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Tapeworms and Weight Loss: Expert Opinion

Tapeworms and Weight Loss: Expert Opinion

In the Trending section of Fitness Pudding, I posted a story about a British doctor who supposedly put the classic "tapeworm diet" to the test. Well, I also emailed the story to my Dad, Dr. F.C. Faries, who is a veterinarian, professor, and expert in parasitology with the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense. We had discussed tapeworms over dinner once before, so I looked forward to his response. I thought I would share what he said about the story in Fitness Pudding's 'Expert Opinion'.


His story of ingesting three cysts could be true, but the rest of his story is fake.

His attempt with a fake story was his way to debunk the enduring and harmful diet myth, but his study is inappropriate. He ingested only three cysts, each developing into a single tapeworm. Becoming infected with only three tapeworms is an inadequate number to produce a disease of vomiting and diarrhea . . . the only reasons that tapeworms possibly could cause weight loss.  

The statement, They can grow to be 50 feet long and live for 20 years inside their host – is incorrect. Human tapeworms are 1-2 feet long and live 1-2 years.

The statement, They like to travel around the body, to the brain, for instance – is incorrect. Human tapeworms do not migrate in people, only in their intermediate/secondary hosts like cattle and swine. Tapeworm eggs passed by dogs and ingested by people can hatch and migrate in people; the people would serve as a secondary host for cyst development, as rabbits and sheep do as intermediate hosts for the dog tapeworms.  

The statement, a woman who had visited her doctor after becoming ill from eating a tapeworm pill she purchased on the Internet – tapeworms cannot be related to her illness, since cysts cannot survive in pills. The purchased pills did not have viable cysts.  

The statement, They also digest far fewer calories than a human or animal eats, so any weight loss associated with an infection would more likely be the result of vomiting or diarrhea – at least debunks the myth, since food competition is ruled out. Vomiting and diarrhea are uncommon, because numbers are normally low, due to few cysts ingested from infected beef or pork.

The statements, He ate three of the cysts and, six weeks later, gulped down a tiny camera remotely connected to an iPad to discover if he had any, in his case, welcome guests in his intestine, and When I first saw the worms, I was in an Indian restaurant," he said. "I shouted out, 'Blimey! There's a tapeworm in me! – are untrue. He's an imitator – camera would not be in his small intestine; his video was fake, since the lumen of the intestine is clean without ingesta.

The photo, Michael Mosley with his new friend – is not of a human tapeworm . . . it's a dog tapeworm.

Thanks for sharing Mark. Laughs are good.



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