When ingested, it acts on structures inside each of your cells called mitochondria. Your mitochondria convert calories from your food into energy — called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — that your body can use.
A 2015 studyTrusted Source showed that DNP makes energy production in your mitochondria less efficient. This means your body needs to burn more calories to produce the same amount of ATP. Energy from the extra calories is converted into heat and released from your body.
However, — and this is the dangerous part — the same process that increases the number of calories you burn can easily overheat your body and lead to dangerous side effects.
Many illegal sellers specifically target bodybuilders or people on extreme diets by promising miracle weight loss. They sell DNP under a long list of different names, such as:
- DNP steroid
- Nitro Kleenup
- Solfo Black
- Tertosulphur PRB
According to a 2018 studyTrusted Source, DNP was originally manufactured in France during the First World War to make dyes and explosives.
But a 2011 research review Trusted Source showed that in 1933, a researcher at Stanford University named Maurice Tainter discovered it could be used for weight loss.
From 1933 to 1938, it was sold over-the-counter to more than 100,000 people. However, in 1938, DNP was pulled from the market due to safety concerns as cases of poisoning, deaths, and other serious complications emerged.
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, a new law that established higher quality standards for drug manufacturers, labeled DNP as “extremely dangerous and not fit for human consumption.”
A 2018 case report Trusted Source showed that DNP is currently used to make:
- wood preservatives
But numerous retailers still sell the drug illegally for weight loss. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, at least three Americans died in 2018 from DNP usage.
It’s not illegal to possess DNP in the United States. However, a 2018 study Trusted Source showed that the sale of DNP is prohibited around the world, and DNP has never been approved by the FDA Trusted Source.
Sellers of DNP can face heavy fines and jail time if caught. According to the FDA Trusted Source, in 2003, one online seller was sentenced to 5 years in prison after one of his customers died from DNP use. The WADA has also banned DNP for competitive athletes.
Healthy weight loss requires making sustainable changes to your eating and exercise habits over months and years. However, many people are lured by DNP’s promise of quick and miraculous weight loss without dieting.
According to a 2015 study Trusted Source, athletes and dieters who want to lose weight quickly, as well bodybuilders, may be at a higher risk of abusing DNP.
DNP is extremely toxic and has a high potential for overdose. According to a 2016 case report Trusted Source, ingestion of doses as low as 10 to 20 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (4.5 to 9.1 milligrams per pound) can be fatal.
A 2018 study Trusted Source showed that DNP’s harmful effects are dependent on your individual tolerance. What’s considered safe for one person could be deadly for somebody else.
The most common cause of death from taking DNP is hyperthermia — a dangerously elevated body temperature.
Hyperthermia can result in a breakdown of essential enzymes in your body. This can lead to cardiac arrest and coma. Additionally, according to a 2016 case report Trusted Source, hyperthermia can also lead to organ failure.
DNP can also cause a number of other side effects such as:
- elevated heart rate
Numerous case studies and news stories have been published documenting deaths from DNP such as this 2020 BBC story that describes a 21-year-old, Eloise Perry, who died after taking eight DNP capsules.