3 months ago

Dinitrophenol: Analyzing the banned substance responsible for the death of a gym trainer

A gym trainer based in Thane, India passed away within 15 hours of consumption of a weight loss supplement. The culprit was the banned substance dinitrophenol. While this tragic death has raised many questions on the supplement industry it is important to distinguish fact from fiction. Corrective action and proper understanding would prevent panic and future deaths due to such misadventures.

Meghna Devgadkar ,22, passed away from a cardiac arrest due to consumption of banned substance DNP . Image courtesy : The Mumbai Mirror

Dinitrophenol: The Main culprit

Meghna Devgadkar a gym trainer and a dancer from Thane passed away within 15 hours of consuming a weight loss drug . From her pictures it appears she was already in great shape . Perhaps peer pressure drove her to consuming the weight loss pills. After consumption of the pills she started throwing up , and was subsequently admitted to the hospital where next day morning she was declared dead. The cause of death was cardiac arrest. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), of the Government of Maharashtra an investigation is going on regarding her access to the drug. FDA believes many banned substances are available online and some are masquerading as Ayurvedic drugs. 2,4 Dinitrophenol (DNP) is a banned substance, whose overdosage has been linked with death. DNP is used in manufacturing of dyes and pesticides. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection agency USA) the acute effects to DNP’s oral exposure include nausea, vomiting , dizziness, headache and sudden weight loss.

Why is DNP Dangerous?

DNP separates the flow of electrons and the pumping of H+ ions for ATP synthesis, thus acting as an uncoupler. The uncoupling of the electron transfer disrupts the ATP production , rendering it inefficient. The energy used for cellular respiration is now wasted as heat. As a result of this disruption calcium is released from mitochondrial stores. This released calcium causes muscle contraction and the excess heat available causes hyperthermia. Depending on the dosage the body temperature can go as high as 43.1 C which is fatal. The lowest reported cases of fatality were as low as 4.3 mg/kg body weight , meaning as little as two pills depending on the dosage can be fatal. It is really unfortunate that this young lady decided to experiment with her health. There are no magic pills for weight loss and supplementation is relevant only for improvement in athletic performance. There is a detailed process on how to select the right supplement for which consulting an expert nutrition professional is necessary. This seems to be a case of misinformation , peer pressure and wrong guidance. Gym trainers typically are not always equipped with an advanced knowledge of human health and nutrition. Hence checking the credentials of the gym trainer is an absolute must if you are considering taking any advice on a subject which does not involve exercise . Do not go by anecdotal evidence , personal experiences and opinions. A good gym trainer will be more than happy to direct you to an expert in nutrition who can guide you regarding safe supplement usage. If he or she has a good understanding of nutrition, it is very unlikely that they would be recommending such dangerous shortcuts. It should also be noted that some trainers receive a sales cut by promoting certain supplements which are not always effective. Asking the right questions can go a long way in saving money and in these kind of cases your life.

Misinformation on Supplementation

According to Mumbai Mirror an award winning fitness trainer , who clearly didn’t go into the details of the case decided to blame it on caffeine.
While consuming banned substances is obviously playing with your life, there are plenty of safe and natural substances like caffeine which can boost your athletic performance.

Death due to DNP wrongly blamed on Caffeine . Image courtesy : The Mumbai Mirror

It is important for the FDA and police to crack down on banned substances and arrest those who are involved in such spurious trade. However, using this as an excuse to attack harmless substances which can boost athletic performance smacks of ignorance. As mentioned earlier, the average fitness professional in India does not spend quality time on educating themselves on the topic of human nutrition , and often equate personal experiences with scientific knowledge. Since the average human being judges them by their external appearance media takes their word for granted without verifying the accuracy of their statements. Unfortunately science does not arrive at conclusions based on personal recommendations, experiences and anecdotes. It is quite obvious that DNP and caffeine cannot be put in the same bracket.Having the right knowledge would empower an athlete to take correct decisions regarding supplementation for improved athletic performance.

The key take away from this is the old adage “there are no shortcuts”. Good health is a work in progress and there are no magic pills. The right knowledge will of course help you gain an advantage but there is a big difference between safe and a scientific approach to health and athletic performance and playing with fire. The later should be avoided at all costs.

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