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The Tapeworm Diet – Origins, Pros, Cons & Risks

Published: 13th May 2018. Last updated: 21th July 2019.

Shaun Ward MSc ANutr

Staff Writer


Introduction

There are plenty of horrendous fad diets circulating the internet these days, but none come close to the tapeworm diet.

The tapeworm diet originated in the Victorian Era when women tried to perfect an image which they thought would perceive them as beautiful to surrounding males.

However, the standard of beauty at that time was very different to today’s “ideal” look. Women in the Victorian age aimed for pale skin, dilated eyes, red cheeks and lips, and an extremely thin waist.

To achieve such an extreme image, extreme measures were taken. These included the consumption of ammonia, bathing in arsenic, and wearing skin-tight corsets.

To compliment these methods, the tapeworm diet was introduced as an easy way in which to rapidly lose weight without any need for knowledge on diet and exercise.

It is because of this attractive claim that the tapeworm diet is still being experimented with today by those looking for quick fixes.

Sounds good on paper, right? (keep reading)

What Is The Tapeworm Diet?

The tapeworm diet requires an individual to swallow a pill that has a tapeworm egg inside.

For those that do not know, a tapeworm is a parasitic flatworm which can survive and thrive in the human intestines. It has a long ribbon-like body with many segments that can become independent, and a small head bearing hooks and suckers.

When the egg is consumed, the tapeworm eventually hatches and begins to grow inside the human body.

Some tapeworms have even developed over 30 feet long inside the body.

Here it survives by eating the food that humans eat. This is why it is marketable for weight loss, as people essentially allow a living being to grow inside them in exchange for energy (calories) that will be lost through this other organism.

In theory, this enables the dieter to simultaneously lose weight and eat without worrying about calorie intake.

In a strange roundabout way, the concept is similar to a women being pregnant and having to feed both herself and her baby, hence why calorie requirements increase by approximately 300 calories per day during pregnancy [1].

However, on the tapeworm diet, instead of a baby inside a person that uses a portion of the energy from food, it is a worm!

Are There Pros To The Tapeworm Diet?

If someone was to take an extremely close-minded look at this diet, it may technically cause weight loss for the period of time that one manages to stay alive once the tapeworm has been ingested.

If it isn’t for the tapeworm consuming the energy from food, it will be due to the illnesses caused by the tapeworm.

However, based on the fact that easy lifestyle changes can be used to effectively lose weight in an extremely safe manner, it would take a certain character to genuinely opt to start a tapeworm diet.

The Risk of The Tapeworm Diet

As you can probably imagine, there are some pretty big negatives to this diet:

The Risk of Taeniasis

Taeniasis is the infection caused by a tapeworm being alive inside the gut, also known as a parasite – a small organism in the body that attaches themselves to their host in order to survive.

Interestingly around ~50 million people around the world will accidentally catch taeniasis each year, usually in certain parts of China including Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, and Ningxia [2].

This is because taeniasis is an intestinal tapeworm infection that can be caused by eating contaminated and undercooked beef or pork.

However, most people that catch taeniasis do not experience serious symptoms, despite the potential for stomach pain, weight loss, intestinal blockages, and digestive problems to occur.

In most cases, the worm segments or eggs will be expelled in the stool.

However, people with weak immune systems that are unable to excrete taeniasis from the body are the ones that will experience serious infections. This is why most people with taeniasis are those that already have either HIV, AIDS, diabetes, or cancer.

In the rare cases where taeniasis does occur, it is a real possibility that the tapeworm will block the intestines and potentially travel to and disrupt other parts of the body such as the nervous system.

If this is the case, a surgical procedure may be required to remove the tapeworm and stop potential death.

Depending on the type of tapeworm, oral medication or other non-surgical treatments may be able to treat an intestinal tapeworm infection and the side effects. These treatments include strong anti-inflammatory and anti-seizure medications.

Is it Legal to Buy Tapeworms?

It is not possible to purchase tapeworm diet pills from any reputable medical professional as the Food and Drug Administration have banned these pills.

However, there are many online sources that advertise tapeworm diet pills. Based on the purchasing reviews, it seems most, if not all, of these sources are a scam and they will not send you a legitimate tapeworm (if anything at all).

So even for those that really are considering this “diet”, it doesn’t seem like it is actually possible in the 21st century - that being said you can find them on the black market.

Conclusion

The tapeworm diet involves someone swallowing a pill with a tapeworm egg inside so that a tapeworm can hatch and survive within the intestines.

This is thought to allow the tapeworm to feed off some of the food in the intestines which, hypothetically, may help someone lose weight.

Clearly the “diet” is extremely outdated and not based on even the smallest amount of scientific evidence, although it has been shown to be very dangerous.

Anyone looking to lose weight should completely ignore the tapeworm diet and focus on sustainable and healthy diet plans for long-term benefits (without risking death in the process!).

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