GREAT NECK, NY – A New York registered dietitian says people should not consider using tapeworms to lose weight in light of reports that a Florida mom gave some to her teenage, pageant-participating daughter.
“Any time you introduce a parasite into a living host, especially into a young child, that is very bad for many reasons,” says Nancy Copperman, RD, director of public health initiatives at the North Shore-LIJ Health System. “One is it can cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea; it can cause somewhat of a long-term problem because you don’t know if you’ve gotten rid of all of the parasites that are there.”
Infections are also a potential side effect of having a tapeworm, Ms. Copperman says.
Parents of young children should be mindful that their child is continuing to grow and some weight gain may not mean the child needs to go on a diet; it could just be a growth spurt.
“You have to realize that when kids are at this age, they’re growing,” Ms. Copperman says. “But when you start taking away the nutrition, the calories and the nutrients a child needs, you can actually stunt their growth.”
Parents who are concerned about their child’s weight should consult their pediatrician and determine the child’s body mass index (BMI), Ms. Copperman says.
Ms. Copperman urges children and teens who are unhappy with their weight not to try this method and instead to talk about their feelings with someone they feel comfortable with – a parent, teacher, counselor, etc.
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