Stories tagged geophagy

Jun
04
2008

Hungry for dirt: Just a quick snack, and then they'll return to your nightmares.
Hungry for dirt: Just a quick snack, and then they'll return to your nightmares.Courtesy JLplusAL
Seriously, dudes, everybody’s doing it. Just get a mouthful of the brown stuff (dirt) and you won’t regret it. You’ll be hooked. Geophagy is all the ragey.

What am I talking about? Good question—“ragey” isn’t even a word, so it might take some time to get to the bottom of this.

“Geophagy,” fortunately, is a real word, even if my spellchecker doesn’t think so. It means, um, the practice of eating dirt, or dirt-like substances (Merriam-Webster, here I come).

And you know what else? Geophagy is more popular than soccer! Assuming you include animals in your polls. So get on this train while it’s still cool—the longer you wait, the more of a Johnny come lately you’ll be. Fruit bats, of all creatures, are already into geophagy.

Some animals are into geophagy for the minerals—treating the dirt like a big, gritty vitamin. Fruit bats, it turns out, already get plenty of minerals from all the stuff they eat. You know—fruit. So why are they eating dirt (besides peer pressure)?

They’re detoxifying. Wild, huh? A lot of the fruit fruit bats eat is slightly poisonous. If you’re little, like a bat, and eat a lot of fruit, like a fruit bat, you might start to get some toxic buildup. Bats observed greophaging (or whatever) are often pregnant, or already nursing their young, both situations where the mother would want to have as few toxins in her system as possible.

Remarkably, some Indian groups in the Amazon region do the same thing—members of certain tribes are known to eat dirt when pregnant or nursing. There’s a risk of consuming parasites through this, but apparently the benefits are worth it, if you’re consuming plenty of poison.

Minerals in the dirt bind up toxins in the body, although scientists aren’t sure of the exact mechanism. The hope is that the science behind it could lead to novel therapies.

Oh, also, here are a bunch of other crazy things people have eaten. Enjoy.