The medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, or IDPH, sends out a news alert every week.

Dr. Patricia Quinlisk e-mailed the following news today, speaking of an Iowa woman who deliberately swallowed a type of worm in order to lose weight.

This tapeworm can live for years in a human's digestive tract, and grow up to something like 20 yards long. It also reproduces by itself.

Yikes! Can you spell "d-e-s-p-e-r-a-t-e  m-e-a-s-u-r-e-s?"

Here is what Dr. Quinlisk had to say:

Recently an Iowa health care provider consulted with IDPH about a patient who had deliberately ingested a tapeworm (probably a scolex) that she had obtained via the internet.

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Tapeworm infections are usually caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with tapeworm eggs or larvae, and is associated with weight loss. Despite the risks associated with tapeworms, patients can find suppliers of this tapeworm in order to as a weight lose strategy.

Ingesting tapeworms is extremely risky and can cause a wide range of undesirable side effects, including rare deaths.

Those desiring to lose weight are advised to stick with proven weight loss methods; consuming fewer calories and increasing physical activity.