The etiology of pica, the purposive consumption of non-food substances, is not understood, despite its ubiquity among gravidae. We examined correlates of pica in a representative obstetric population (n = 2,368) on Pemba Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania to examine proposed etiologies. Cross-sectional data were collected on socioeconomic characteristics, food intake, geophagy (earth consumption), amylophagy (raw starch consumption), anthropometry, iron status, parasitic burden, and gastrointestinal morbidities. Amylophagy was reported by 36.3%, geophagy by 5.2%, and any pica by 40.1%. There was a strong additive relationship of geophagy and amylophagy with lower hemoglobin (Hb) concentration and iron deficiency anemia. By multivariate logistic regression, any pica was associated with Hb level (odds ratio [OR] = 0.76, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.72-0.81), nausea (OR = 1.45, 95% CI = 1.20-1.73), and abdominal pain (OR = 1.22, 95% CI = 1.01-1.48). These striking results indicate that the nature of the relationship between pica, pregnancy, gastrointestinal distress, and iron deficiency anemia merits further investigation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases