The tragic death of Eloise Aimee Parry is not the first time Dinitrophenol (DNP) has reared its ugly head. Responsible for a string of fatalities dating back to the early 20th century, DNP is a chemical that refuses to disappear.
Originally used as a Sulphur dye for cotton products in the 19th century, it’s harmful effects were noticed and it was classified as an industrial poison around 1900; workers in close contact with the chemical noticed excessive sweating, fatigue, elevated body temperature and excessive weight loss. Due to large scale industrial use during the First World War DNP affected many workers and subsequently gained the interest of main scientists Maurice Tainter and Windsor Cutting of Stanford University who published a critical survey listing uses of DNP in nutritional disorders in 1933. Most noticeably they found that it caused rapid weight loss by stimulating metabolism, and their findings were hailed. From 1934 DNP was readily available as an over the counter weight loss without prescription in the US, but by 1938 it was declared ‘extremely dangerous and unfit for human consumption’ after a host of side effects and multiple deaths were linked directly to the chemical. Since this time, it has come in and out of fashion with bodybuilders, athletes and individuals looking to lose weight fast; those who believe the rewards outweigh the risk.
DNP interrupts the body’s normal metabolic pathway for producing energy, causing it to become inefficient- it derives less energy from both food and its own energy stores- so it is forced to increase the rate of metabolism to produce sufficient energy to meet its needs. The energy ‘lost’ in this inefficiency is converted to heat, causing the core body temperature to rise. Overdosing on DNP can literally cook you to death as your core temperature soars, while the body struggles to produce enough energy to maintain vital pathways such as kidney and liver function.
So why would you risk overdosing on such a chemical?
As a generation we have an obsession for instantaneous results. Quick is no longer fast enough. We want same day delivery with our online orders, tomorrow is too long to wait. This need for immediate gratification, coupled with our desire to have a ‘perfect body’, has created a niche in the market that unscrupulous individuals and companies have willingly filled. Their business models range from exploiting loopholes which allow certain chemicals to be sold over the internet that would otherwise be illegal, to selling ineffective placebos, but they all play on our desire to look amazing in minimal time and with minimal effort.
Unfortunately there is little that can be done to regulate the selling of these product and chemicals while we are willing to buy them as traders have the ability to appear on the internet, make money, and then disappear when necessary. There are no safe shortcuts to achieving your perfect body, but while people continue to believe there are, there will always be someone willing to take their money.