A woman from Iowa recently admitted to her doctor that she ordered a tapeworm off the Internet and swallowed it in an effort to lost weight.
Unsure of what to do in this situation, her doctor contacted the Iowa Department of Public Health. The unidentified woman was prescribed anti-worm medication.
Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the medical director of the IDPH, issued an email statement to state public health workers warning them that tapeworms are being sold online as weight loss tools.
“Ingesting tapeworms is extremely risky and can cause a wide range of undesirable side effects, including rare deaths,” Quinlisk wrote. “Those desiring to lose weight are advised to stick with proven weight loss methods — consuming fewer calories and increasing physical activity.”
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Tapeworms are parasitic flatworms that live in the digestive track of humans and animals. Exposure to a pork tapeworm can cause larval cysts in the brain, muscles, and just about anywhere else in the body.
In February 2010, there were reports of people in Hong Kong swallowing the eggs of parasitic Ascaris worms, which can grow up to 15 inches in length, in order to drop pounds, according to Today.
A century ago salesmen peddled tapeworm eggs in pill form as a weight loss aid, according to Quinlisk.