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Iowa woman swallows tapeworm to lose weight

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 2003: Scolex and immature proglottids of Tapeworm (Taenia pisiformis), Platyhelminthes flatworm, seen with counterstaining. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images) UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 2003: Scolex and immature proglottids of Tapeworm (Taenia pisiformis), Platyhelminthes flatworm, seen with counterstaining. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

This is one fad diet you don't want to try.

An Iowa woman desperate to shed a few pounds admitted that she ordered a live tapeworm off the internet and swallowed it, The Des Moines Register reported.

The woman's doctor contacted the Iowa Department of Public Health to find out what she should do for her patient.

Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the medical director at the department, told the physician to give the woman an anti-worm medication. Following the incident, Quinlisk warned against the so-called "tapeworm diet" in a weekly email to state public health workers.

"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."

Tapeworms are parasites that can live and grow in human intestines, feeding off of partially-digested food. They can be accidentally ingested in raw or undercooked meat, but some websites have apparently been offering them up for sale as a weight-loss tool.

According to the Center for Disease Control, symptoms of a tapeworm infection include "abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weight loss and upset stomach.

The tapeworm diet isn't new. It was advertised in the early 1900s, and more recently, it was a topic on a 2009 episode of the "Tyra Banks Show" during which Banks interviewed women who said they were willing to swallow a tapeworm to lose weight.

 
 
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