From Ergo Log
The most effective and also most dangerous slimming aid available on the black market is dinitrophenol, or DNP for short [structural formula on the right]. Fifteen years ago researchers at Tohoku University in Japan discovered that cashew nuts contain substances that work in the same way as the illegal DNP.
DNP deregulates cells at a fundamental level, causing the mitochondria – the cellular power stations – to stop converting nutrients into energy providing molecules of ATP. Uncoupling oxidative phosphorylation is the term used for this effect.
As a result cells are not as thrifty in their energy expenditure. They convert much larger quantities of nutrients into energy, but a relatively large proportion is released as heat. At the same time the mitochondria produce unusually large quantities of free radicals, which can cause damage to some structures. In the period between the two world wars DNP was a popular slimming aid all over the world, but governments put a stop to this when users started to turn blind.
Nevertheless DNP continued to circulate after the Second World War. Every so often there was a guru who rediscovered DNP, trumpeted its slimming effects far and wide, thereby helping several careless or unfortunate users to an early death.
Some of the gurus were more creative and discovered a substance that had the same effect as DNP. An example of this is usnic acid. At the start of this century usnic acid was found in a couple of slimming supplements, which caused so much damage in some users at least that they had to have a liver transplant. And anacardic acid is also a naturally occurring substance that might also turn up soon in a slimming aid.
In 2000 Masaaki Toyomizu published a study in which he performed experiments with anacardic acids from a cashew nut product. One of the compounds was 6-pentadecylsylic acid [structural formula shown below] .
Toyomizu extracted mitochondria from rats' liver cells and exposed some of these to DNP and others to 6-pentadecylsylic acid. Toyomizu discovered that both substances had similar effects.
They both reduced the ADPxygen ratio and the respiratory control ratio [RCR]. Both of them also brought the mitochondrial material into the state 4 phase as molecular biologists call is.
To cut a long and complicated story short: as a result of both compounds the mitochondria started to burn more energy, but became less efficient in how they used the energy. They were less capable of storing it in the form of energy phosphates.
The Japanese were enthusiastic about their discovery, as they believed they'd discovered a new, natural slimming aid.
"Certain uncoupling agents were once used to treat obesity by lowering the efficiency of ATP production", they wrote. "These agents proved to be extremely toxic, however and their use has long since been discontinued. [...] Note that anacardic acids are one of the natural products found not only in the cashew nut shell oil but also the nut and fruit juice, which have long been consumed by many people as both food and drink."
Substances that in they natural food form are harmless and may even be healthy can turn into a pretty risky substance when isolated. Perhaps we should just leave anacardic acids in cashew nuts and cashew apple juice.
Life Sci. 2000;66(3):229-34.