TODAY   |  August 17, 2013

The dangers of the ‘tapeworm diet’

Importing and selling tapeworms in the U.S. is illegal, but that hasn’t stopped some from using them in extreme dieting. “This really is just the cuckoo dieting for people who just aren’t fat,” said NBC’s chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman, calling for moderation and patience in dieting, not dangerous fads. TODAY’s Erica Hill interviews Snyderman.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> this morning in today's health, extreme dieting. the iowa department of health issued a warning after a woman there tried to lose weight by swallowing a tapeworm. it's the latest example of using shortcuts to lose weight . dr. nancy snyderman , the chief medical editor, this story had all of us scratching our heads, a, that you can order a tapeworm and b, that someone would take it. not only is this illegal to import or sell tapeworms in the u.s. and dangerous, it's not a very effective weight loss tool, correct?

>> it's illegal because you swallow a tapeworm and there are hooks on the head. the hooks go into your intestines. they can be up to 30 feet and break off into pieces and become more. if they break into the wall of the intestine and into your bloodstream, they can kill you. they can rob you of nutrients and food you need, you don't get skinny, you get a swollen belly and don't look well. you may lose a few pounds, but after you lose the tapeworm, you go back to who you are.

>> maybe one of the dumbest things but not the only one out there. a lot of extreme dieting crazes are on the rise. are they?

>> they are. we embrace vomiting and purging after meals, gluttony, but not moderation. i think the sooner you get to look at diet as a four letter word and think, okay, how much food do i need as fuel, when can i push myself away from the table and what does that moderation look like, then you are fine. increasingly, there are things we do every day that trigger extra weight loss . a glass of wine today is not what it looked like in 1960 . that could easily be 260 calories and invite you to eat more. you can do the cabbage soup diet and the protein diet. at some point, you have to go back to normal unless you learn what that is for you, you are not going to be a success.

>> we wait for the weight to come off.

>> it doesn't embrace obesity as a disease, which is another important segment.

>> we'll have to do that another day.

>> this is the cuckoo dieting for people who aren't fat.

>> nice to have you with us. thanks.

>> you bet, erica.