When it comes to extreme diets, it seems that some people will do anything to lose weight. We often hear of people who become addicted to laxatives or those who suffer from bulimia (causing themselves to vomit after eating) and many more extreme acts, all in the quest for weight loss.
One very extreme trend that has been coming up a lot is the tapeworm diet. As unbelievable as it sounds, there have been conversations about people who deliberately ingest tapeworms so that they can lose weight. While it may seem extreme, there is enough talk about it for us to explore what the talk is all about.
What is a tapeworm?
A tapeworm is a parasite worm that lives primarily in host animals (or humans who eat animals). Tapeworms have a head, called a scloex, and a hook mouth that attaches to the intestinal wall of its host.
A tapeworm can grow to 20 feet in length while in a host body, specifically in the small intestine of the host. People generally pick up tapeworms by swimming in water where there are tapeworms and they swallow the water or by eating undercooked meat, like beef, pork, or fish. Tapeworm infestation will often show very few symptoms, but a person can develop serious problems down the road if left untreated
So, will eating a tapeworm cause weight loss?
The short answer is -yes. While weight loss is a result of being a host to a tapeworm, it is not 100% guaranteed. In addition to it not being a full proof plan, ingesting a tapeworm has many serious risks, even with the most benign beef tapeworm. The risks include serious abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, and a general feeling of malaise. There is also the possibility of severe malnutrition. Other risks include anemia, ascites, which is a fluid buildup in your gut, that causes severe swelling.
How does a tapeworm contribute to weight loss?
While in the intestine, tapeworms secrete proteins that reduce the host body’s efficiency in digesting food. When the digestive system is less efficient, a person can consume more food/calories while the tapeworm consumes some for its own growth. Some scientists say that those infected with a single tapeworm can lose approximately one or two pounds a week.
Is the risk worth it?
The short answer is – no. There are many more ways in which complications can occur. For example, on their way out of the body, tapeworms can divert into the bloodstream and spread into various organs, putting them all at risk. If a tapeworm egg were to hatch in an one of those organs, you face the very real risk of death.
While it is actually possible to buy tapeworm eggs for the purpose of weight loss, they are illegal in the the United States. This is definitely one “diet fad” that surpasses most and should be left alone.