Eating tapeworms for weight loss consideration?
Individuals seeking to lose weight are constantly confronted with a variety of diets, supplements, and weight-loss regimens to choose from. Whether in magazines, on television or on the Internet, the consumer can be bombarded with any number of advertisements that claim to offer them the opportunity to lose weight with their products. However, individuals need to be cautious and well-informed when considering what products to use, as certain weight-loss marketing claims are not only misleading but also potentially detrimental to your health. The use of tapeworms for weight-loss purposes illustrates this risk.
What are tapeworms?
Tapeworms are parasitic, segmented ribbon-like worms that obtain nutrients from the digestive system of their host. They can infect many different hosts, including humans, fish, dogs, cows, pigs, and sheep. Tapeworms in humans are usually acquired by eating raw or undercooked meat from infected animals, although humans can also become infected from contaminated water or from eating food prepared and contaminated by infected individuals. Once acquired, the parasite attaches to the intestinal wall of its host and absorbs nutrients as it continues to grow and produce eggs, which can be then be shed in the feces. Certain tapeworms can grow up to 15-30 feet in length and live up to 20 years in the host.
What are the symptoms of tapeworm infection?
Many individuals infected with tapeworms have no symptoms at all, while others may experience:
- abdominal pain,
- loss of appetite,
- weight loss,
- vitamin deficiencies, and
Sometimes the affected individual may notice a segment of the tapeworm in their feces. More serious complications can also occur in some individuals. Tapeworms rarely can cause obstruction of the intestines, requiring surgery in order to resolve the blockage. Infection with the pork tapeworm (Taenia solium) can sometimes result in a disease called cysticercosis, which occurs when the eggs of the pork tapeworm are ingested by humans. The larvae can then penetrate the intestinal wall and disseminate into the bloodstream to other parts of the body, leading to the formation of cysts throughout the body. These cysts can sometimes spread to the brain (neurocysticercosis), leading to headaches, confusion, seizures, and rarely, death.
Tapeworms for weight loss is risky and illegal in the U.S.
Advertisements for tapeworms as a weight-loss tool from the early 20th century indicate that tapeworms have been marketed as a weight-loss product for over 100 years, and despite the known health risks, tapeworms continue to be advertised and sold today. Though this practice is illegal in the United States, individuals are still able to obtain these products in other countries or via the Internet. By intentionally ingesting these parasites and becoming infected, individuals hope to lose weight and then take a medication that will rid their body of the tapeworm. Unfortunately, many of the people who undertake such extreme measures for weight loss do not understand the potential risks involved, and the dangerous practice of ingesting tapeworms to lose weight should not be considered under any circumstances.
Individuals seeking to lose weight should adhere to safe, healthy, and proven diet regimens to reach their weight-loss goals. Establishing a regular exercise regimen and increasing physical activity, in addition to decreasing your caloric intake through healthy eating habits, should serve as a foundation for all people interested in achieving a healthy lifestyle with proven long-term benefits.
Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine
United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Taeniasis." Jan. 10, 2013. <http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/taeniasis/>.