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Physiol Behav. 2009 Apr 20;97(1):87-90. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2009.02.009. Epub 2009 Feb 11.

Pica as an adaptive response: Kaolin consumption helps rats recover from chemotherapy-induced illness.

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  • 1Monell Chemical Senses Center, 3500 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Clay consumption can occur during illness but there has been little work to understand why. To investigate whether consuming clay confers an advantage to the sick animal, we compared the recovery from illness of adult male rats with or without access to kaolin. Illness was induced by injection of 6 mg/kg, ip, cisplatin, a toxic chemotherapy agent, and recovery was assessed by changes in daily food intake, water intake, and body weight. Relative to saline-injected controls, cisplatin-injected rats reduced food and water intake and lost weight. However, those with access to kaolin ate more food and lost less body weight than did those without access to kaolin. Thus, clay consumption appeared beneficial in that it either protected the rats from illness or enhanced recovery and might prove useful as an adjunct therapy for other animals, including humans, experiencing visceral malaise.

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