Relationship between pica and iron nutrition in Johannesburg Black adults

G. Sayers, D. A. Lipschitz, M. Sayers, H. C. Seftel, T. H. Bothwell, R. W. Charlton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


On direct questioning by a Black staff nurse, 23% of 348 consecutive unselected adult outpatients attending the Johannesburg Non European Hospital said that they regularly ate earth or ash. The prevalence was higher in the women (33%) than in the men (11%), and in 50 women with minor gynecological complaints who were interviewed by a Black psychologist, it was 72%. The quantity eaten varied from an occasional tablespoonful to several handfuls a day. In an attempt to define the reasons for the habit a thematic apperception test was used. A strong association with pregnancy was identified, but the explanation for this was not established. Some subjects claimed that the material was eaten for medicinal purposes, while others merely liked the taste. The effect on iron nutrition appeared to be variable, depending on the iron binding capacity of the soluble iron content of the material consumed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1655-1660
Number of pages6
JournalSouth African Medical Journal
Issue number39
StatePublished - 1974

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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