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Wednesday
Apr132011

Pica Eating Disorder: Florida Mom Eats Sofa Cushions Like Candy

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BRADENTON, Fla.) -- Adele Edwards has an unusual eating disorder: she consumes couches like they were candy, going through seven sofas in the last 21 years.

The Bradenton, Florida mother-of-five has a condition called pica, which more often affects young children and pregnant mothers.  Her non-food item of choice is the foam inside the cushions.

"I unzip the cushions and snack on the foam inside," Edwards. 31, told Britain's Daily Mail newspaper.  "And once I start I just can't stop.  But now doctors have told me that if I carry on, my addiction will kill me."

Edwards said she chomps down a throw pillow each week -- reaching for the foam about 15 times a day.  She said her craving for foam becomes worse when she is stressed.  She added that she likes the flavor and texture and sometimes rubs it in dirt before eating the foam.

Pica is a pattern of eating non-food materials, such as dirt or paper, and is seen more frequently in young children, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  An estimated 10 to 32 percent of children aged 1 to 6 have these behaviors.  The name pica means "magpie" -- Latin for the bird who will eat anything.

In adulthood, these unusual cravings can be triggered by lack of certain nutrients, such as iron or zinc.

To fit the diagnosis of pica, the patient must have ingested non-food materials for at least a month.

Treatment for the eating disorder includes first addressing missing nutrients or exposure to toxins like lead.  Then, specialists address behavioral and family issues.  Mild aversion therapy followed by positive reinforcement for eating proper foods can also be successful.

Complications can include bezoar, a mass of indigestible material that is lodged in the stomach or digestive tract or an intestinal obstruction and sometimes lead poisoning or malnutrition.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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