Geophagia among female adolescents as a culturally driven practice
Geophagia, the deliberate ingestion of soil, is a culturally sanctioned practice common to the world’s more tribally oriented people. Widely reported among pregnant and lactating women, geophagia is also practised by female adolescents (FA). This article presents preliminary findings on the incidence and reasons of geophagia among FA in Molyko (Cameroon). From results of semi-structured questionnaires administered to 100 randomly selected FAs, all ingested earth (60% < thrice a week, 30% > thrice a week and 10% daily) with an average daily intake of 50g. White to greyish soils were the most sought after (72%). About 67.5% consumed unprocessed earth, 27.5% in combination with ground sugar and 5% fried. Ten percent of the respondents were encouraged by their mothers to ingest soil, 60% as a result of peer pressure and 30% out of personal desire. None consumed soil to supplement nutrients, 11% for cultural reasons, 65% craved for soil whereas 24% engaged in the habit for other reasons such as depression, or lack of appetite. Findings indicate that peer pressure as opposed to cultural heritage (mother to daughter) is the main contributory factor.
Keywords: Culture, soil ingestion, peer pressure, health risks.