Pica is a medical disorder characterized by an appetite for substances largely non-nutritive or an abnormal appetite for some things that may be considered foods, such as these actions to be food ingredients. In order for these actions to be considered pica, they must persist for more for more than one month at an age where eating such objects is considered developmentally inappropriate. History
The term pica comes from the Latin word meaning magpie, presumably named after this bird's peculiar eating behaviors. The magpie shows an indiscriminate preference for foods and nonfoods. Pica of dirt and clay was acknowledged by the Greeks and the Romans and was recorded in a 13th century Latin work. Pica was first addressed in a medical book in 1563, where geophagia was described in pregnant women and in children. Pica behavior still occurs almost ritualistically in some contemporary cultures. Geophagia has been described as a universal act throughout the 1800s in the southern United States, principally among slaves, and is still a conventional behavior in numerous cultures. It has been practiced as part of religious ceremonies, magical beliefs, and attempts at healing. Clay ingestion has been used for medicinal purposes by many cultures, possibly to influence the microorganisms in the gut or to help relieve intestinal spasms. During the 1950s and 1960s, geophagia was so common in the south that one could purchase small brown bags of clay outside bus stops. As members of the southern population moved north, it was not uncommon to have special local clays mailed from
family members back home. Pica has habitually been described as an indication of iron deficiency, although it occurs often in those who have normal hemoglobin levels. In the late 1960s, articles in medical journals documented the association between ice eating and anemia and its subsequent relief with iron treatment, although whether pica caused the anemia or the anemia...