SOUTH AFRICA: Oddly enough, eating soil is dangerous to your health
Posted: July 25th, 2009 - 10:02pm
Source: Daily DIspatch Online
Warning: Eating soil can be hazardous to your health. It could give you stomach or toothache, among other problems.
That’s the message delegates heard at a three-day international conference on HIV/Aids, Medicinal Plants and Geophagia in Mthatha.
Geophagia, for the uninformed, is the practice of eating soil, and a study has shown that it is more common than previously thought.
Professor Grace George, head of the Department of Medical Biochemistry in the Health Science Faculty at the Walter Sisulu University (WSU) Mthatha campus, presented findings from a study on geophagia to a panel of professors, doctors and other academics .
She said her study showed there was a high number of people in the OR Tambo region who ate soil, particularly children and pregnant women.
She said the reasons for eating soil varied . Some did so because of a craving during pregnancy – the smell, taste and texture made soil attractive to its consumers – while others did so to supplement their diets.
Her survey, undertaken early this year, saw 70 people participating from different parts of the OR Tambo district, with 29percent and 73 percent of the participants from urban and rural areas respectively. All the participants were Xhosa-speaking women.
She said people who practised geophagia were not necessarily poor or illiterate, with half having reached tertiary education level and 33 percent secondary level; 13 percent and four percent had no formal education or primary education respectively.
There was even a site at WSU’s Mthatha campus where people collected soil for consumption .