Pica is an appetite for non-foods (e.g., coal, soil, chalk) or an abnormal appetite for some things that may be considered foods, such as food ingredients (e.g., flour, raw potato, starch). In order for these actions to be considered pica, they must persist for more than 1 month, at an age where eating dirt, clay, etc. is considered developmentally inappropriate. The condition's name comes from the Latin word for the 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. It is much more common in developing countries and rural areas than elsewhere. more...
In extreme forms, pica is regarded as a medical disorder. Pregnant women have been known to develop strong cravings for gritty substances like soil or flour. Some theorize that these women may be craving trace minerals lacking in their system. There is a lack of major studies and research in this field.
Pica in children, while common, can be dangerous. Children eating painted plaster containing lead may suffer brain damage from lead poisoning. There is a similar risk from eating dirt near roads that existed prior to the phaseout of tetra-ethyl lead in gasoline or prior to the cessation of the use of contaminated oil (either used, or containing toxic PCBs) to settle dust. In addition to poisoning, there is also a much greater risk of gastro-intestinal obstruction or tearing in the stomach. This is also true in animals.
- Acuphagia (ingestion of sharp objects)
- Amylophagia (consumption of starch)
- Coniophagia (consumption of dust from Venetian blinds)
- Coprophagia (consumption of excrement)
- Geomelophagia (abnormal ingestion of raw potatoes)
- Geophagy (consumption of soil)
- Gooberphagia (pathological consumption of peanuts)
- Lithophagia (ingestion of stones)
- Mucophagy (consumption of mucus)
- Pagophagia (pathological consumption of ice)
- Trichophagia (consumption of hair or wool)
- Urine Therapy (consumption of urine, often for supposed medical and health benefits, though also a sexual fetish and possibly an appetite)
- Xylophagia (consumption of wood)
- The Straight Dope: Is it crazy to eat clay?, Cecil Adams, 1995
- Eating Disorder: Pica
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