Helminths, appetite and body weight

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    Helminths, appetite and body weight

    Helminths are clearly able to influence appetite.

    Infectious agents, including parasitic worms, seem to be capable of overwhelming the mechanisms that regulate appetite and body weight.
    * Appetite and parasite

    The following study suggests a possible manipulation of appetite regulation in infected mice by larvae of the helminth, Taenia taeniaformis.
    * Leptin, a tool of parasites?

    Larvae of the nematode, Nippostrongylus brasiliensis, affected the degree of anorexia in rats at 8 days post infection, in a dose-dependent manner.
    * Anorexia induced by the parasitic nematode, Nippostrongylus brasiliensis: effects on NPY and CRF gene expression in the rat hypothalamus

    Helminths can also affect body weight and mitigate obesity.

    Helminth infection or its derived molecules can mitigate obesity and Metabolic Syndromes (Mets) via induction of macrophage M2 polarization, inhibition of adipogenesis, promotion of fat browning, and improvement of glucose tolerance, insulin resistance and metabolic inflammation.
    * Helminth and Host Crosstalk: New Insight Into Treatment of Obesity and Its Associated Metabolic Syndromes -- Full text | PDF

    Helminths prevented weight gain in laboratory mice by boosting populations of bacteria that produce compounds which trigger increased energy consumption.
    * Suppression of obesity by an intestinal helminth through interactions with intestinal microbiota -- PDF (Also reported by EurekAlert: Intestinal helminths boost fat burning: Japanese investigators show how)

    Infection with the helminth, Trichuris muris, significantly reduced rates of weight gain in host mice.
    * Feeding Immunity: Physiological and Behavioral Responses to Infection and Resource Limitation

    Helminths suggested as safer, effective treatment for obesity and other metabolic disorders.
    * Helminth infection protects against high fat diet-induced obesity via induction of alternatively activated macrophages

    Helminth infections have been associated with hypophagia and weight reduction, as well as improvements in metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
    * The interplay of type 2 immunity, helminth infection and the microbiota in regulating metabolism -- Full text | PDF

    Therapeutic helminths and appetite

    A number of people have reported a normalisation of appetite after commencing helminthic therapy.

    Increased appetite

    One such self-treater reported an increase in appetite after she started taking HDC, and noticed the same change in her son after he also began using this species. [1]

    Self-treaters using hookworms have reported similar results, including someone who became much more hungry between weeks 4 and 12 after inoculating with hookworms, [2] and several others have also reported an improvement in appetite, especially between days 39 and 51.

    One of the changes that I noticed when I first got hookworms was that, after many years of not really having any appetite for food, I suddenly began to take a keen interest in cooking smells 39 days after inoculation.

    At 40 days post inoculation, another hookworm host found that she suddenly became able to eat all the food on her plate, after years of never quite managing to eat everything she put out for herself at mealtimes. At 47 days, someone with a history of food intolerance found herself responding unusually positively when she saw food on the television, and, at 51 days after a second dose of NA, yet another hookworm host began to experience strong hunger pangs verging on cramps in the early morning or after long gaps between meals. [3]

    Below are more comments from hookworm users.

    I seem to have increased appetite now 6 weeks in with NA. [4]
    I'm at week 7 of introducing 5 NA and my appetite has gone up a lot in the last week or so. [5]
    I am in week 9 of introducing 5 N.A. and I cannot stop eating. [6]
    I'm at 10 weeks and have in the last week actually had a appetite. So eating 3 times a day instead of once begrudgingly. [7]
    3 months after my first inoculation, I feel like my appetite has returned to normal. [8]
    My appetite has been very low for years and it got a bit worse at initial inoculation, but I'm almost at the 3 month mark and I'm seeing a definite increase in appetite, which is fantastic. [9]


    Some helminth hosts experience cravings for specific foods or food groups.

    I have been craving proteins like there is no tomorrow... [10]
    I usually crave sugar & carbs, starting around week 8. [11]
    I inoculated with 5 NA (5 months ago) to try and reduce multiple food intolerances... Suddenly about a week ago I was absolutely craving cheese... [12]
    I craved burnt toast for 3 months after one inoculation. I hate burnt anything so it was very strange. [13]

    Decreased appetite

    A brief period of reduced appetite sometimes follows the first inoculation.

    I dosed for the first time 2-1/2 weeks ago (3 HDC). Had a very reduced appetite and diarrhea for the first 7 days, and when I did want to eat I only craved carbs. Then had normal appetite but constipation for the next week. Week 3, I feel back to usual. [14]

    Several people have found that the ability of helminths to normalise aberrant hunger/satiety responses has resulted in them eating less food.

    Before HW, I didn't feel like I had any full sensors and could eat a ton without ever reeling full. After HW, I feel like I have normal hungry/full sensors and feel full at the appropriate time after consuming a normal amount of food. This was an amazing unexpected side effect that I wasn't even looking for. [15]
    My son used to want food ALL the time. It was impossible to fill him up. For him food was tied up with anxiety though, so as his anxiety levels dropped with HT he started eating less. [16]

    Therapeutic helminths and body weight

    Helminths appear generally to normalise body weight.

    In the early weeks of taking NA I had increased appetite and gained a couple of kg. Short lived and I then just returned to pre NA weight and appetite. [17]
    My son (who is taking HDC) had lots of weight gain but he was very under weight when he started. It made him look like what a healthy child looks like. [18]
    I feel that it's pretty effortless to maintain my healthy weight since I started hosting (HDC, then NA). I used to have cravings and a difficult time maintaining once I had lost 20 extra pounds. Now I stay at my target weight without weighing, with minor diet fluctuations (eating more than usual or less than usual) etc. I went on a cruise expecting to gain a pound a day because of all the food on board but only returned up 2 pounds, and that came off by itself after I was back a few days. So I do feel that hosting helps me maintain homeostasis. [19]

    Some people gain weight.

    I’ve gained weight and am now a more healthy weight. Before I was very underweight and malnourished. [20]
    I gained weight after first inoculation. [21]
    I'm coming up on 12 weeks with 5 NA, and I already seem to be gaining weight and absorbing food more efficiently. [22]
    Something that happened after my second inoculation (with NA) is that I managed to gain weight, something like 3-4kg in 2-3 months. That is significant for me as I've always struggled to put on weight. [23]

    And one individual experienced an increase in weight post inoculation with hookworms even though she appeared not to be consuming any additional food.

    In the last 28 months since my wife started helminthic therapy she has gone from 70 to about 85 Kg, even if the amount of food she consumes has not changed much. [24]

    Others have lost weight after inoculating with helminths.

    In the past few weeks I’ve needed to go buy some size 8 jeans. Two years ago I was wearing 14/16. And it's easy to love my new body. (A user of NA) [25]
    I have lost 12 Kg, and kept it off, and that is after 65 years of unsuccessfully battling overweight! (A user of NA) [26]
    I actually lost weight from decreased inflammation as did my husband. No problems, though. I'd never realized how much water for inflammation I was carrying around - about nine pounds. (A user of NA) [27]
    I lost 15lbs. (A user of TSO) [28]
    My weight is finally back to 125. I feel my healthiest at this weight, but I haven’t been this weight in over 6 years. I believe NA is the primary reason. [29]

    After starting helminthic therapy, one couple reported that one of them had lost weight [30] while the other had gained weight. [31]

    The use of non-therapeutic helminths for weight control

    The beef tapeworm, Taenia saginata, has been used to reduce body weight in obese individuals, something that it does very efficiently. However, it does not meet the criteria for a therapeutic helminth (see Therapeutic helminths), which include causing no pathology in the host and posing no risk of infection to others. For more detail about T. saginata, see the following page.

    The porcine (pig) tapeworm, Taenia solium, might also be effective as an aid to weight loss, but it is unsuitable for use by humans because it has a potential for mis-migration in our species. Once hatched, it travels through the bloodstream and can settle in the muscles, eyes or brain. Cysts in the muscles generally don't cause symptoms, but they can cause blurry vision if they lodge in the eyes and, in the brain, headaches, encephalitis, and seizures which can occur in up to 70 percent of infected patients.

    Further reading

    The presence of (helminth) infection was able to prevent exacerbated weight gain in mice fed with high fat diet when compared to non-infected controls. In addition, infected animals displayed improved insulin sensitivity and decreased fat accumulation in the liver.