07 February 2014

Lose weight and die?

The Deadly Weight Loss drug is Back

Kirill Stasevich, Compulenta

Recently, deaths caused by 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNF), one of the most popular fat–burning agents, have become more frequent around the world. In the UK, for example, four deaths were recorded in a year and a half, and the situation was considered so serious that Prime Minister David Cameron and the House of Commons decided to take organized measures to limit the turnover of this substance. The paradox, however, is that the story with dinitrophenol has been repeated more than once: both dinitrophenol itself and its harmful effects have been known to us for almost a century.

For the first time, DNF was used on an industrial scale in the First World War at French military factories, where it was mixed with picric acid to produce explosives. And even then it was possible to draw a conclusion about the effect of dinitrophenol on physiology: the workers who dealt with it lost weight, sweated profusely, they had an increased average body temperature, they got tired faster. Until security measures were introduced, many managed to die.

In 1933, researchers from Stanford (USA) undertook a special DNF study. Then it was found out that dinitrophenol enhances metabolism by 50% and contributes to the rapid depletion of fat and carbohydrates, so that a person lost 1.5 kg weekly without any dietary restrictions. The potential of DNF as a means for weight loss was visible to the naked eye, but even then the authors of the work thought about the possible negative consequences from its long use or from a one-time overdose.

As usual, no one paid attention to the warnings; within a year, two dozen trading firms included DNF in their assortment, and more than 100 thousand people hurried to try out a new miracle for themselves. DNF was sold without prescriptions and without any control, so the spontaneous experiment was quite a success; although at first everyone was happy, over time complaints began to appear: those who used DNF for a long time developed skin diseases and cataracts, which took on the character of an epidemic. There were also fatal cases: for example, one man after an overdose of the drug died with a body temperature of 43.3 o C. Finally, in 1938, DNF was recognized as dangerous to health, and its distribution as a pharmacological agent ceased.

Nevertheless, the DNF research continued. In 1948, Harvard biochemists published an article in which they described how dinitrophenol affects the energy metabolism of a cell. Usually, the cell breaks down the nutritional reserves in order to direct the received energy to perform some important processes (for example, protein synthesis). In the presence of DNF, the breakdown of nutrients continued, but the energy flew out into the pipe, that is, into heat. (Obviously, brown fat, which is now popular, acts in a similar way, converting fat reserves from white fat cells into heat.)

Time passed, and DNF, as well as its side effects, began to be forgotten. In the 60s of the last century, the doctor Nikolai Bachinsky remembered about him. This native of Russia translated Soviet medical journals into English and at some point drew attention to the use of DNF in the Soviet troops: it was given out as a warming agent, although at the same time the soldiers lost weight. In the early 1980s, Bachinsky convinced several clinics in the southern United States to adopt this substance, and the results again amazed everyone: participants in clinical trials lost up to 7 kg per week. 14 thousand people participated in the study, and Bachinsky made good money on it.

And again, it all ended with complaints about side effects, which went to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). During the trial, it turned out that Bachinsky used a drug not recommended by the FDA, and in 1986 he was banned from dealing with dinitrophenol. However, Bachinsky continued to use DNF patients, and therefore went to prison.

Unfortunately, in prison he met Dan Duchene, a famous bodybuilder and a preacher of steroids (he was even called a "steroid guru"). Duchene himself was in prison for illegal distribution of steroids, so he found a kindred spirit in Bachinsky. Impressed by the story about DNF, the bodybuilder began to promote it too, and the current heyday of DNF is not least associated with Duchene (who, however, died in 2000 at the age of 48).

Now, as in the 1930s, DNF is distributed without prescriptions and without any control. The difference, however, is that thanks to the Internet, almost everyone knows about this magic remedy who has ever been visited by the idea of losing weight. Again, thanks to the Internet, it has become much, much easier to purchase DNF. The increased number of deaths is likely to soon make people "surprised to discover" that DNF has side effects...

The moral is this: obviously, the impact of new technologies and new media on public consciousness is greatly exaggerated – at least in some cases: we continue to read in the global electronic newspaper only what we want to hear.

Prepared based on the materials of The Guardian – DNP: the return of a deadly weight-loss drug.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru07.02.2014

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