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Pork Tapeworms in the Brain

A pair of new studies underscore the U.S. public health threat of neurocysticercosis—quite literally having pork tapeworm larvae curled up inside one’s brain—now the most common cause of adult-onset epilepsy in the world. The first study, The Impact of Neurocysticercosis in California, concluded that “Neurocysticercosis causes appreciable disease and exacts a considerable economic burden in California,” with estimated annual hospital charges exceeding $17 million. The second study, published two weeks ago, is the first to follow the cognitive function and quality of life of those living with these brain parasites.

As you’ll see in today’s video pick below, even after one’s brain is infested with pork tapeworms, some people can go for years before the headaches and seizures start as the larvae begin to multiply. What the second study suggests, though, is that long before the more obvious symptoms present, those who are infected may suffer from mental, social, and cognitive dysfunction. (See video above).

The follow-up video, Avoiding Epilepsy Through Diet, details diagnosis and treatment and reports on a synagogue survey. If pork tapeworms can get inside the brains of orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, then I guess no one’s immune! Turns out it’s not only what we eat that may put us at risk, but also the diets of those who handle our food.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Image credit: gliageek / Flickr

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


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7:31AM PDT on Sep 10, 2014

Well this is one heck of a scary article.

3:33AM PDT on Sep 1, 2014

Wow...glad I eat kosher and I hope the people who handle my food do also!

11:56AM PDT on Jun 16, 2012


3:01AM PDT on May 30, 2012

My Dog and Cat are wormed every 6 - 8 weeks. after spending some time in restaurants kitchens, I no longer eat out.
I do not trust strangers with my health.

2:39AM PDT on May 30, 2012

FYI Finally someone discusses this subject. I work in the Med. Field and in Calif. I saw many patients with this problem. Most were Hispanic or Asian. Not only can the pork tapeworm infiltrate your brain, but also other organs. My friend went to Mexico on vacation, ate some bad pork, and had to have 3/4ths of her stomach cut out--NO JOKE! The tapeworms never go away. If the doctors are able, they must cut them out. The risks of this happening in the States is still quite low, but in Calif and other areas with a lot of ethnic restaurants and/or perhaps lax pork inspection these days(Remember, the Repubs want businesses to self regulate instead of encouraging govt inspections--in their eyes it saves $ for the business owner). I'm so grossed out by this pork situation that I have refused to eat pork for over 20 years. Thinking about it, there is some good old fashion advice regarding abstaining from eating swine. Anyways, I like pigs--saw a program stating that they were a tad smarter than dogs---really difficult to consume an intelligent animal like that.

10:32PM PDT on Apr 22, 2012

Teresa, I should probably not give such hostile and rude comments the time of day, but really, you've outdone yourself with childish nonsense here. It's sad that you feel your behavior is warranted, or that you have a "fan" who supports the abuse of alcohol, but whatever floats her boat. Just how am I aggressive.............because you don't agree with or probably even undersand facts? You come in here two MONTHS after my post and make some sarcastic, ridiculous remark like that? Just how is explaining how tapeworms live and are passed, venom, anyway? You really do need to get a dictionary and look up the definitions of "venom, slander and aggressive". Then, please, go look in a mirror. I've never said a single negative word towards you, personally, so why this anger and hostility?

12:00PM PDT on Apr 22, 2012

Teresa!!!! I'm unable to give you a star but YOU ROCK!!! Thanks for that long overdue post!!!

11:50AM PDT on Apr 22, 2012

Or perhaps Diane already has them. It's worms that make her so aggressive.

11:49AM PDT on Apr 22, 2012

Diane, I really wish you to get these tapeworms! That would serve you right for all the venom you spurt on Care2.

1:14AM PST on Mar 8, 2012


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