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Dying To Be Thin: The Troubling Truth About Diet Pills

What would you give to be thinner?

In an increasingly appearance-orientated world, the desire to be slim has never been greater.

Equally, neither has the desire for a "quick fix."

We all know eating less and moving more is the foolproof way to lose weight but for some people, a sustained and sensible approach to weight loss just isn’t enough.

When you’re trying to lose weight, you want results, and you often want them immediately.

Whether it’s an athlete who needs to hit a set weight to compete or a teenage girl who wants to fit into a new dress, aspiring to be thinner is something most people can identify with.

Though most of us may agree it’s not worth compromising your health for the sake of shedding a few pounds, recent tragic events have highlighted how misconceptions about weight loss aids can have catastrophic results.

While many people don’t take the Kardashians seriously, their influence on the youth of today — particularly young girls — cannot be denied.

Named as one of the most influential people on the Internet by TIME, Kim Kardashian has more than 30 million followers on Twitter.

Many of these followers could be classified as “diehard” fans who seek her advice on fashion, beauty and how to take the perfect selfie.

They also look to Kardashian for diet advice. Want to be slim like Kim? Why not purchase QuickFix, the diet pills she cited as the reason she was able to reach her goal weight so quickly?

Unabashedly targeting the young and impressionable Kardashian fanbase, QuickFix claimed its diet pills would help users “keep up with the Kardashians.”

Unfortunately for both QuickFix and the Kardashians, the pills didn’t work and lawsuits were filed against their false claims. But, the damage was already done.

Miracle Slimming Pill vs. Deadly Toxin

When 21-year-old Eloise Parry collapsed and died in April after taking diet pills she bought online, the extent of the misconceptions surrounding the diet aids were highlighted.

Though the young woman had thought the “slimming tablets” she’d purchased were utterly benign, the truth was far more troubling.

The pills were thought to contain dinitrophenol — known as DNP — which is an extremely toxic industrial chemical.

Why a toxic industrial chemical is in a dieting supplement is now under investigation, and the public has been warned “not to take any tablets or powders containing DNP, as it is an industrial chemical and not fit for human consumption.”

Though DNP is marketed and sold on the Internet as an aggressive fat-burning weight-loss aid, it is most widely used in explosives and agricultural pesticides.

It accelerates the metabolism to a dangerously fast level, causing the body to overheat to such an extent that it can cause comas and death.

Parry had taken eight diet pills — a lethal dose is just two — and they “burned [her] up from the inside” before she died.

“Eloise never understood how dangerous the tablets that she took were,” Parry’s mother later said. “Most of us don’t believe that a slimming tablet could possibly kill us. DNP is not a miracle slimming pill. It is a deadly toxin.”

Parry’s tragic and avoidable death prompted a surge in warnings about the toxic drug, with Interpol even issuing a global alert, urging consumers to avoid the potentially deadly pills.

But for many, the warnings about dietary medications came just too late.

The idea that it’s mainly impressionable young girls who are at risk from slimming pills also couldn’t be further from the truth.

Bodybuilder and father of one, Sean Cleathero, 28, died hours after ingesting DNP.

It was, according to his family, “The first time he had ever taken the stuff. Three hours later he was dead. He basically cooked inside. It was an awful death.”

Unfortunately, the risks that come with diet pills cannot be isolated to just DNP. Boxer Lance Ferguson-Prayogg, 32, collapsed and died after ingesting the legal fat burning supplement T5, which is also readily available online.

A pathology report found that the most likely cause of death was the quick acidification of blood from broken down fat, and the assistant coroner had an important message for the public:

"By coincidence, warnings about these kinds of drugs have been in the media recently. I cannot emphasize enough how strongly I now add my voice to these sentiments. These drugs are easily available on the Internet but they are unregulated and extremely dangerous."

The Risks Of Cutting Corners

Attempts to ban the possession of DNP recently failed. DNP has no psychoactive properties, so there were no prevailing laws that could make its possession a crime.

Even if this toxic drug is eventually banned, there is still a significant risk of diet pills causing serious harm and even death.

Prescription drugs like Adderall are all too frequently used as weight-loss aids due to their appetite-suppressing qualities, despite the risks that can come from taking an amphetamine-based drug.

Many people are simply desperate to lose weight, and not everyone has the time or the money to invest in a gym membership or healthy eating plans.

A new study by the "American Journal of Preventive Medicine" has shown the stark correlation between low incomes and the use of diet pills. So, what can be done?

Educating people — particularly young people — about the very real risks of cutting corners when it comes to weight loss is key.

No matter what the Kardashians or any other celebrities may claim, there are no "miracle" quick fixes for fast weight loss.

And there are certainly none that do not come with associated risks.

Celebrities should instead become advocates for "sensible" weight loss: Eating balanced and healthy diets and exercising regularly.

In this case, when it comes to weight loss, the old saying is undoubtedly true: If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.