Iowa's top health official reminded healthcare workers across the state that there are patients tempted to pursue bizarre weight loss methods.
In an email sent recently to public health workers across Iowa, the state's Department of Public Health Medical Director Dr. Patricia Quinlisk recalled being asked for advice when a doctor reported a patient ate a tapeworm to help her lose weight.
Tapeworm eggs were sold in pill form as a weight-loss aid a century ago, and websites have been selling tapeworms as a weight-loss tool. The parasites can be accidentally ingested in undercooked meat. They can live in the intestines of people and can grow to be several feet long.
"Ingesting tapeworms is extremely risky and can cause a wide range of undesirable side effects, including rare deaths," Quinlisk wrote.
Instead, she recommends more conventional weight-loss methods of consuming fewer calories and increasing physical activity.
Quinlisk advised the doctor to prescribe an anti-worm medication for the patient.