People Died From This Chemical So, Of Course, It Became A Weight Loss Drug

Fat peopleLet’s say you’re a doctor who learns that in WW1, munitions workers who were exposed to 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP) began sweating profusely, experienced stomach pain, weakness, and diarrhea, yellowed skin, weight loss, fevers at and over 104 degrees Fahrenheit, confusion, agitation, unconsciousness and then death.

In a normal world, the response would be “Wow, let’s keep people the hell away from DNP!” But in 1933, overcome with diet culture, a bunch of doctors, including two physicians at Stanford, heard about this and responded: “Wait – did you say they lost weight?”

On the strength of short-term studies that showed weight loss without too many negative side effects (only three deaths!) the drug began to be prescribed widely. Turns out, there were horrific lifelong side effects and in 1938 it was ruled “too toxic for human consumption.” At that point the drug went underground, until a Russian Physician started selling it at his, wait for it, weight-loss clinics in Texas. He went to prison, where as luck would have it, he met the author of author of The Underground Steroid Handbook. 

Fast forward to users in bodybuilding forums on sites like Reddit bragging about their use, more women using it in desperation to become thin, and more deaths. (I highly recommend this article by Jennifer Wapner to get the full story.)

What I want to point out is that this isn’t a unique situation. Many, many diet drugs get approved based on short-term studies, and then are found to cause great harm. The argument that killing some fat people is no big deal, if there’s a chance that we could become thin,  is made by people who are our doctors and who claim to be our advocates.

Fat people cannot trust diet culture – not ever. Diet culture is built on the idea that it is ok to kill us trying to make us thin. Diet culture wants us thin or dead, and doesn’t seem to much care which it is. Refusing to buy into diet culture is an act of self-preservation.

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5 thoughts on “People Died From This Chemical So, Of Course, It Became A Weight Loss Drug

  1. Oh, bloody hell… this is where the memetic concepts of “burning fat” and “melting fat” come from, isn’t it? An actual explosive they used to make “inferior” people swallow in the age of eugenics? And people are still using those phrases like they mean something good.

    Every day a fresh horror…

  2. The idea that fat makes people unhealthy doesn’t include the effects of dangerous methods of weight loss.

  3. What, yellowing of the skin? Perhaps we could sell it as self tanner? So a few people had skin sloughing off, they looked good right before they died, didn’t they? Get it on the shelves! Get that Healthy Glow NOW!

    (no money back, users who experience skin sloughing not allowed to sue company, any one dying from use of “Healthy Glow is shit outa luck)

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