. [/pullquote]