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August 1977

Starch Eater's Anemia

Author Affiliations

Department of Pediatrics Meharry Medical College Nashville, TN 37208

Am J Dis Child. 1977;131(8):926-927. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1977.02120210104025

Ferguson and Keaton1 reported that 39% of 361 pregnant women in rural Mississippi ate a varying amount of laundry starch. Merkatz2 described parotid enlargements in a 36-year-old black housewife from the ingestion of a full box of starch daily over the period of a year. Gastric obstruction and subsequent partial obstruction of a small bowel was described as due to the excessive ingestion of laundry starch.3 Severe hypochromic anemia has been observed in black women whose diets have consisted chiefly of corn starch as used for laundering clothes,4 and there is one report of anemia in a 16-month-old black boy.5

Starch-eating appears to be confined almost to black women (particularly during pregnancy). This particular dietary aberration is more common among blacks of the South.

Report of a Case.—A 13-year-old black girl was brought to the Matthew Walker Health Center (of Meharry Medical College) because