23 October 2008

Pass the Dirt

Stomach contents of an inmate with pica - those are nails

People diagnosed with pica have an insatiable urge to eat non-food substances like dirt, paper, glue and clay, but symptoms need to persist for at least one month to warrant a pica diagnosis. While there isn't a definitive reason why this abnormal eating occurs, researchers believe a lack of certain nutrients, such as iron and zinc, can trigger cravings. As a result, people suffering from pica are generally treated for a nutritional deficiency.

The condition's name comes from the Latin word for magpie, a bird which is reputed to eat almost anything. Pica is seen in all ages, particularly in pregnant women and small children, especially among children who are developmentally disabled, where it is the most common eating disorder.

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