Interpol has issued a global warning about the dangers of the diet pill known as 2.4-Dinitrophenol, or DNP. The world police agency raised the alarm in 190 countries by issuing an Orange Notice alert that declares the pills as an ‘imminent threat’ for its consumers.
The dangers associated with the consumption of diet pills containing DNP have been known for some time. However, it is only since the hospitalisation of a critically ill French man and the recent death of 21 year old British woman Eloise Parry, that the International Criminal Police Organisation has taken action. The latter died in a hospital on 12 April after taking an overdose of the online-purchased pills which are believed to have contained a highly toxic industrial chemical.
How does DNP work?
Most diet pills work by blocking the body’s absorption of fats or reducing appetite by inducing a feeling of a full stomach. DNP however (usually sold as a yellow powder, as a capsule or as a cream), manipulates the way fats and carbohydrates are broken down by the body. Instead of the natural release of energy as fuel for muscles and bodily functions, the excess energy is released as heat. This results in burning up to 50% more calories, which although does work in terms of losing weight, also causes your body temperature to soar dangerously high.
A short history
During the First World War, DNP was used in France as a raw material for the manufacture of explosives. Factory workers exposed to the substance noticed that they were sweating excessively and that their weight was dropping.
Years following the war, DNP was marketed as a diet pill, until the dangerous side-effects became apparent. The US was the first country to ban the drug in 1938. There were several alarming cases of death associated with the consumption of DNP pills, including a man whose body temperature rose to 43.3C, who literally cooked to death from the inside.
The drug has made a comeback on the black market in recent years and is thought to have led to at least 5 deaths in the UK alone.
Buying pills online is dangerous
Interpol released their alert to emphasise the dangers of buying pills and supplements online. “In addition to being produced in clandestine laboratories with no hygiene regulations, without specialist manufacturing knowledge, the producers also expose consumers to an increased chance of overdose.”
According to Chief Inspector Jennifer Mattinson, dealing with the inquiry into Miss Parry’s death, “substances from unregistered websites could put your health at risk as they could be extremely harmful, out-of-date or fake.”
While some pills have helped dieters shed a few pounds, most products displayed online are unregulated, untested and the results have not been proved. Online distributors have even tried to mask their supply by selling it on the black market as turmeric, a yellow spice, due to the similarity in appearance.
Since the alert, police agencies have been investigating where manufacturers are sourcing the dangerous slimming drug from and where it is being advertised.