DES MOINES, Iowa — Oh, the things people do.
An Iowa woman recently admitted to her doctor she swallowed a live tape worm in an effort to lose weight.
The woman’s doctor was so befuddled by woman’s claim that he called the Iowa Department of Public Health to ask for advice. The solution: de-worming medication.
The Iowa Department of Public Health’s medical director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, addressed the situation in an email to public-health workers. She warned against websites selling tapeworms as a weight-loss tool and added:
“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.”
There are at least six different types of tapeworms. They are all parasites that can live in the intestines of animals. Some can be accidentally ingested by eating undercooked meat or by eating food contaminated with fecal matter, as tapeworms can be transmitted by ingesting excrement. Tapeworms have no digestive tract, so they acquire nutrients by absorbing already-digested food through their bodies.
Quinlisk acknowledge that a century ago, peddlers sold tapeworm eggs in pill form to be used as a weight-loss aid.
As for the Iowa woman who bought the live tapeworm online, it’s possible she could have saved some money and acquired a tapeworm by eating raw hamburger meat.