Ahhh, the quest for the perfect weight loss diet—the one that lets you eat and shed pounds. With so many Americans obese or overweight, the marketplace is full of diet books and over-the-counter drugs. There’s the Paleo diet —eat meat like a cave man! And the Mediterranean diet —eat vegetables like a peasant! And the grapefruit diet —eat like a Florida farmer!
There used to be more daring choices. Like the tapeworm egg diet. That’s right, a program that told you to swallow tapeworm eggs and lose weight.
In the early 20th century, marketers began selling this program to what were then called “fleshy people” under brand names like “Lard-B-Gone.” Sanitized tapeworm eggs delivered what they promised. You got rid of pounds without exercise, dieting, surgery, or dangerous drugs like arsenic pills, which were once a popular means of weight loss because they allegedly cut the appetite. With the tapeworm diet you swallowed the eggs and the tapeworm did all the work—consuming your meal while living in your digestive tract. Meanwhile, the tapeworm produced and shed millions of eggs in your intestine and grew up to 20 feet long.
Maria Callas, the divine and large opera star, reportedly became svelte—losing 80 pounds--thanks to the tapeworm diet. One pasta company claimed her diet trick was “physiologic pasta” (what the heck is that?) — and she sued them. Callas told people her diet trick was salads and chicken, but the tapeworm rumors persisted. Could opera’s “biggest loser” have really used the tapeworm diet? We’ll never know. And we’re not likely to see that technique on reality TV or an infomercial. (For some actually helpful weight loss information click here.)