Diet pills dangers

“Looking good should never cost you your health – or your life.” Poignant words by Fiona Parry, mother of 21-year-old British student, Eloise, who died in April after taking a popular diet pill she bought off the Internet.

Read: Global alert issued for deadly diet drug

A nasty chemical

Without telling her mother, Eloise bought pills containing DNP, a nasty little fat-burning chemical that is sold illegally and is unfit for human consumption. Bodybuilders love it, because it melts fat at an insanely daily rate (at least half a kilo a day apparently) with little or no muscle loss in users. That can sound like slimming heaven. The consequences can be hellish.

DNP is dinitrophenol, an industrial chemical used as a pesticide, and in the manufacturing of dyes and wood preservatives. US research at Stanford University in 1931 showed the compound’s effect on body fat loss, and it soon became a popular diet pill. It was taken off the market in 1938 because it killed many people – when it didn’t make them desperately ill.

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Being slimmer isn’t worth the risk

Eloise took a little more than the recommended starting dose (to me, the very idea of a ‘recommended dose’ of such a poisonous substance is an oxymoron on its own), but even in small doses, DNP is highly toxic. She knew all the risks, her mother says, but believed that “being slimmer was worth it”.

A BBC report explains the dangers of DNP:

  • Users experience a metabolism boost, leading to weight loss, but taking even a few tablets can be fatal
  • Signs of acute poisoning by DNP include nausea, vomiting, restlessness, flushed skin, sweating, dizziness, headaches, rapid respiration and irregular heartbeat
  • Lower amounts over longer periods can cause cataracts and skin lesions, and affect the heart, blood and nervous system
  • The sale of DNP is the subject of an ongoing investigation involving police, Interpol and the Food Standards Agency

Experts say that buying drugs online is “risky, as medicines may be fake, out of date or extremely harmful”. That’s putting it mildly. In Eloise’s case the drugs weren’t just harmful, they were fatal.

This article was initially published in newsletter. It has been republished with kind permission of the editor, Alec Hogg, and author Marika Sboros.

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.