Sharp rise in professional queries about harmful effects of 'fat burning' agent

June 23, 2014, British Medical Journal

The number of professional enquiries made to the National Poisons Information Service about the harmful effects of a 'fat burning' agent used by body builders and dieters has risen sharply in the past three years, reveals research published online in Emergency Medicine Journal.

2,4-Dinitrophenol, or DNP for short, is a synthetic chemical originally used in the manufacture of dyes, wood preservatives, phototographic developers, explosives and insecticides.

It speeds up metabolism and the body's use of fat and glucose stores, and was subsequently developed as a weight loss drug in the US in the 1930s.

But its side effects, which include very high fever and multi organ failure, especially at high doses, prompted US drugs regulator the FDA to ban it for human use in 1938. Although not licensed for medicinal use, it is available on the internet.

In a bid to gauge the prevalence of harm associated with DNP use in the UK, the researchers analysed the phone records of the National Poisons Information Service and online searches of its linked database, TOXBASE, for enquiries about DNP between 2007 and 2013.

The National Poisons Information Service is commissioned by Public Health England and provides phone and online information and clinical advice to healthcare professionals on all aspects of poisoning.

The revealed that 39 enquiries had been made about 30 separate incidents involving 27 men and three women, ranging in age from 15 to 45.

Three cases occurred between 2007 and 2011; five in 2012; and 22 in 2013. A similarly sharp increase was seen in the number of online searches of TOXBASE. These rose from six in 2011 to 35 in 2012, and 331 in 2013.

The most commonly reported symptoms in the phone enquiries included fever (47% of cases), rapid heart rate or tachycardia in 43%, and sweating in 37% of cases.

But nausea or vomiting, skin discolouration or rash, breathing difficulties, abdominal pain, agitation, and headache were also reported.

Five people died, four of whom had taken very high doses of DNP. Three of the deaths occurred in 2013, with the others occurring in 2008 and 2012.

The researchers emphasise that the Poisons Service received more than 50,000 annual phone enquiries during the study period, with the total number of TOXBASE searches amounting to more than 550,000. So enquiries about DNP make up just a small fraction.

Nevertheless, the figures clearly show a sharp rise in the number of enquiries about DNP, they say, in spite of warnings about its harmful , issued by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in November 2012 and October 2013.

The FSA has been working with police and local authorities to crack down on sales of DNP, say the researchers, but additional steps may be necessary to curb the number of episodes of severe poisoning and associated deaths, they warn.

Explore further: Around two queries a week to UK poisons service concern... snakebites

More information: Increasing frequency of severe clinical toxicity after use of 2,4-dinitrophenol in the UK: a report from the National Poisons Information Service, Online First, DOI: 10.1136/emermed-2013-203335

Related Stories

Around two queries a week to UK poisons service concern... snakebites

December 19, 2012
Snakebite injuries account for around two phone queries every week to the UK National Poisons Information Service, indicates an audit published online in Emergency Medicine Journal.

Reversing key precursors to diabetes

November 6, 2013
Yale researchers have found a way to disrupt the biological underpinnings of disorders that predispose a person to type 2 diabetes (T2D), raising the possibility of developing therapies to reverse these conditions. The study ...

Food safety specialist says food poisoning cases underreported

June 19, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—You've probably heard of norovirus, salmonella and E. coli, but would you know if you were sick with one of these foodborne illnesses? A Kansas State University food safety specialist says there are distinct ...

Use of cement in partial hip replacement linked to risk of death

June 12, 2014
The use of cement in partial hip replacement surgery may be linked to a risk of death - often occurring within minutes - finds research published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Historically low number of Danes infected with salmonella

June 20, 2014
The number of Danes who contracted a salmonella infection reached a historic low level in 2013. More than half of those infected became ill during a trip abroad. For the third year in a row no salmonella cases were linked ...

Recommended for you

New long-acting approach for malaria therapy developed

January 22, 2018
A new study, published in Nature Communications, conducted by the University of Liverpool and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine highlights a new 'long acting' medicine for the prevention of malaria.

Virus shown to be likely cause of mystery polio-like illness

January 22, 2018
A major review by UNSW researchers has identified strong evidence that a virus called Enterovirus D68 is the cause of a mystery polio-like illness that has paralysed children in the US, Canada and Europe.

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Flu may be spread just by breathing, new study shows; coughing and sneezing not required

January 18, 2018
It is easier to spread the influenza virus (flu) than previously thought, according to a new University of Maryland-led study released today. People commonly believe that they can catch the flu by exposure to droplets from ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.