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What is 2,4-Dinitrophenol (DNP)?

2,4-Dinitrophenol is a synthetic aromatic nitrogen compound. It is primarily used as an antiseptic, but has a number of uses in industry, in the manufacture of explosives and herbicides, and it is considered to be an industrial pollutant.

DNP is also abused as a fat loss aid by dieters and bodybuilders. It became popular as a weight loss aid in the early 1930s before it was declared "extremely dangerous and unfit for human consumption" by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1938 (1)

This chemical does not have the approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) that it requires before it can be sold in Australia, and customs are under instruction to seize this product if an attempt is made to bring it into the country.

Why use 2,4-Dinitrophenol (DNP)?

2,4-Dinitrophenol belongs to a class of chemical called proton uncouplers.

Normally, our bodies generate usable energy through the movement of protons across the membrane of a tiny cellular component called the mitochondria. The movement of each proton across the cellular membrane recharges a single molecule of ATP, which is then used in reactions requiring energy. The movement of protons is said to be 'coupled' to the generation of ATP.

A proton uncoupler like DNP allows protons to leak out of the mitochondria, which means they are no longer forced to follow the ATP-generating path across the mitochondrial membrane. Because the body needs ATP to survive, the body must dramatically increase the metabolic rate in an attempt to push more protons through the ATP generating channel. This makes the process of generating energy very inefficient, and produces a huge amount of heat.

ATP production is fuelled by food, or stores of fat and glycogen. Because DNP makes ATP production so inefficient, the body requires a lot more fuel. If you're not compensating by eating more food, the body will turn to its fat stores. This is why DNP causes such rapid weight loss.

Apart from this, DNP has no benefits.

2,4-Dinitrophenol (DNP) Side Effects

Of all the substances abused by bodybuilders, athletes and dieters, DNP is one of the most dangerous.

Despite the illegality of this substance, deaths are recorded on a regular basis (2). This is due to two factors:

  • Unpredictibility – the substance affects different people very differently. A dose which causes mild symptoms in one person may cause death in another.
  • Small therapeutic window – Because this drug partially disables a process essential for survival, there is a very small difference between an effective dose and a toxic dose.

DNP is considered to be one of the harshest drugs available, and the list of side effects is long. Raised body temperature is inevitable because it is the means through which this drug causes weight loss. On one end of the spectrum, this will cause sweating and discomfort. On the other, it can cause seizures, brain damage, and death. People have described victims as "burning up from inside" and users have recorded body temperatures as high as 45 degrees Celsius, which is fatal and unsurvivable.

Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting, electrolyte and fluid imbalances, water retention, shortness of breath, yellow coloured bodily fluids, alterations in the production of thyroid hormone and insulin, and insatiable hunger.

2,4-Dinitrophenol (DNP) Alternatives

There are many safe and effective fat loss products on the market. Many of these also work by stimulating the metabolism, although not in the same dangerous way as DNP.

A fat loss supplement is a safe and legal way to supercharge your weight loss. Fat loss supplements feature ingredients like fatty acid transporters, mood boosters, appetite suppressants, hormonal support ingredients, vitamins, minerals and immune system boosters, which work together with healthy diet and exercise to give results. It is worth noting that some manufacturers allude to the fact their product contains DNP as a marketing ploy. An example of this is Pro Supps DNPX, which, in spite of the name, does not contain this dangerous and illegal substance. It is important to always check the ingredients. Mr Supplement does not sell any products containing DNP.

Green Tea Extract is one of the most popular weight loss products on the market. Unlike DNP, it is a safe thermogenic which is able to boost the metabolic rate without interfering with the essential workings of our bodies. Green tea extract is also a powerful antioxidant, offering protection against damaging free radicals.

DNP is popular amongst athletes who are cutting for competition. A common and much safer alternative is the use of a diuretic. Water retention can add kilos to your frame and hide muscle definition. For some people, a safe diuretic can represent a good short term solution.

(1)Dinitrophenol poisoning. Resus Review. http://resusreview.com/2014/dinitrophenol-poisoning/. Accessed April 23 2015.
(2) Grundlingh J, Dargan PI, El-Zanfaly M, Wood DM. 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP): a weight loss agent with significant acute toxicity and risk of death. J Med Toxicol. 2011 Sep;7(3):205-12.

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