An Iowa woman’s tapeworm diet prompted a health official to warn against it. The woman, who was overweight, sought treatment after swallowing the parasite, explaining she was just trying to lose a few pounds.
Understandably, the woman’s doctors wasn’t exactly sure what to do in the situation. He contacted the state’s public health department for advice.
The practice of swallowing tapeworms to lose weight goes back about 200 years, at least. Today reports that the diet prompted the medical director for the Iowa Department of Public Health, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, to relay a warning.
In her weekly email to state public health workers, Quinlisk explained that swallowing tapeworms is dangerous and “can cause a wide range of undesirable side effects, including rare deaths.”
The beef tapeworm is the most common one used for dieting. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tapeworm dieting was a fad. Advertisements touted sanitized tapeworms that were “easy to swallow.”
USA Today notes that there are several websites on the internet that tout tapeworms as a weight-loss tool. The parasites often live in the intestines of animals and humans. The normal way to contract tapeworms is by eating undercooked meat.
While two tapeworm species usually have symptoms like abdominal pain, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and upset stomach, the pork tapeworm can also cause seizures.
Scientific research has also shown that one tapeworm cam’t absorb enough food and nutrients to make a difference in someone’s diet. However, the parasite can cause the person to have anemia and suffer malnutrition. And, one tapeworm can grow to be about 30 feet long.
Much like their earthworm counterparts, tapeworms also have both male and female reproductive organs. A dieter who begins with just one tapeworm can end up with several. She can also spread fertilized worm eggs whenever she goes to the bathroom.
So, while a tapeworm diet may seem good at the time, it’s probably best to stick with eating healthy and exercising if you want to lose weight.
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