Not So Bad for Dirt-Eaters to Dig In: Study

Research finds unusual diet may rid body of toxins
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 30, 2007 9:23 AM CST
A Zambian farmers holds some of his maize from failed crops in Pemba, Zambia. New research suggests that loam in the soil provides precious nutrients during times of famine and may thwart poisonous substances...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – New research is giving new meaning to the term Mother Earth: Scientists say loam in the soil may provide vital protection against poisonous agents in the body. People around the world, especially pregnant women, have eaten dirt for hundreds of years. Now researchers have found that earth not only provides sustenance during famine but may cleanse tissue, Der Spiegel reports.

"Dirt may help to remove poisonous substances from the body," said an anthropologist studying pregnant women on the east African island of Pemba, who consume 25 grams of earth daily. “It’s like an addiction,” said the anthropologist. "But the dirt cannot be dirty," she quips, so the loam-lovers pick their treats from particular areas outside of their village. Researchers are currently testing samples from around the world to check their ability to reduce toxins.