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Craving EarthUnderstanding Pica--the Urge to Eat Clay, Starch, Ice, and Chalk$
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Sera Young

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231146098

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231146098.001.0001

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Pica in Response to Food Shortage

Pica in Response to Food Shortage

(p.88) Chapter Seven Pica in Response to Food Shortage
Craving Earth

Sera L. Young

Columbia University Press

This chapter first presents examples of earth consumed during famines. It then examines the first of the two nutritional explanations of pica—that pica is a response to hunger. It considers four predictions stemming from the hypothesis that hunger is a response to food shortage: people eating non-food substances have little other food to eat; people would feel less hungry after eating pica substances; pica substances would not be desired when “typical” food was available; and almost any non-food item would be eaten by the consumer. It concludes that there is little to substantiate this hypothesis. Although consumers may feel more full after engaging in pica (consistent with the second prediction), they frequently have other food to eat (contradictory to the first prediction); pica cravings occur when typical food is available (contradictory to the third prediction); and pica substances are extremely carefully selected (contradictory to the last prediction). While hunger has motivated a small fraction of non-food consumption around the world, it is safe to say that it does not explain the bulk of pica.

Keywords:   pica, non-food consumption, earth, famine, geophagy, hunger, food shortage

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