Weight-loss pills may be appealing but they are often really dangerous, a nutritional consultant tells Health24 after an urgent warning over the deadly drug 2.4-dinitrophenol (DNP).
DNP is a highly toxic "fat burning" substance that can be found in tablets, capsules, powders and liquids. While this deadly ingredient is illegal, it is often used by people wanting to lose weight. Last month, it claimed the life of a 21 year-old woman in England.
"DNP is extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all cost," warned Lila Bruk, a registered dietician and nutritional consultant at Lila Bruk & Associates.
"Unfortunately we never know how our bodies will respond and as evidenced by many of the deaths due to DNP, it without a doubt is often fatal."
Bruk said as appealing as these diet pills may sound, they often can contain dangerous or banned substances that can be lethal.
"There is no such thing as a quick-fix to lose weight", she told Health24.
She advised that a healthier way to try and lose weight would be to focus on portion control. "Reducing the size of portions is key to weight loss," Bruk said.
"In addition, the focus should be placed on having more lean proteins, healthy fats and low GI carbohydrates, and cutting down on refined and over-processed foods.
"Lastly, exercise is an essential component of weight-loss as it helps to create more of a calorie deficit to allow for greater weight-loss," she said.
Interpol issued an urgent worldwide notice to law enforcement in all 190 member countries, of which South Africa is one, after a sample of the drug was tested at a World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory.
The Medicines Control Council (MCC) told Health24 that it was not aware of the presence of any diet pills in South Africa containing DNP and at the same time warned the public against purchasing any medical products online.
Why is DNP so dangerous?
"DNP is an organic compound with its main use as pesticides and herbicides," said MCC head of inspection and law enforcement Dr Joey Gouws.
She pointed out that the substance was formerly used in the treatment of obesity during the 1930's due to its ability to increase the metabolic rate; however it was banned because it was found to be deadly.
She explained to Health24 why DNP is so fatal.
"The mode of action of DNP can be explained in layman’s terms that it inhibits the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) [an intracellular coenzyme responsible for energy transport], with energy being lost as heat within the cell.
"This causes fatal hyperthermia, with body temperature rising as high as 44C, before death."
DNP is also known as Dinosan, Dnoc, Solfo Black, Nitrophen, Aldifen and Chemox, the Food Standards Agency (FDA) in the UK has pointed out.
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