Dinitrophenol (DNP) – Potentially lethal when taken internally

What is DNP?

– DNP or 2,4 dinitrophenol is an industrial chemical. It was used during the First World War for the manufacture of ammunition. It has since been used industrially as a raw material for for example pigments, anti-rot agents and explosives and as a plant and insect poison. It was noticed that the substance also promoted fat burning and weight loss. It was used for example in the United States in diet pills until 1938, when its toxic effects were noticed and its use was prohibited.

How does DNP work?

– DNP causes the cells to consume a lot of energy and so it speeds up the metabolism in the human body. Because DNP simultaneously inhibits the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is important for energy metabolism, the released energy is lost as heat. At the same time as the fat burn is heavily accelerated, the body temperature rises dangerously.

Why is DNP dangerous to consume?

– There is only a small difference between a dose burning fat and having a ”slimming” effect and a dose leading to death. The sensitivity to DNP can vary a lot between different individuals. DNP can be tolerated for months without obvious harmful effects, but the user can suddenly die from DNP poisoning. Symptoms of poisoning caused by DNP are amongst others intense nausea, vomiting, fatigue, a sensation of choking and difficulty breathing, sweating, high fever, increased heart rate, chest pain from the heart, headache, restlessness and convulsions. Long-term use can cause cataracts, liver damage and death. In Great Britain several deaths caused by DNP have been reported.

DNP cannot be marketed as food

– DNP causes severe harm to human health. Consequently it does not fulfil the requirements set for food safety and it is not permitted to be marketed as food.

DNP is a medicinal product and a doping substance

– DNP is found in annex 1 to the decision on the list of medicines (201/2016) of the Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea. In many countries, the substance is on the list of banned and illegal medicinal products. But it is possible to buy it from different international websites. So far, the authorities have not got the means to intervene in sales outside the EU.

– It is not permitted to acquire and receive substances considered as medicinal products by mail from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). There are also limits for acquiring medicinal products ordered from within the EU.

Page last updated 7/3/2019