The Norwegian Medical Agency (NMA) has confirmed that a man's death in November was linked to DNP. The first known case in Norway, other fatal examples have been reported previously in the UK and Sweden.
DNP, or 2,4-Dinitrophenol, is an industrial chemical used mainly by body builders and available online as a weight-loss remedy. The authorities said the issue of DNP consumption came in three forms: pure labelled DNP tablets, as a listed ingredient of a more complex slimming product or as an unlisted ingredient, for example 'Pure Caffeine 200' as reported by the NMA. They said the man's death was caused by a large amount of the substance accumulated in his body over time, although it remained unclear in what format he took it.
Steinar Madsen, medical director at the NMA, told NutraIngredients: "DNP is one of the most dangerous substances. It causes fever and can elevate body temperature to a fatal level [excessing 43 degrees]. The biggest issue is that how people break down DNP varies on an individual basis, so there is no safe dose."
“It is important that people understand that any dose of this drug poses a potential risk to the user,” agreed Professor Simon Thomas, director of the UK's National Poisons Information Service and author of a UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) report on DNP.
According to the report, DNP symptoms include fever in 47% of cases, rapid heart-beat in 43% and sweating in 37%.
Even though DNP was believed to be unavailable on Norwegian websites, products containing it were available online on foreign websites.
Huge risk, no antidote
According to a survey conducted by the Medical Products Agency in 2012, one in four Norwegians were buying medications or supplements online.
Madsen strongly discouraged anyone from buying slimming products online due to harmful substances that may be added in.
There was no antidote for DNP available and large doses of DNP could lead to death even after treatment, according to the NMA.
"If the patient has taken too much we might not be able to save him, it's so toxic. The symptoms normally occur after a few days and then it might be too late to help him," said Madsen.
The advice Norwegian food authority gave to consumers stated:
- Never use products containing DNP
- Be aware that some slimming products might contain DNP without it being stated on the pack (for example 'Pure Caffeine 200')
- Return any purchased products containing DNP to a pharmacy for safe disposal
- Report any products containing DNP to the FSA
- Contact a doctor if DNP has already been consumed