Eating tapeworms to lose weight

In this article Cecil states that he’s unsure if the practice of ingesting tapeworms is (or was) real…

I’d like to refer everyone to this page, which seems to confirm it… Yup… people do this…


As Cecil describes it, the tapeworm life cycle has two phases: the adult worm, which hatches from a cyst, lives in the host’s intestine, and produces eggs; and the larva, which hatches from an egg, burrows into the host’s tissue, and forms a cyst. Cecil lists all the dangers of eating tapeworm eggs, but if you wanted to lose weight, wouldn’t you want to eat a cyst rather than an egg? I suspect that stories of people eating “tapeworm eggs” are more likely to be referring to cysts.

The problem for me is that you have no control over the tapeworm.
Cecil remarks it can grow to 50 feet and live for 20 years. Plus it constantly churns out eggs of its own.

Eat less, exercise more!

To keep things tidy, I’ve merged two threads about the same column.

moderator CCC

Cost $1,299.00 USD


Apologies for the highjack, but why is it that typing *tapeworm *into the search engine doesn’t find the column in question?

Is there anyway to tell if you have a tapeworm? I mean, if you don’t get any of the symptoms listed in the column, you’re good, right?

WAG— It’s too new?
September 26, 2008

emphasis added for yeecchhh factor

One thing I’ve always wondered about the tapeworm diet… how is this supposed to help you lose weight? So the worm is taking the nutrients instead of you, but isn’t it going to be weighed as well when you step on the scale?

That makes sense!

For more yucky factor, go do a google Images search for “proglottid segments”

Hookworm therapy is scientifically legit and distinct from tapeworm “therapy.” Seethe article on Wikipedia if you’re curious. As of last I’ve heard, it’s still in the research and testing phase, but I may be mistaken.

I was hoping someone with better chops than me would take a crack at this.

Consider this a bump.

OK, as far as the conservation of mass bit is concerned; tapeworms are basically egg making machines - they convert nutrients to eggs which are then passed out of the body in proglottids - poorly mobile sacs (they wiggle a bit if you watch them closely) looking a little bit like a squashed piece of rice, containing large numbers of eggs. So although you’d weigh the tapeworm when you got on the scales you wouldn’t be weighing the hundreds or thousands of proglottids that it had produced and shed in the faeces (using nutrients that you’d otherwise have turned into fat).

Other than the less than pleasant job of sieving one’s own faeces the other two ways you could do it are to send some to a lab and get them to do a faecal exam (this would have the advantage of picking up eggs laid by Ecchinococcus sp which includes the sheep tapeworm, which are one of the ones responsible for Hydatid cysts and have microscopic proglottids) as well as roundworms.

You can also do serology - check a blood sample to see whether your immune system has “seen” worm eggs before. The problem with this that (a) it doesn’t tell you whether you’re still infected and (b) you probably need to test separately for each species.

To estimate your chances though - my old parasitology professor told us that an estimated 10% of the UK human population had a human-beef tapeworm.

Researchers performing serology on the (UK I think) population found that about 50% were seropositive to Toxocara canis (dog roundworm) - in other words had at one point or another ingested the eggs and made an immune response to them. I’m afraid I don’t have the references to hand.

You’re right: if you wanted to get yourself a tapeworm you’d need to eat a cyst, which contain one or more larvae (roll out the steak tartare).

In the case of Taenia bovis (the one you’d be most likely to use for this sort of endeavour) I think its just one larva per cyst (apparently its quite rare for a tapeworm to take root in a host which already has another tapeworm)

Well, it’s not like the tape worm is going to convert food mass to body mass at 1:1, or anything like it. Actually, I have no idea how efficient a tape worm is, but you have to deduct what it metabolizes and excretes as eggs from what you’d find on the scale.

submitted for your approval:

The tapeworm may also cause weight loss by interfering with your digestion.

I’m gonna lose weight just from reading this thread. I’m nauseated!