Pagophagia: The Desire to Eat Ice or Iced Drinks

Pagophagia is the desire to eat ice or to consume ice-cold drinks. What does pagophagia consist of and what are its effects? In this space, we'll explain it in detail.
Pagophagia: The Desire to Eat Ice or Iced Drinks

Last update: 05 July, 2021

Pagophagia is the desire to eat ice or to consume ice-cold drinks. It may be caused by a neurological disorder or mental deficiency. However, there have been cases of people with no previous illness who develop this condition, simply for the pleasure of consuming cold products.

What are the consequences and why does it occur?

Below, we’ll see what effects the consumption of cold drinks produces and why pagophagia develops. In addition, we’ll clarify whether the consumption of cold drinks is healthy or not.

The effects of consuming cold drinks

There are no scientific articles that warn about the possible harmful effects of consuming cold drinks on health.

However, according to an article published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, the ingestion of this type of liquid produces changes in the body’s thermoregulation. However, the consequences of these alterations in the medium or long term are unknown.

On the other hand, some claim that consuming food at very low temperatures increases thermogenesis and caloric expenditure. But the truth is that this increase isn’t significant enough to recommend this type of practice in a weight loss diet.

ice cubes
Evidence hasn’t found any harmful effects from the consumption of cold beverages. However, some studies suggest that it produces changes in thermoregulation.

Origin of pagophagia

This obsession may be due to multiple causes. One of them could be the lack of iron in the organism, in other words, suffering from anemia. In fact, a study published in the World Journal of Surgery relates this health issue to the desire to consume iced drinks.

In addition, patients who have undergone bariatric surgery may be at greater risk of suffering from this type of disorder. Sometimes, in pregnant women, this condition may be relatively frequent. However, experts at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine maintain that an iron solution administered parenterally can solve this problem.

Pagophagia doesn’t pose a health risk

Beyond the problems that may be caused by the existence of anemia associated with this phenomenon, pagophagia itself isn’t dangerous in the medium or long term. Only in the case that the patient feels the desire to chew ice cubes, this condition can be dangerous.

This habit can cause a progressive weakening of the gums and an oral health problem. In addition, scientists associate frequent consumption of ice cubes with an increased risk of tooth decay or oral bacterial infections.

However, like any obsessive-compulsive disorder, patients must be treated. To do so, it’s advisable to identify the causes and propose a solution to the root of the problem. In cases of anemia, the remedy is as simple as increasing the intake of iron or vitamin B12.

However, the problem becomes more complicated if this situation is part of a psychological or psychiatric issue. Pagophagia can also occur in some autistic children or those with brain development problems. In this type of case, the treatment includes a multidisciplinary character where the presence of an educator plays an essential role.

The nutritionist, on the other hand, can provide a series of strategies so that the child slowly becomes accustomed to drinking beverages at room temperature or even hot. This way, we avoid rejecting cooked foods of great nutritional value, such as vegetable creams.

ice cream with ice cubes
This disorder is not considered a health hazard. However, eating ice cubes in excess can cause dental problems.

Pagophagia: What to remember

Pagophagia is a disease that causes an obsessive desire to consume ice or iced drinks. It’s usually linked to the presence in the body of an iron deficiency and, therefore, to the condition of anemia. It’s relatively common in pregnant women.

However, sometimes doctors associate it with some kind of problem in brain development. It may appear in autistic children, which further complicates its solution. In principle, it’s a habit that doesn’t involve health risks, unless the ice cubes are chewed very frequently.

People who keep this habit have an increased probability of suffering oral issues. An example would be cavities or other types of bacterial infections.

In any case, if you have an uncontrollable desire to consume ice or frozen drinks, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor. By doing so, you can find the causes of the problem and establish an appropriate solution.

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  • Barwood MJ., Goodali S., Bateman J., The effect of hot and cold drinks on thermoregulation, perception and performance: the role of the gut in thermoreception. Eur J Appl Physiol, 2018. 118 (12): 2643-2654.
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