Deadly Diet Pill Returns as a Life-Saving Drug for Diabetes and Liver Disease


In the 1930s the chemical DNP (2,4-dinitropheol) was used in diet pills, as it proved to help people lose weight. Soon enough, however, the substance – which would later be used in industrial pesticides and explosives – also caused those same people to develop bone marrow diseases and nervous system defects and die. DNP was quickly banned.

Fast-forward 80 years and DNP is back, albeit in a different recipe, and has proven effective in reversing type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease in rats. The scientific findings related to DNP, as published in “Science,” could prove useful for developing treatments for humans.

More than 34.9% of adults in the United States (78.6 million) are obese. The epidemic of morbidly excess weight can lead to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Aside from the fat visible to the human eye that is associated with obesity, fat also hides on and among internal organs, like the liver.

Unhealthy livers will accumulate fatty tissue, a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This condition, given time, can deteriorate into nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). From then on the next possible downward steps are cirrhosis, cancer and total failure of the liver.

The main function of DNP is to help the body burn fat cells. It does so by morphing the mitochondria in human cells, small structures which control energy production on a cellular level.

The updating of the compound included the reduction of its toxicity. Scientists at Yale University designed the new version to target only the liver and packaged it in a slow-release format, so that levels of DNP in a subject’s blood never went above a safe level.

DNP, when given to lab rats as part of a study, decreased fat and scarring in damaged livers and increased the animals’ insulin sensitivity, a factor in battling liver disease and type 2 diabetes.

The conclusions from tests on the new and improved DNP hold promising news for obesity patients in the future.