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Eating tapeworm eggs the worst way to lose weight

Eating tapeworm eggs to lose weight has to be the craziest way to crash-diet. And there are people dumb enough to do it. Getting active sounds like hard work, but it’s far more palatable than swallowing eggs fished out of human poop, Sanchita Sharma writes.

columns Updated: Aug 25, 2014 17:46 IST
Sanchita Sharma
Sanchita Sharma
Hindustan Times

Eating tapeworm eggs to lose weight has to be the craziest way to crash-diet. And there are people dumb enough to do it. A woman in Florida who fed her daughter tapeworm eggs to make her lose weight for a beauty pageant made headlines on Friday. The mom was outed when a toilet-bowl full of wriggling worms popped out in a hospital emergency room, where the girl had been taken with a swollen belly and acute pain. So crippling was the pain that the nurse first thought that the girl was pregnant and in labour, but instead of a baby, she was found to be tumid with tapeworms.

The pageant-obsessed mom bought the eggs in Mexico, but you can apparently buy them online. Simply searching for “Where can I buy tapeworm eggs?” on the internet throws up about 458,000 results, with one site even offering “sanitised tapeworms” for those uncomfortable with the thought of eating something that’s been sopped out of poop.

The most original online offer, though, was for eggs supposedly harvested from human excreta at Russia’s Vladivostok Soviet Prison. The site promises “all eggs guaranteed and fresh…. Please allow 12 weeks for delivery. Use promptly on arrival by applying (sic) to salad or uncooked food. Do not refrigerate.” The cost is an incredible 24.50 Euro.

The warped logic behind the diet is that a tapeworm infestation triggers weight loss as the worms feed on a major chunk of the food being digested in the gut. If the thought of creepy-crawlies slithering inside you doesn’t put you off, the side-effects should. All tapeworm species cause abdominal pain, appetite loss, upset stomach and diarrhea; and pork tapeworm or taenia solium can also lodge in the brain and cause seizures, and sometimes death.

Popping worm eggs is not the only crazy thing done by the desperate struggling to get onto the weight-loss highway.

A new craze is training with cellophane wrapped around the body, to make it sweat more. This, people believe, makes the body burn more calories. They are wrong. Sweating just leads to water loss and the weight comes back the moment you drink water after exercising.

Dehydration can knock off up to 3 kg from body weight, but hurts more than it helps. When you sweat too much, the fluid loss makes the blood volume drop, which forces the heart to pump harder. Apart from straining the heart, reduced blood flow to muscles can cause cramps and exhaustion.

Then there are “miracle” slimming creams that claim to trigger inch and weight loss. There is no scientific evidence to prove the benefits of these creams. At best, they appear to lower cellulite by plumping up skin to give the illusion of tightening and smoothening, but the sag is back the moment you stop using them.

Abusing laxatives such as psyllium husk (isabgol) is another cretinous attempt to lose weight. This has little effect on weight, though, because by the time the laxatives absorb water and fill up the large intestine, food calories have been absorbed by the small intestine.

Slimming pills, including fat-blockers, starch-blockers and appetite suppressants, work only for people who have large appetites. And there are serious side effects. Fat- and starch-blockers cause constipation, nausea and headaches, while appetite suppressants cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps.

Losing weight is healthy only when you do it the healthy way. If a diet plan makes you lose more than 2 kg in a month without exercising, most of the weight lost will come back as soon as you get off the diet.

To lose 1 kg of adipose tissue (fat), you need to burn 7,700 calories. Simple arithmetic shows that to lose 1 kg in a week, you need to be on a near-starvation diet of 400 calories a day for inactive women (recommended daily intake is 1,500 calories) and 700 calories for sedentary men (recommended daily intake is 1,800).

The only way to beat this is by pushing up your activity levels to burn calories and raise your metabolic rate to help the body burn what you eat more efficiently. This helps you burn calories faster and keep weight off longer, by keeping the metabolic rate up even after you’ve stopped. This means that you end up burning more calories going about your day than you would have without exercising.

Getting active sounds like hard work, but it’s far more palatable than swallowing tapeworm eggs fished out of human poop.

First Published: Aug 23, 2014 22:52 IST