The Iowa tapeworm diet is referring to a woman who purchased a tapeworm online and swallowed the parasite to lose weight. This Iowa woman who swallowed the tapeworm as a diet aid may see that tiny little worm grow up to 30 feet long because it is getting its nourishment from everything she eats, according to Today Health on Aug. 16.
This is a fad that has come and gone as a diet aid with folks dating all the way back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health said this woman in Iowa confessed to her doctor that she swallowed a tape worm to drop a few pounds. Not too sure what to do about this, the doctor called the department of public health.
This prompted Quinlisk to address this in her weekly email to state public health workers. She wrote:
“Ingesting tapeworms is extremely risky and can cause a wide range of undesirable side effects, including rare deaths."
“Those desiring to lose weight are advised to stick with proven weight loss methods — consuming fewer calories and increasing physical activity.”
A vintage ad selling tapeworms for weight loss appears in the National Woman's History Museum's website that reads:
“Easy to swallow,” “sanitized tape worms” as a weapon against fat – “the ENEMY that is shortening your life.”
While there are a few different kinds of tapeworms, it’s the Taenia saginata, or more commonly known as the beef tapeworm, that is mostly used in these sorts of quick weight-loss diets, according to Quinlisk.
This is a parasite and it can cause stomach sickness, abdominal pains and even death said Quinlisk. Years ago when she was in the Peace Corp she saw people in third world countries contract a tapeworm, as it comes from undercooked beef. What this parasite did to these folks was horrible. It took all the nutrients from any food that they ate leaving them sickly and skin and bones. Why anyone would want to do this on purpose is confusing to the doctor.
Once the worm is inside of your gut and attaches itself to your intestine it grows at a fast pace. So how does one get rid of a 30-foot tape worm taking up residency in your gut? There's a medication that acts like a poison to the worm, It paralyzes its muscles so it can no longer stay attached to the inside of your intestine and dies. Then it is passed out of the body with a bowel movement. This is so not a pretty vision in the mind's eye!