An Iowa woman recently learned one of the harder lessons of dieting: you can’t just take a magic pill and have the pounds melt away, or in her case, eat a tapeworm.
The woman, who remains anonymous, bought the tapeworm off of the internet and swallowed it in an effort to lose weight. Worried about the parasite’s health effects after the fact, she sought medical attention from her physician. Not being familiar with tapeworm ingestion, her doctor contacted the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH).
USA Today reports that Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, medical director with the IDPH, wrote an email to public health workers around the state, saying, “Ingesting tapeworms is extremely risky and can cause a wide range of undesirable side effects, including rare deaths.”
According to Today, The tapeworm usually peddled by internet scammers is the beef tapeworm (Taenia saginata), and the quick weight loss solution of today is to use the head of the worm in pill form to promote quick weight loss. Dr. Quinlisk says “it would develop into a 30-foot-long tapeworm in your body… The worm would get into your gut — it’s got little hooks on the head — and it would grab onto your intestine and start growing.”
The resulting parasitic infection would indeed make a person lose weight, but can also cause a variety of other serious health issues, including anemia and malnutrition. To remove the parasite, doctors typically prescribe anti-worm medication to kill the worm, which is then passed through the body’s intestines.
The Iowa Health Department wants the public to know that there are no “magic pills,” Dr. Quinslik writes. “Those desiring to lose weight are advised to stick with proven weight loss methods — consuming fewer calories and increasing physical activity.”