n Medical Technology SA - Haematological and iron status of Qwa Qwa women in South Africa who ingest clays : peer reviewed original article

Volume 25, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-5528


Geophagia is the deliberate habitual consumption of soil and clay. This habit is practiced worldwide and is also common in southern Africa. There are many reasons given for the practice of geophagia like cultural, medicinal, religious and mineral deficiency. Geophagia has been associated with anaemia and recently, specifically with iron deficiency anaemia. The reason for this association includes, among others that clay could actually lead to decreased bioavailability of iron for absorption in the body through kaolinite. The aim of was to investigate the link between iron deficiency anaemia and geophagia in QwaQwa women since this link has not been investigated in South Africa. In this pilot study, blood was drawn from five women who do not consume soil (control group), and twelve women who consumed soil (geophagic group). The participants were from the same vicinity (area) or household, with the expectation that they follow similar diets. Full blood count and iron studies were performed in order to determine the prevalence of iron deficiency anaemia. The results indicated that iron deficiency anaemia was not evident in the control group. In contrast half of the geophagic group had iron deficiency anaemia while the rest of the participants had a state of iron deficiency without anaemia. In conclusion, iron deficiency anaemia is associated with geophagia, and geophagia predisposes or contributes to the development of iron deficiency.

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