Prevalence

Pica has been described in the literature as “underreported” and “unrecognized.”6 There have been few epidemiologic studies detailing the prevalence of pica.13 There is disagreement as to the precise definition of pica. For instance, the use of the terms nonnutritive and normal foodstuffs have limitations. Cornstarch provides calories and soils may provide micronutrients. The definition of “normal foodstuffs” has cultural implications.16 In addition, those who practice pica may be hesitant to divulge such a practice. All these factors combine to make precise statistics on the prevalence of pica very challenging.

Pica has been practiced by a wide variety of populations4,11,13,15 including:

  • Individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities
  • Pregnant women
  • Children
  • Individuals from developing countries
  • Women born outside the United States
  • African-American women
  • Individuals of lower socioeconomic status
  • Those with a family history of pica

It is estimated that pica affects:4

  • 10-30% of children 1-6 years old
  • 20% of dialysis patients
  • 20% of pregnant women