The debate surrounding diet pills again leapt into mainstream consciousness this week when a 21-year-old student died after taking supplements she bought online.
Eloise Parry reportedly took tablets known as DNP – its full name is 2, 4-dinitrophenol – which is a highly toxic industrial chemical. In the UK, it is illegal for DNP to be sold as a weight loss product.
Her body overheated after consuming eight pills, six more than a lethal dose, which eventually led to her heart stopping. Eloise died at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital on Sunday 12 April 2015.
Why do people take diet pills?
Diet pills may be prescribed by your doctor, but they can also be purchased on the many websites that sell them.
These are not to be confused, however, with dietary supplements, which can help people get the right balance of nutrients in their diets, such as carbohydrates, fat and protein.
Diet pills are consumed by people to lose weight, but taking precautions is essential regardless of whether diet pills have been prescribed to you or not.
This is especially the case for people with diabetes.
Existing medical conditions such as diabetes, which often require medication for management, necessitate consultation with your GP to ensure a diet pill is safe to take alongside your medication.
Reading the fine print is also crucial. Taking bigger or small doses than recommended and substituting the pill for diabetes medicine are among the pitfalls if users are not responsibly consuming diet pills.
Weight loss treatments for diabetes
While caution should be vigilantly urged over diet pills, the world of weight loss pills does offer promise to many who have struggled to lose weight through diet.
The toxicity of DNP has long been reported, but DNP is actually being investigated as a treatment for type 2 diabetes by researchers at Yale University.
They discovered a DNP model 100-fold lower than toxic levels – a much safer, lower dose form than the illegal DNP pills that are being sold online – could reverse fatty liver disease in rodent models with type 2 diabetes. Insulin concentrations and blood glucose were also found to be reduced.
An oral form of DNP was subsequently found to burn away fat and sugar in the form of heat. With weight loss a key element in reversing type 2, researchers hope further research could benefit people with the disease.
However, given its history as a chemical used to make First World War explosives, buying DNP is extremely dangerous. If you are looking to lose weight, you should talk to your GP or pharmacist and not commit to buying diet pills without thorough consultation.
Are diet pills safe?
This is the big question.
While all pills prescribed by your doctor are likely to be more effective and safe than non-prescription tablets, there is no guarantee that they are safe.
All prescribed drugs must be approved for use before being distributed, but pills can still be suspended from marketing – which was the case in 2010, when Sibrutamine, a slimming pill, was linked with an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
A key aspect of using diet pills successfully, however, is using them correctly.
They should be paired alongside a healthy diet and regular exercise, rather than replacing a healthy element of your life such as eating fruit and vegetables.
Have diet pills worked for you? Or have you been prescribed diet pills that you had an adverse reaction to? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.