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Big jump seen in US hospitalizations for pica eating disorder

Photo: clay content in soil

U.S. hospitalizations for pica, an eating disorder that causes people to eat largely non-edible substances such as clay, dirt, chalk, and feces, jumped 93% between 1999 and 2009


Geophagy is on the rise in the US. This may not simply be an issue of mental illness, clays have been digested for their beneficial properties for millenia, but people need to ingest "clean earth" to be safe - Ed

From the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) media release:

Eating disorders as the primary reason for entering the hospital declined by 23 percent from 2007 and 2009, after a steep and steady increase from 1999 to 2007, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The severity of eating disorders also lessened, with symptoms like irregular heartbeat and menstrual disorders declining by 39 percent and 46 percent, respectively.

However, from 1999 to 2009, hospitalizations jumped 93 percent for patients with an eating disorder called pica, which causes them to eat largely non-edible substances such as clay, dirt, chalk and feces. Women and children, including those with autism and other mental or developmental disorders, are most likely to suffer from pica.

According to data from the federal agency, between 1999 and 2009:

  • The number of hospital stays for patients with pica increased from 964 to 1,862 during the decade, and there was an overall increase of nearly 25 percent in cases of eating disorders.
  • Patients who were found to have eating disorders diagnosed generally were hospitalized for other conditions such as depression, fluid and electrolyte disorders, schizophrenia, or alcohol-related disorders.
  • Hospitalizations increased 13 percent for anorexia and decreased 14 percent for bulimia.
  • Although 9 in 10 cases of eating disorders were among women, those in men increased by 53 percent.

This AHRQ News and Numbers summary is based on data from Statistical Brief #120: An Update on Hospitalizations for Eating Disorders, 1999 to 2009. The report uses data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample. For information about this AHRQ database, go to www.ahrq.gov/data/hcup/datahcup.htm.



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