People in many parts of the world indulge in the curious practice of eating dirt, also known as geophagy.

But why they do so has remained something of a mystery, until now.

eat dirt

On every continent with the exception of Antarctica, there are people who snack on chalk, loam or marl. But it’s only now that researchers are gradually beginning to understand what force brings them to do this. Whether people are eating loam from natural sources or buying "healing clay" at the drugstore and eating it, they are clearly following some ancient craving that has been shaped over the course of evolution.

Now a new study aims to show whether loam in the earth can be vital in protecting pregnant women from harm.

It is not only humans who indulge in a bit of dirt every now and then — parrots, cattle, rats, elephants and chimpanzees also partake.

via Arbroath