Obesity Fad Diets Tapeworm

The tapeworm diet is one of the most bizarre diets out there. Not a true diet at all, tapeworm “diets” serve as a grim reminder of just how far people are willing to go to lose weight.

During a tapeworm diet, people intentionally infect themselves with a parasitic beef tapeworm. Weight loss does occur following infection, though the side effects may be deadly.

Tapeworm Weight Loss

Beef tapeworms are used in the tapeworm diet. The tapeworm secretes substances that interfere with digestion, while also absorbing many calories consumed.

Once infected with a tapeworm, people may lose one to two pounds a week. Once a person’s target weight is reached, a course of antibiotics kills the tapeworm. The tapeworm diet seems ideal to some, because eating habits don’t have to change for weight loss. The risks that come with tapeworm infestation, however, far outweigh any potential gains.

The Tapeworm Diet: Complications

Intentionally ingesting a tapeworm can cause serious health complications. For example, beef tapeworms can cause potentially fatal cysts in multiple organs, including the brain, eyes, liver or spinal cord.

Tapeworms can cause the stomach to swell, an unsightly complication that negates weight loss. Tapeworms can also interfere with nutrient absorption, resulting in malnutrition.

Once tapeworms are killed, weight returns, since the diet doesn’t involve any lifestyle changes. In addition, although the antibiotics aim to kill tapeworms, these parasites may actually be difficult to eradicate.

Tapeworm Diet Pills and the Law

Although some unscrupulous marketers sell tapeworm pills, they are illegal to import or sell in the United States. The U.S Food and Drug Administration banned tapeworm diet pills because of the dangers the parasites pose.

Some Mexican companies offer tapeworm diet treatments. At the company “lab” (quite possibly a cattle slaughterhouse for easy access to tapeworms), people can pay to ingest tapeworm cysts.

Microscopes are used to identify the cysts as beef tapeworm cysts, as pig tapeworms sometimes infect cattle. Pig tapeworms pose even more of a threat to human health than beef tapeworms. Of course, the person ingesting the tapeworm cyst only has the company’s word that the tapeworm is indeed a beef tapeworm.

Scientific Evidence for the Tapeworm Diet

Be very wary of any “scientific evidence” that tapeworm diets are effective or safe. Online sites promoting tapeworm diet pills or treatment centers may point to studies conducted by Tokyo Medical and Dental University’s Department of Environmental Parasitology (2001). These studies claim that tapeworms help with several health conditions, including weight gain and allergies.

Although one scientist in this study actually hosted tapeworms in his own gut, his work is still considered suspect at best by his peers in the scientific community, since proper human studies have not been conducted. A sensible diet and regular exercise will have longer lasting effects on weight than tapeworm pills. The tapeworm diet is unhealthy, dangerous, and over the long run, an ineffective way to permanently lose weight.


Diets in Review. (n.d.). Tapeworm diet. Retrieved May 27, 2010, from http://www.dietsinreview.com/diets/Tapeworm_Diet/.

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Every Diet. (2010). Tapeworm diet: Using beef tapeworms in humans. Retrieved May 27, 2010, from http://www.everydiet.org/diet/tapeworm-diet-using-beef-tapeworms-in-humans.

Science. (2001). Allergies bad? Have a worm. Retrieved May 28, 2010, from http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/292/5514/47a.