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Craving Earth

Product Details

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations Preface Part I: All About Pica 1. What on Earth? 2. A Biocultural Approach: A Holistic Way to Study Pica 3. Medicine You Can Walk On 4. Religious Geophagy: Sacredness You Can Swallow 5. Poisons and Pathogens Part II: But Why? 6. Dismissal and Damnation: A Historical Perspective on the Purported Causes of Pica 7. Pica in Response to Food Shortage 8: Pica as a Micronutrient Supplement 9: Pica to Protect and Detoxify 10. Putting the Pica Pieces Together Appendix A: Notable Moments in the History of Pica Appendix B: Prevalence of Pica Among Representative Populations of Pregnant Women Appendix C: Prevalence of Pica Among Representative Populations of Children Appendix D: Pica in Literature Appendix E: Association Between Pica and Iron Deficiency and/or Anemia in Cross-Sectional Studies Appendix F: Association Between Pica with Zinc Deficiency in Cross-Sectional Studies Appendix G: Predictions Notes Glossary Works Cited Acknowledgments Index

Promotional Information

Humans have eaten earth, on purpose, for more than 2,000 years. They also crave starch, ice, chalk, and other unorthodox food items. Some even claim they are "addicted" and "go crazy" without these items. Sifting through extensive historical, ethnographic, and biomedical findings, Sera L. Young creates a portrait of pica, or nonfood cravings, from humans' earliest ingestions to current trends and practices. In engaging detail, she describes the substances most frequently consumed and the many methods used to obtain them. She reveals how pica is remarkably prevalent, identifies its most avid partakers, and describes the potentially healthful and harmful effects. She evaluates the many hypotheses about the causes of pica, from the fantastical to the scientific, including hunger, nutritional deficiencies, and protective capacities. Never has a book examined pica so thoroughly or accessibly, merging absorbing history with intimate case studies to illuminate a behavior deeply entwined with human biology and culture.

About the Author

Sera L. Young is a faculty member of the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.


Young brings a fascinating story from the musty cupboard of old wives' tales into the bright light of science. With fluid prose, a storyteller's style, and a restless curiosity, she peels back the surface of a seemingly bizarre and idiosyncratic behavior to produce a marvelous study of social biology with global reach. This is a book that will entertain as it educates, and it will educate everyone who reads it. -- Peter Ellison, Harvard University and editor-in-chief, American Journal of Human Biology Sera L. Young combines a detective's intuition, a scholar's diligence, and her own joyful, indefatigable curiosity to unravel one of the oldest and oddest of human mysteries. I devoured this book like an amylophage on a laundry starch bender. -- Mary Roach, author of Stiff and Packing for Mars Craving Earth is compelling, encyclopedic, and distinctively quirky-an engaging account of eating, soil chemistry, history, religion, ethnography, nutrition, and the social media. It is a book to inspire students and capture the imagination of any reader of the mysteries of geophagia and the idiosyncracies of social life. -- Lenore Manderson, Monash University, Australia, and editor, Medical Anthropology This marvelous book takes the reader on a fascinating historical, literary, and scientific safari. Craving Earth is surely the most in-depth, revealing, and readable publication ever undertaken on geophagia and other aspects of pica. A must read for experts, while also a most enjoyable read for anyone else. -- Michael Latham, Cornell University, named Living Legend in Nutrition by the Congress of Nutrition The human focus of Young's book provides a welcome counterpoint to the strictly medical focus currently available. -- David L. Browman, Washington University in St. Louis A fascinating romp through the history of pica, an eye-opener for the geophagist, and an elegant piece of quantitative evolutionary analysis. Young has produced an engaging, fast-moving text anchored to rich appendices that document pica in history and literature, its prevalence across human populations and subpopulations, and its association with micronutrient deficiencies. -- Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, University of California, Davis Young writes like a dream. This masterful work draws upon data, insights, and perspectives from anthropology, history, public health, nutrition, and medicine to offer fascinating answers. A book you'll never forget! -- Carole Browner, University of California, Los Angeles, and author of Neurogenetic Diagnoses: The Power of Hope and the Limits of Today's Medicine Fascinating! With wit and keen scientific insight, Sera L. Young has written the landmark study of pica. It is sure to be a classic in anthropology and nutrition for a long time to come. -- Gretel H. Pelto, Cornell University Quirkily informative. -- Adam Kirsch Barnes & Noble Review Accessible and engaging. A valuable teaching tool... and a fascinating and well-told story. -- Deborah L. Crooks Journal of Human Biology A concise, critical summary of what we do and don't know about eating earth, grounded in an exhaustive search for relevant literature and [Young's] own fieldwork in Zanzibar. -- Jeremy MacClancy Times Higher Education Accessible. Sacramento News and Review The work serves a very important purpose. Cornell Daily Sun Highly recommended for reading by both interested academics and nonspecialists. -- Peter W. Abrahams Quarterly Review of Biology Brilliant and very readable. Gastronomica Completely original, well-written, wide-net book about the craving for and ingesting of non foods, known as pica. Food Museum Blog There's a lot to learn in Craving Earth. -- James Gorman New York Times

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