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The number of people hospitalized with pica, the disorder in which people eat non-edible substances including dirt and chalk, has nearly doubled within a decade, a new study finds.
Between 1999 and 2009, yearly hospitalizations in the United States for this disorder increased 93 percent, from 964 to 1,862, said the report from the government's Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Pica is most commonly found in children, pregnant women and people with autism and other developmental disabilities. In many cases, the disorder lasts several months and then disappears without treatment, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Little is known about what causes the disorder, and researchers said they can only speculate as to why pica hospitalizations have jumped. But it may be due, at least in part, to the recent rise in the number of diagnosed autism cases.
Thirty-one percent of childhood pica cases in 2009 were found in autistic children, said study researcher William Encinosa, senior economist with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Hospitalizations involving eating disorders in general have increased over the last decade, the study showed. There were about 29,500 such hospitalizations in 2008-09, up 24 percent from the years 1999-2000. Most of the patients found to have eating disorders entered the hospital for other reasons, including depression and alcohol-related disorders.
Girl, 3, addicted to eating everything munches through a whole LIGHTBULB (and is also partial to bricks)
A young girl is so addicted to eating harmful objects that she ate an entire lightbulb.