Ice: nature's perfect snack?

Well ... not really. But among the strange things that people munch on compulsively -- like dirt, dust from venetian blinds, glass and air freshener blocks -- ice has to be one of the most innocuous. (Check out our piece on a condition they call pica.) Lots of people chew it, but not many people know why. (As Neatorama recently pointed out, there's a whole website devoted to answering this question.) The old-standby answer that I've always heard is that "it relieves sexual tension," which holds about as much water as that green M&M urban legend. However, there is considerably more evidence to support the idea that ice chewing (otherwise known as pagophagia) is a response to an iron deficiency, and indeed a quick scan of online ice-chewing forums reveals that some of the most obsessive chewers are anemic. (Why do some iron deficient people reach for ice to chew rather than, say, a length of re-bar to suck on? Seems there hasn't been a lot of research done on this.)

A few juicy excerpts from the ice chewing forums, after the jump.

"I almost feel guilty about my GALLON + of ice I crunch on a day. I take a gallon ziploc bag to work with me (filled) and run out by the time I drive home. My husband shudders at the noise of the ice maker!" - Bellie

"Like everyone I love my ice. My problem is my tongue and insides of my mouth are so cut up ... I can't eat anything that has spice. yet I keep chewing." - aireloom

"When I was pregnant I chewed ice like crazy! I also ended up with two broken teeth before it was all over." - Gina

"hey..i eat ice like crazy and...its like the onlything i eat..i have stopped craving food and when i do feel hungry i eat ice..." - Anon

A Very Brief History of Chamber Pots

Some of the oldest chamber pots found by archeologists have been discovered in ancient Greece, but portable toilets have come a long way since then. Whether referred to as "the Jordan" (possibly a reference to the river), "Oliver's Skull" (maybe a nod to Oliver Cromwell's perambulating cranium), or "the Looking Glass" (because doctors would examine urine for diagnosis), they were an essential fact of life in houses and on the road for centuries. In this video from the Wellcome Collection, Visitor Experience Assistant Rob Bidder discusses two 19th century chamber pots in the museum while offering a brief survey of the use of chamber pots in Britain (including why they were particularly useful in wartime).

A Tour of the New York Academy of Medicine's Rare Book Room

The Rare Book Room at the New York Academy of Medicine documents the evolution of our medical knowledge. Its books and artifacts are as bizarre as they are fascinating. Read more here.


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