Geophagy and its potential human health implications - A review of some cases from South Africa

Retshepile Evelyn Malepe, Carla Candeias, Hassina Mouri

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The complex human behaviour of eating earthy materials is known as geophagy. It is of worldwide concern because of its potential health implications associated with the practice. South Africa is one of the developing countries where geophagy is predominant with several motivations attributed to justify the practice. However, the aetiology and possible health risks of geophagy are poorly understood among the geophagic individuals. Some published articles of geophagy focuses on aspects of the source materials (.i.e., physicochemistry, mineralogy and geochemistry characteristics of the ingested earthy material) with reference to possible health impacts, whereas others focused on its prevalence and practices. Inadequate investigations are available for holistic interpretations focusing on the prevalence of geophagic practices, and characterising the source material with the related health risks when consumed. This review aims to fill the knowledge gap by detailing some findings on published works of geophagy and how human health can be affected by such practice conducted in five South African provinces (i.e., Limpopo, Kwazulu-Natal, Free State, Eastern Cape, and Gauteng) where it is prevalent. The present review also aims to minimise and promote health educative awareness about geophagy among consumers and general public, as well as the need for more holistic studies of the earthy material ingested (including all aspects of composition, biological, and physico-chemical properties as well as bioaccessibility and bioavailability of the consumed material) and its potential human health risks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104848
JournalJournal of African Earth Sciences
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Aetiology
  • Geophagy
  • Human health
  • Review
  • South Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'Geophagy and its potential human health implications - A review of some cases from South Africa'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this