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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: KNOWLEDGE OF SOIL-PLANT-HUMAN FOOD SYSTEMS TO ENHANCE IRON AND ZINC BIOAVAILABILITY IN PLANT FOODS

Location: Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research

Title: Soil consumed by chacma baboons is low in bioavailable iron and high in clay

Authors
item Pebsworth, Paula -
item Seim, Gretchen -
item Huffman, Michael -
item Glahn, Raymond
item Tako, Elad
item Young, Sera -

Submitted to: Journal of Chemical Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 25, 2013
Publication Date: March 4, 2013
Citation: Pebsworth, P.A., Seim, G., Huffman, M.A., Glahn, R.P., Tako, E.N., Young, S.L. 2013. Soil consumed by chacma baboons is low in bioavailable iron and high in clay. Journal of Chemical Ecology. http://www.springerlink.com/openurl.asp?genre=article&id=DOI: 10.1007/s10886-013-0258-3.

Interpretive Summary: Despite widespread consumption of earth among animals, its role in health maintenance remains an enigma. It was suggested that animals consume earth for supplementation of minerals and protection against toxins. Unfortunately, most studies have only determined the total elemental composition of earth, which does not reflect the actual amount of bioavailable absorbable minerals. The aim of this study was to evaluate the actual bioavailability of iron in geophagic earth consumed by chacma baboons using a technique that simulates alimentary digestion and adsorption. Our results indicate that despite variation in absolute iron concentration of geophagic earth, actual iron bioavailability is low. These results suggest that iron supplementation may not be the primary motivation for geophagy in this population. We encourage more research to determine the role earth geophagy plays in health maintenance.

Technical Abstract: Despite widespread consumption of earth among animals, its role in health maintenance remains an enigma. It has been hypothesized that animals consume earth for supplementation of minerals and protection against toxins. Unfortunately, most studies have only determined the total elemental composition of earth, which does not reflect the actual amount of bioavailable minerals. The aim of this study was to evaluate the actual bioavailability of iron in geophagic earth consumed by chacma baboons using a technique that simulates alimentary digestion and adsorption. Our results indicate that despite variation in absolute iron concentration of geophagic earth, actual iron bioavailability is low. These results suggest that iron supplementation may not be the primary motivation for geophagy in this population. We encourage more research to determine the role earth geophagy plays in health maintenance.

Last Modified: 7/30/2014
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