Wednesday 12 August 2020

Thinner Killer

Had to wash the dishes on Wednesday last week: a man can't makes scones if every kitchen surface is stacked with  delft . As you do, I switched on the wireless; and caught a piece on Sean Moncrieff about the inadvisability using DNP for weight loss. That's 2'4'-dinitro-phenol DNP? Which was used in WWI as an explosive? Yup, that's the boy: it really burns off the fat. The explosive connexion is fairly straight-forward it's the nitro, [NO2] silly. Like TNT or Nitrocellulose, DNP is loaded with oxygen-rich nitro groups which are liable to fire up: explosively if the conditions are right.

The weight-loss connexion goes back at least 100 years, when it was noticed that workers in certain French munitions factories were getting thinner. DNP is a yellowish powder in its pure form and the poor buggers were inhaling enough of the stuff [PPE is a relatively recent idea] to have a physiological effect. It took a while for some sharp entrepreneurs to monetize the observation and start selling DNP to those who felt that less is more in the waist department.  It's a bit like the canny lads who sold dried tape-worm eggs in a little pill as a weight-reduction therapy. Russian soldiers in WWII used to snort DNP during the winter offensives because it made them feel warmer.

The chemical / physiological effect is that DNP interferes with oxidative phosphorylation in mitochondria . . . so no ATP [the energy currency of all our cells] is made . . . so the body switches to alternative sources of energy, such as burning fat. This is why DNP has a certain vogue in among people who are trying for a six-pack. No sub-cutaneous fat makes yer abs all look more chiseled [as R: tires optional]. But no ATP means that all sorts of physiological processes pack up. Human Physiology, the way I teach it at The Institute, is all about homeostasis the exquisite fine tuning of all the different systems so they work in a miraculously goldiloxian way . . . until they don't. If you overdo (and there is really no safe dose) the DNP you are likely to experience: agitation, convulsions, dizziness, fever, headache, hot flushing, kidney and liver failure, nausea, panting, sweating . . . and weight-loss.

It is on the watch list at the UK National Poisons Information Service NPIS where enquiries seem to go in cycles with peaks of interest every couple of years with much more usage since about 2015. There is no antidote or cure if you take this stuff: the good folks in ICU will try to deal with the symptoms as they present, but when multi-organ failure kicks in there's not a lot in the medicine chest and a couple of young people die every year after over-doing DNP.

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