A 1942 survey in Mississippi showed that at least 25 percent of the schoolchildren habitually ate earth. The adults also were shown to eat dirt though they were not systematically surveyed. Many reasons why this happened were given:

1)earth is good for you
2)it helps pregnant women
3)it tastes good
4)it is sour like a lemon
5)it tastes better if smoked in the chimney, etc.
(Hunter, 192)

African women who are pregnant are able to satisfy their different nutritional needs by eating clay. Flavored clay is sold at markets in a variety of sizes and mineral contents. These clays are stored in a belt like cloth and eaten as desired, often without water. The cravings in pregnancy for a varied nutritional intake (during pregnancy, the body requires 20% more nutrients and 50% more during lactation) are solved by geophagy.

The eating of inappropriate objects and material is known as "pica."

Chthon`o*pha"gi*a (?), Chtho*noph"a*gy (?), n. [NL. chthonophagia; Gr. , , earth + to eat.]

A disease characterized by an irresistible desire to eat earth, observed in some parts of the southern United States, the West Indies, etc.

© Webster 1913.

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