Craving Earth: Understanding Pica : the Urge to Eat Clay, Starch, Ice, and Chalk

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Columbia University Press, 2012 - Cooking - 228 pages
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Humans have eaten earth, on purpose, for more than 2,300 years. They also crave starch, ice, chalk, and other unorthodox items of food. Some even claim they are addicted and "go crazy" without these items, but why?

Sifting through extensive historical, ethnographic, and biomedical findings, Sera L. Young creates a portrait of pica, or nonfood cravings, from humans' earliest ingestions to current trends and practices. In engaging detail, she describes the substances most frequently consumed and the many methods (including the Internet) used to obtain them. She reveals how pica is remarkably prevalent (it occurs in nearly every human culture and throughout the animal kingdom), identifies its most avid partakers (pregnant women and young children), and describes the potentially healthful and harmful effects. She evaluates the many hypotheses about the causes of pica, from the fantastical to the scientific, including hunger, nutritional deficiencies, and protective capacities. Never has a book examined pica so thoroughly or accessibly, merging absorbing history with intimate case studies to illuminate an enigmatic behavior deeply entwined with human biology and culture.
 

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Contents

What on Earth?
3
A Holistic Way to Study Pica
20
Medicine You Can Walk On
32
Sacredness You Can Swallow
46
Poisons and Pathogens
58
BUT WHY?
66
Pica in Response to Food Shortage
88
Pica as a Micronutrient Supplement
97
Pica to Protect and Detoxify
119
Putting the Pica Pieces Together
136
Appendix
143
Pica in Literature
149
Association Between Pica and Iron Deficiency
161
Association Between Pica with Zinc Deficiency
167
Glossary
183
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About the author (2012)

Sera L. Young is a faculty member of the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

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