A Brief History of Victorian Diet Pills

Victorian Diet PillsA Brief History of Victorian Diet Pills

While today’s diet pills are consistently marketed as being quite cutting edge, the actual idea of taking a pill to slim down the waistline is nothing new. Two centuries ago, these products were already being sold to customers. That said, the purpose of these pills is about the only similarity they have to the current formulas.

Victorian diet pills were almost universally dangerous, were completely untested and were entirely unregulated. What a customer received differed from one pill to the next – even when obtained from the same bottle – and often exposed the dieter to anything from parasites to poisons.

We may think of obesity as today’s problem and we might think that people are more desperate to try anything to help them to overcome it than ever before, but Victorians were known for painful, horrifying and even sometimes deadly methods of slimming down. Oddly, there were a few that actually worked, though not without some very dangerous side effects.

Among the most famous of Victorian diet pills were the tape worm pills. These involved pressing tiny tape worms or their eggs into chalk tablets and swallowing them. The tape worms would then hatch in the user’s digestive tract and would eat a great deal of the food – and the nutrients it contained – from inside the user. The key was to then exterminate the worms before they could grow to be too large as they could quickly multiply and grow to be many feet in length. That said, extermination of the parasites could be as dangerous as the worms themselves as it involved the use of any number of chemicals to do so.

Side effects throughout this “treatment” included blocked intestines, stomach pains and a spectrum of painful and potentially dangerous health issues.

Other types of Victorian diet pills included the use of various poisons such as cyanide and even extracts from a thyroid gland. These could lead to any number of health risks, irreversible damage to the body, drastic hormonal imbalances, heart defects and even deaths. Still, the desperation people had to look slim meant that many of those diet pills were still being used quite commonly in the United States, Great Britain and many other countries until the late 1960s.

Fortunately, while the weight loss supplement market isn’t perfect, it has come a long way in terms of regulation against the use of known poisons, industrial chemicals and parasites.