The Tapeworm Diet: How Do I Sign Up?

Sometimes, tapeworms can migrate to unforeseen places. Image Copyright
The first step towards an effective diet is to learn some basic arithmetic. Not only will this launch you towards being a calorie controlled geek but is also great for querying restaurant bills. Sadly, it won't get you onto any chat shows as stating the blindingly obvious is reserved for professors of philosophy. Designing something that is more repulsive than a king size happy meal is the way to go.

Now, people have tapeworms removed after experiencing third world farming techniques or forgetting that meat is best served cooked. The normal experience is one of revulsion, rather like finding a nest of rats have been living under your bed. The Tapeworm Diet seeks to rehabilitate this loathed parasite by turning it into your personal pet.

The idea is fairly simple. Ingest the cysts of a tapeworm, provide five-star luxury accommodation for your pet parasite and it will feed on all those excess calories you shovel into your mouth. It will soon resemble one of those unwelcome guests who raids your fridge of your favourite snacks and then waits for you to restock. Although you will be fooling yourself and the rest of the world that you are eating as much as usual you will actually be slowly starving yourself. As your pet tapeworm makes itself at home and stretches out to fill your intestine you will lose weight, but you will also be losing a lot of essential nutrients. Your live-in parasite eats indiscriminately and will devour your vintage wine and gourmet meals as well as all the junk food. Your body will be deprived of vitamins and minerals and will eventually show signs of malnutrition.

Once your guest has outstayed its welcome you can evict it with a simple oral pill. You are now free to carry on eating as before and start to balloon again! This is surely the ultimate irony of the Tapeworm Diet: as it isn't really a diet and you have done nothing to change your eating habits you are sure to carry on eating for two even though you now have only one mouth to feed.

If the idea of having a pet parasite still freaks you out, there are also tapeworm diet pills available to the more credulous and scientifically illiterate. In a culture where popping pills has become a reflex action, this seems the obvious solution. However, few living things do very much eating once they're dead and this applies to parasites too. Whatever is in such pills is more likely to stick in your throat for being dumb enough to have bought them rather than stick to your gut. However, Megaslim, a product consisting of tapeworm eggs kept in a gelatine solution seemed to have got the miraculous approval of the FDA only to find that Fly By Night Inc's flagship product is now nowhere to be found. The solution to this paradox may lie in the fact that The MQ is a (sometimes) satirical student magazine.

So you're back to contemplating having a 20 foot tapeworm living in your gut as the ultimate slim-as-you-eat accessory. There is one slight problem: feeding people tapeworms is illegal in most countries. Even taking one for a drive is frowned upon by the FDA, or your local guardian of food safety and friend of the pharmacology lobby. I have found one company that has a suitably named Tapeworm Diet website. They have a reservoir in Africa (where else?) and a clinic in Mexico. You could, of course, venture out on your own parasite-seeking tour but note that not all tapeworms are friendly. This therapy uses the beef tapeworm (T. saginata) and avoids the malevolent porcine variety (T. solium). One slight problem is that the pork tapeworm can be found within cattle and you're unlikely to be in a situation to interview your prospective dining mate and distinguish the two.

Another website, Worm Therapy, has an interesting theory. As societies become more affluent they seem to suffer from more autoimmune problems such as allergies whilst at the same time showing a sharp drop in cases of tapeworms. This is brought into sharp relief in those countries with a small newly-wealthy elite surrounded by peasants in medieval poverty. A correlation does not prove causation, but as our digestive system already hosts whole colonies of parasites and bacteria are we being unfair on the poor tapeworm just for being so darn ugly?

Back to fat. Back to that calorie calculator. As tapeworms cannot be patented, I figure we'll just wait 10 years for the pharmacos to figure out what's going on and sell you a pill instead. In the meantime, you could contemplate that trip to Mexico - the cost of the treatment alone should save you a ton of calories.

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