A desperate desire to lose weight leads people to do some wacky things. Like intentionally infesting their own guts with parasitic worms that they hope will suck up all of their nutrition, leaving them hungry and slender. Only that’s not really how tapeworms work.
It could be that the Iowa woman who walked into her doctor’s office and mentioned that oh yeah, she ordered a tapeworm online had been ripped off and sold a fake worm, or was making up a story. But the thought that someone might do this was enough to make state public health officials put word out to the public: don’t infect yourself with worms.
It seems like a good idea, but the end result isn’t what you want it to be. In theory, you can eat just about anything while the worm soaks up all of the sugar and carbs. In reality, a slender worm, even if it’s the same length as your entire intestinal tract, doesn’t need as many calories as a whole human. Heck, it might not even eat an entire donut every day. What it will do is absorb important vitamins that you need, like B12, making you sick. Sick, and still not skinny.
It’s not just Americans, either. Purported tapeworms were reportedly for sale on Taobao, China’s equivalent of eBay.
To any public health workers reading this, perhaps you should consider printing up copies of the illustrated and very graphic tale The Worm Within. The description of the death throes of a beef tapeworm will not only keep you from buying a worm online, but might put you off food entirely.
Turns out, tapeworms are not a medically advised weight-loss tool [Des Moines Register]
Parasitic weight loss worms for sale on Taobao [Shanghaist]
The Worm Within [Just go read it already]