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What Is the Tapeworm Diet?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The tapeworm diet is a controversial but quick way to lose weight. This method involves ingesting parasites called tapeworms, which potentially can cause a person to become seriously ill and can even lead to fatal complications. To follow this diet, a person consumes tapeworms that go on to absorb some of the food that he or she eats, causing him or her to lose significant weight. Most doctors do not approve of the tapeworm diet as a safe and effective way to lose weight, however. In fact, this diet is illegal many jurisdictions.

To follow the tapeworm diet, a person must consume a tapeworm parasite. A person can obtain a tapeworm parasite through the ingestion of raw meat or by consuming the parasite in tablet form. In countries where the tapeworm diet is legal, a person can obtain beef tapeworm cysts to ingest. It is crucial that the tapeworm cyst is a beef parasite, because some cattle harbor swine parasites as well. Although any tapeworm can be lethal, ingesting pig parasites is even more hazardous.

After a person consumes a tapeworm, it travels through the body, eating as it moves. The tapeworm usually consumes a significant enough portion of a person's food to cause a calorie deficit and weight loss. Experts assert that the average amount of weight lost on this diet is about 2 pounds (0.9 kg) per week. The exact amount of weight lost, however, depends on the tapeworm and the dieter's body. When the dieter decides that enough weight has been lost, he or she takes antibiotics to kill the parasites, and they eventually leave the body in a bowel movement.

Although this diet can cause a person to lose weight quickly, it also can cause many unpleasant and even deadly side effects. The most mild of these side effects include stomach pain, constipation or diarrhea, upset stomach and weakness. Dangerous side effects include nutritional deficiency and the possible development of tapeworm cysts outside the digestive system. For example, a person might develop cysts in the liver, eyes or brain. These cysts sometimes are fatal for the dieter.

The tapeworm diet might cause the person to lose weight quickly, but it might not provide lasting results. After the tapeworm has been ejected from the body, the person could quickly regain the weight that had been lost. To avoid this, a person might need to change his or her diet and exercise habits, just as he or she would when actively trying to lose or maintain weight without the use of parasites.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By turquoise — On Mar 16, 2013

Tapeworms don't just take the carbohydrates and fat from your diet, they take all the necessary nutrients, vitamins and minerals. This is undernourishment masked as dieting.

By fBoyle — On Mar 15, 2013
@simrin-- I completely agree with you. I'm so glad this is illegal in the US. I heard on a TV show however that some Americans have this done in Mexico because it's allowed there. Apparently, people are making a lot of money off of this diet abroad. They grow the tapeworms in animals and then put them inside people.

Forget the tapeworms, I'm sure there is a risk of infection simply from this procedure which is done by random people, not doctors.

By SteamLouis — On Mar 15, 2013

This is ridiculous! How can someone do this to themselves to lose weight?!

Tapeworms can be very dangerous. They can grow very long and take up the entire intestinal system. They can move to other organs too like the article said.

This must be the most risky way to lose weight. I hope that no one even considers this as an option.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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