Personal Health

Diet Culture Gone Bonkers: Woman Ingests Tapeworm to Drop Pounds

Move over Atkins and Paleo; the new extreme diet is here.

Why starve yourself to lose weight when you can let a segmented parasite crawl around your intestines and do the work for you?

That was what was reeling around one Iowan woman’s head when she hit “purchase” on a tapeworm she allegedly found for sale on the Internet, later swallowing the thing in the hopes it would help her lose weight.

We have no idea what she was thinking, and apparently neither did the woman’s doctor, who had to call the state health department for advice, reported the DesMoines Register:

The department’s medical director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, advised to prescribe an anti-worm medication.

Quinlisk recounted the incident Thursday in a weekly email to public-health workers around the state. She noted that websites have been selling tapeworms as a weight-loss tool, and she warned against the practice.

“Ingesting tapeworms is extremely risky and can cause a wide range of undesirable side effects, including rare deaths,” she wrote. “Those desiring to lose weight are advised to stick with proven weight loss methods; consuming fewer calories and increasing physical activity.”

Tapeworm infections can be transmitted by ingesting undercooked or raw meat, often in unhygenic conditions. They can grow to 20 feet and live for years in your gut, sucking all the nutrients from your food and laying millions of eggs inside you. Yum.

 Liz Fields is a freelance culture and lifestyle journalist based in New York. Follow her on Twitter.

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