An Iowa woman recently discovered something worse than being overweight: swallowing a parasitic worm in order to drop a few pounds. The woman went to her doctor and admitted she’d bought a tapeworm off the Internet and swallowed it, says Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health. The woman's doctor, understandably, wasn’t sure of what to do in such a situation, and so he contacted the state’s public health department for advice. This week, Quinlisk relayed a warning and treatment advice in her weekly email to state public health workers. “Ingesting tapeworms is extremely risky and can cause a wide range of undesirable side effects, including rare deaths,” Quinlisk wrote in the email, as the Des Moines Register reported Friday. “Those desiring to lose weight are advised to stick with proven weight loss methods — consuming fewer calories and increasing physical activity.” There are a few different kinds of tapeworms, but it’s the beef tapeworm, or Taenia saginata, that is usually used in these sorts of quick weight-loss schemes, Quinlisk says. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, advertisements touted “easy to swallow,” “sanitized tape worms” as a weapon against fat – “the ENEMY that is shortening your life,” as one vintage ad recently showcased by the National Women’s History Museum's website reads.

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