Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Maybe she’s born with it; maybe it’s tapeworms?

Looking for a way to shed those extra few pounds? Well search no more! Say goodbye to fad diets, pills and exercise and say hello to Cestoda or more commonly known as the tapeworm.

tumblr_nzkydgDZrC1u62ozeo1_1280.jpgNow you’re able to still eat the same portions as before but without the weight gain! How easy, its so easy its got me thinking maybe Victoria’s secret is a tapeworm. This fad has got people all over the world ingesting these parasites to help loose those few extra pounds, it even has an American mother feeding her daughter tapeworm eggs in order to help her get into shape for pageant season.

 

But is it really as easy as ingesting this parasite and loosing calories without any exercise or dieting? Well like most diets it is most definitely too good to be true.

FY0BMNBIB226AMH.MEDIUM.jpgTapeworms are spaghetti-looking segmented parasites, I mean lets be honest, if someone put them in a bowl and put some bolognese sauce on top you wouldn’t know the difference. But what’s even more frightening than spaghetti worms is the detrimental effects this parasite can have on their hosts body, and the rate at which un-informed people are trying this ‘fad’.

 

sarcocystis_qdma_2.jpg

livestock meat infested with tapeworm cysts

Tapeworms are able to infect many organisms ranging from pets, livestock and of course us. Tapeworms in humans are usually acquired through eating under cooked or raw meats (fish, beef, pork, lamb) that have been previously infected with tapeworms and have had egg filled cysts formed within their muscles that are then ingested.

 

Whether you are consuming these tapeworms intentionally or unintentionally these parasites are just that, parasites that have adapted to survive in animals for years and have the ability to absorb half of the nutrients that enter your body. And where do the nutrients they consume go? Well, it goes into growing the tapeworm to lengths of 30 feet! 30 feet?!? That’s 30 foot-long subs from subway put together, or the length of some whales.

whales-underwater-darrenjew-whale-02a.jpg

And once your body has been infiltrated sometimes it can take a while until you start to feel symptoms, generally an individual is treated before major complications occur but in most common cases tapeworms grow to monstrous lengths and cause blockages in the intestines, bile duct, appendix and pancreatic duct. If, however tapeworms are left un-treated they can grow and inflict considerable damage to the hosts body. Tapeworm larvae that are able to move out of the intestines can cause the most damaging effects; cysts that have formed in the brain from pork tapeworm may cause neurocysticercosis. The egg filled cysts form throughout the spinal cord and brain which can cause the host to have seizures and symptoms that assimilate with those of brain tumours. The cysts that have formed in the spinal cord can result in weakness and overall difficulty with walking and in rare cases complications such as meningitis, dementia and even death. The worms also have the ability to use their hosts transport systems to make their way to the host’s heart, eyes and numerous other areas of the body. Eye lesions can form causing the host to have either partial are complete blindness, heart worms can put immense pressure on the circulatory system sometimes causing ruptured vessels and heart failure.

So, why? I hear you ask would people willingly do this to themselves becThe-Inevitable-Sanitized-Tape-Worms.jpgause it seems like it’s something from the Middle Ages. Well that is where it all started really, in the early 1900’s (not quite the middle ages) a “nutrient absorption” product came on the market with ad’s stating “FAT the ENEMY that is shortening your life BANISHED!”, “no ill effects” and oh how they were wrong. They took this fat blasting pill in the hopes to loose weight and stay trim and unfortunately this ‘fad’ is still being used today, as people are becoming more and more desperate to loose weight and are willing to over look the negative effects. And the fact of the matter is tapeworms have very little weight loss abilities and after the parasite is quite gruesomely expelled from the body  if an individual continues to consume the same amount of calories as they were before there will be absolutely no long-term weight loss effects.

So weighing up the pros and cons of tapeworm weight loss I think it’s pretty easy to see which side wins… I mean beauty is pain right?

References

Diet-blog.com 2016, Tapeworm Diet: History, Methods, and Dangers,<http://www.diet-blog.com/07/vintage_weight_loss_sanitized_tapeworms.php&gt;

Hampton, J 2015,  What Are the Effects of Tapeworms in Humans?, <http://www.livestrong.com/article/101775-effects-tapeworms-humans/&gt;

Health Weight Forum 2016, Tapeworm Diet<http://www.healthyweightforum.org/eng/diets/tapeworm-diet/&gt;

HowStuffWorks 2008, Have people ever really eaten tapeworms for weight loss?,<http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/diet-fitness/weight-loss/tapeworm-weight-loss.htm&gt;

Kelly, J 2014,  Mum spiked daughter with TAPEWORMS to make her lose weight for beauty pageant, <http://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/mum-spiked-daughter-tapeworms-make-4089125&gt;

Medical News Today 2015, Tapeworms: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments, <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/170461.php#risk_factors&gt;

WebMD 2016, Tapeworms in Humans: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments, <http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/tapeworms-in-humans&gt;

 

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3 comments on “Maybe she’s born with it; maybe it’s tapeworms?

  1. BTJohnson
    May 5, 2016

    Reading your piece reminded of this experiment I heard of awhile back in which a scientist purposefully ingested tapeworms to observe their effects on his gut. They found that worms could be used in the treatment of auto-immune disease to decrease the inflammatory response, however only certain species of worm could be used as others can cause cysts etc. Looking into it more it turns out he actually gained a kilo, which he accredited to the worm actually making him hungrier and crave chocolate. Either way, not something I’m willing to try soon!
    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-25968755

    Like

  2. wkerrydeakineduau
    May 5, 2016

    Very unique post, I love the way you used humour and visuals to show exactly what a tapeworm is (and how long it is). Still, it does raise a concerning point that people would actually consider infecting themselves with a really dangerous parasite just to lose weight. How desperate must people be to be as beautiful as possible, and it’s not even a new thing (as your old advert attests). The Australian department of health clearly isn’t a fan of tapeworms and how dangerous they can be to people.

    Like

  3. andyfung141
    May 7, 2016

    This post is great, our society is stuck in this idea of the “perfect body” and that usually revolves around being skinny and fit. So to many who strongly believe in this take any means needed to achieve it. Tapeworms is one example of taking something to the extreme. This however reminded me of a doctor who infected himself with another parasite, the hook worm. He did this to test if hookworm infection can have a positive effect on health. He talked about how it can also help alleviate food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease and even asthma. Even though there could be positive effects on your body the negatives seem to out way the positives. Parasites are organisms that feed of other organisms with no positive return to the host. I believe they should be treated as such, and not used to “Lose a few kilos”.

    References to Doctor experiment:
    http://healthland.time.com/2012/04/18/doctor-infects-himself-with-parasites-for-health-experiment/

    Like

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This entry was posted on May 5, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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