Earth eating or geophagia has been practised for thousands of years. There are recordings of this practice from ancient Sumeria, Egypt and China.
Some nutritionists sympathise with the value of this supplement to the diet , usually a clay as there is a rich provision of silicon, aluminium and traces of iron, calcium and zinc. However the clay may bid trace elements and prevent their absorption, worsening a precarious nutritional status. Geophagia in communities with marginal nutrition geophagia may cause anaemia. Especially in women who can in some cultures be the last to eat at meals.
Other studies suggest that geophagia is desired by and provides trace elements to individuals deficient .in a trace element.
It has also been suggested that clays act as a detoxicant, whatever that means.
Perhaps in some states e.g. pregnancy the earths just taste nice , filling and not harmful. Or causing sickness.
The studies on geophagia are very welcome. On the one hand there is ingrained folk tradition and ascribed virtues of say eating clay. The reasons for such a practice should be examined and tested scientifically. This is so necessary and welcome.
Such a course of action is in contrast to some vocal media pundits who make ill founded claims which are totally untested scientifically
Trevor Stokes Nature 2006, 444, 30th November 543-4

Martin Eastwood
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