Understanding Geophagic practice as a source of mineral nutrients and toxicants
Nawiri, M. P.
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Geophagy, a type of pica where particularly soil and clay deposits are consumed is hypothesized to be motivated by among other factors that of nutritional benefit. The practice cuts across socio-economic, ethnic, religious and racial divides worldwide. In Africa, Kenya has the highest prevalence rate of geophagy at 65%. In Kiambu County, Kenya, geophagic individuals have numerous sources of geophagic materials. While the variations in the levels of essential and toxic minerals ingested is largely unknown, the materials contain minerals which may have both positive and negative effects to human health as would be referenced to the recommended daily allowances (RDA) and WHO/EFSA limits. Levels of Ca, Mg, Fe, Mn, Al, Si, Zn and Pb in geophagic materials from quarry mines, supermarkets and open-air markets in Kiambu County, Kenya were analysed using flame AAS. Where detected, Ca, Mg, Fe, Si, Mn and Al ranged from 0.60+0.00-3.91+0.00, 0.02+0.00–0.16+0.02, 0.06+0.01- 0.69+0.02, 39.45+0.14-62.53+0.34, 0.01+0.00-0.03+0.00, and 12.20+0.00-31.58+0.19 while Zn and Pb ranged from 10.89+0.89-161.67+0.19 and 1.09+0.03-79.67+0.04 ppm respectively. Significant differences (p<0.05) observed are explained to be due to their sources. Levels however do not point to the geophagic materials being good nutritional boosters for minerals as hypothesized. The geophagic practice should infact be discouraged as cumulative intake of the minerals and especially the toxic ones have detrimental effects on human health.