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Intermittent-fasting diet guru eats tapeworms: They're useless for weight loss

Fast Diet author Michael Mosley swallows tape worms to disprove its effectiveness for weight loss.
Fast Diet author Michael Mosley swallows tape worms to disprove its effectiveness for weight loss.BBC screencap

Diet expert Dr. Michael Mosley swallowed tapeworms as part of an experiment to examine their effectiveness for weight loss, the Telegraph reported Jan. 31.

Dr. Mosley, author of the Fast Diet, infected himself with several parasites to determine their health benefits as part of a four-hour BBC documentary called "Michael Mosley Infested: Living with Parasites."

In addition to swallowing three tapeworm cysts, Mosley stuck a leech on his arm, and infected himself with lice. Mosley collaborated with scientists at England's Salford University, who are studying whether parasites provide any health benefits to humans.

As bizarre as it sounds, media reports over the years claimed people have successfully lost weight by eating tapeworms, but the procedure has not received mainstream approval.

In 2012, Dr. Mosley lost 20 pounds in nine weeks by following his Fast Diet (or 5:2 Diet), an intermittent-fasting regimen that alternates five days of "fasting" (eating 500 to 600 calories) with days of normal eating. Research shows that intermittent fasting produces rapid weight loss, melts body fat, improves brain health and releases anti-aging hormones.

Michael did not experience any weight loss after swallowing the tapeworms, which he obtained from infected cows in Kenya, and in fact, gained two pounds.

“Tapeworms have been traditionally associated with weight loss, but my weight went up," said Mosley, 56. "I think the worm was actually encouraging me to eat more, to keep itself alive. I ate a lot of chocolate. So anyone who is thinking of popping parasites as a weight-loss device should think twice."

Fortunately, Mosley didn't suffer any health consequences as a result of his intentional parasite infestation, but warned viewers against undertaking such experiments on their own.

"It was rather horrible," he said. "My wife wasn't too keen on the idea, either. I wouldn't recommend buying something on the Internet and infecting yourself. Heaven knows where it's been."

"Michael Mosley Infested" airs on BBC Four Feb. 18.