Q. What are the health implications of consuming large quantities of cornstarch?

A. A person who craves cornstarch might have pica. This condition is frequently triggered by iron or zinc deficiency. We have heard from readers hooked on carrots, radishes, ice chips and popcorn. The cravings may disappear once the deficiency is corrected.

Join Over 75,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. Momma Clabbergirl

    I am 45 years old and I have been eating corn for over 2 years now. I first tried it when I was a little girl. I had noticed my babysitter and her sisters eating something out of a red and white box(Argo cornstarch). So one day I asked them what they were eating and then I tried some. It was good and crunchy. I never had it again until I was an adult. But they didn’t make it crunchy anymore so I stopped again. One day as I was thickening something I got a real strong urge to eat a spoonful and it was on ever since. I still wanted the crunch so I added Snyder’s pretzels. I decreased the amount I eat from a box every three days to a small Clabber Girl can weekly. I have noticed my bowel movements have changed, I have really stinky farts(so my family says),my breath stinks, and I have dry mouth with deep fissures in my tongue. My dentist noticed my gums were bleeding and I had more build-up on my teeth and erosion. She knew I had dry mouth without asking. I used to hide eating cornstarch but my family started asking me what was the white on my lips so I told them because I didn’t wan them thinking I was using drugs. I want to stop but I don’t know how. I definitely don’t want my girls to start. I heard one of the causes was sexual frustration and I have been going through a very stressful marriage with a lack of intimacy.

  2. Kayla

    I love corn starch I get my craving from my mom who doesn’t eat it anymore but I once heard it makes you have blood clots in your cycle and I believe that’s very true

  3. Annie

    I have been craving/eating cornstarch for a few years now. I have had problems with anemia but I crave cornstarch whether I’m anemic or not-it probably just gets worse when I am anemic. I just want to add that I am married to a physician and he knows I eat cornstarch. I used to hide it by trying and getting my daily fix in before he got home, but this got hard to do as I like to eat it while watching t.v. at night so I finally fessed up.

    His first concern wasn’t that I was eating the cornstarch per se, but he was worried that I might be breathing it into my lungs and concerned about the damage there. I explained my method of eating it and that I don’t swallow it as a powder but it’s all moist when I do finally swallow it. He doesn’t see anything dangerous about the cornstarch itself as it is a food and no different from eating lots of foods made with flour. There are actually people who drink cornstarch because of metabolic diseases and the like so he doesn’t find eating cornstarch dangerous at all-again, he was worried about me breathing it in. He thinks that like all things, it should be done in moderation but doesn’t find it any more dangerous than the million-and-one bad health habits most people have. He kinda thinks I’m crazy, but he pooh-poohs the facts that the cornstarch itself is dangerous as long as it’s cooking cornstarch and not laundry starch which he definitely says is bad for you.

  4. Kayla

    I’m just so glad that I’m not the only one! I’m 17 and hispanic, and I love cornstarch!
    it’s gotten so bad that I’ll ask my mom to buy me some and she’ll ration some to me everyday and I ask my sister to take me to walmart so I can buy my own starch and she will keep it for me and ration some to me and FINALLY I sometimes ask my friends to buy some for me so I can have MY OWN starch to eat. I’ve been trying to stop for so long but I just can’t do it it’s sooo good

    • Bobbie
      lockport il

      I am 17 years old and I use to eat cornstarch when I was younger but I stopped eating it because my mom stopped. A few months ago I started eating it again and its gotten worse, to the point where I can taste the cornstarch without even having any. When I buy my own cornstarch I have to hide it so my mom won’t take it away form me. When every I eat to much my body starts to hurt really bad and I can’t even move sometimes.

  5. Hollandia
    Gastonia .N.C

    Starch is the root of all evil. It makes you feel bad. Along with headaches stomach cramps real bad and make you fatigue along with constipation. Today will be my last day consuming something in my bodies that only do is tear you down. Prayers goes out to us all…..

  6. laquincia
    United States

    Cornstarch I quit!

  7. ~Mel
    North Carolina

    I am TOTALLY hooked on Argo Laundry starch. I chew & spit out with some I am sure goes down… My Mom ate it out of the blue and I begin to crave it after my gastric bypass. One box lasted me once a day back in 2003.. I’ve graduated to 1 to 1/2 boxes per day.
    The starch is starting to have havoc on my teeth… Its sooooo addictive, I love it…It’s my only weird addiction.
    How is it made and what is in it to make us crave???????

    • The People's Pharmacy

      Do check with your doctor to find out if you are anemic or have a zinc deficiency. If you are low in iron or zinc, correcting that problem can often eliminate the craving.

  8. drob
    san diego, Ca.

    I have had problems with anemia for years. There is definitely a correlation between the craving for ice and starch with anemia. Why? How does the body know what to crave? I am glad many people share their thoughts, otherwise, you think you are going crazy.
    I can eat ice all day, especially, Sonic ice. My iron levels are 8. When I take the supplements, I no longer crave starch or ovr.

    Crunchy foods are known to relieve stress. Maybe ice soothing on the mouth and it’s crunchy. Others say it is sexual frustration. Not sure about that. Maybe someone should do a study:)

  9. Shonna
    Urbana, IL

    I too eat it. I started craving it when I cut red meat, pork, and bread out my diet. Since I can go through a box in two weeks. I don’t have to have it everyday but the cravings comes and goes. I would like to know more about this. I understand what pica is, but I don’t eat other items. I just crave Corn starch.

  10. robin

    Hello, I started eating this when I was a little girl after seeing my mom eat it. Back then about 35 years ago, it used to be Argo, in a blue and white box, but it was crunchy, like little pebbles. I had not eaten it since, until I was in a Military school in 2000, and out of nowhere, the craving came back instantly! Since I was working out daily, I never gained any weight. When I graduated, I never touched it again until about 10 years later, out of nowhere the craving resurfaced. This time, I did notice weight gain, but I was only consuming about three teaspoons, every other day, trying to stay within the 35 calorie per tablespoon “rule” on the container. Now I find myself “compensating” and while continuing to eat it daily, I now just crave the “chew” in my mouth and immediately spit it all out each time. Thus, no more weight gain from swallowing it, and yet still satisfy the craving of chewing it. I just don’t understand why I cannot just stop buying it altogether.

  11. Mariana

    I have started craving for cigarette and corn starch about 2 months ago I know it’s not good for me but I like it, nobody in my family knows that I am smoking, but they know I eat corn starch, but I want to kick this habit before it gets bad. please help.

  12. TDH

    I was eating Walmart brand baby cornstarch with aloe and vitamin E. It is so bad I hate going to Walmart because I want it so badly and trying to quit. Also, it seems to be some stigma with it being from health/beauty versus the cooking aisle to my husband so I switch to Glabber girl corn starch. I HATE THIS HABIT!!!!!!
    I feel so stupid because I am hiding while I do this. I take a multivitamin, and vitamin D. Purchased some iron tablets and will start taking them AGAIN soon (need to clear up my constipation which caused hemorrhoids. I used to take potassium pills when I was dancing and working out regularly but stopped.
    I knew low zinc levels could be a problem but unaware of B12. I will give those a try after completing the vitamin D. My goal is to try each vitamin separately to determine the one that kicks this habit. As well, I have had some very serious changes in my life and know stress is the biggest cause and problem.
    Also, I am going to go back to my juicing and working out to relieve the constipation.
    Thanks everyone I studied pica, other vitamin deficiencies and anemia but NEVER thought I would fall victim. I so hate doing this to my son and especially myself……

  13. rlr

    Hello if you eat stale flour you might be eating weevil which are little bugs that love flour. I use to eat it but I stopped once I saw them. Then I began to eat cornstarch.

  14. Marie Michaelle

    I wonder what is in it that makes it so addictive. Does anyone know? Eating cornstarch is one of the most pleasurable things. Yum.

  15. Twila

    Thanks Lady for your comment. It’s the truth. Altho some of it is mental. So you must control that. I east it and try to throw out most of the box by measuring and counting the spoonfuls. Then as the box goes gradually down I’ll empty it out. I’m glad I’m better. I refuse to drive long distances and get it now. GAS IS TOO HIGH…… I did stop for 14 months and resumed. It makes you gain. So you must exercise. I suggest weights. We all much just take control and stop. Since it’s so many AA’S Hooked. I wonder if it’s a controversy and as natural as they say it is? I called Argo and asked it anything else in in it. I’ve thought of sending it out to a lab. There is something to say for something so ADDICTIVE.

  16. C.L.W.

    My Mom has been eating starch since I was little. I started around the age 10 about a box a day I would only eat the blue box I’m 19 now and I honestly haven’t gained any weight I think it’s the reason I’m staying small. I weight 103-107 pounds since I’ve been eating starch also very low iron.

  17. Anet

    Hi I’m 49 yrs old and I eat raw flour out the bag and it has to be all purpose flour from the Dollar store. I use to eat only a little bit for years and it really didn’t bother me, but in 2007 i had gastric bypass and it has gotten worst I will eat a 5lb bag of flour in week. My mouth waters for the taste of the flour, I always say I’m gonna stop and it keeps getting worse. I have gained 30lbs since I lost 160lbs in 6yrs. I need to STOP right now.

  18. kim s.

    I love argo corn starch but can’t stop.

    • Candy
      Dallas, Tx

      My cravings started 5 years ago as well, right after gastric bypass surgery.

  19. Deidra

    Can’t believe how many other people are hooked on cornstarch! Lol
    My aunt used to eat it & I started sneaking as young as the age of 8. The craving did not grow so strong until I got pregnant two years ago. When I was watching tv and eating starch through a straw is when I knew there was a problem. I’ve been able to quit for weeks at a time but when ever I get too stressed I find myself buying a box all over again. It calms me like a cigarette smoker calms after a smoke break.

  20. Lisa W.

    I tried eating cornstarch when I was pregnant in the 90’s. I have been eating for years. Each one of my kids come out with cornstarch on then. I loved it eating a box a day with a straw. Eating cornstarch caused me to have anemia. I had to have several transfusion because I preferred to eat cornstarch instead of food. It made me tired. And I lost weight. Sure it tastes good but it is not healthy. So please. Please see your doctor and get help cause cornstarch can kill you.
    Peoples Pharmacy response: Eating cornstarch may be a symptom of anemia as well as a cause. This sounds like a vicious cycle. You may need help to escape. Correcting the anemia may alleviate the craving for cornstarch.

  21. mama cornstarch

    Hi, I’m glad to know you haven’t had any reactions to eating cornstarch I have read a lot of stories on the internet too and I used to be addicted to cornstarch for about 7 years I would eat it everyday my mouth would water as soon as I enter my kitchen.
    I am anemic and once my doctor started me on iron pills the cravings went away the taste became horrible it’s been about 8 months since I stopped eating it but I will admit every now and then I get a taste for it and I have given in a couple of times but the taste is just not the same. If you can visit yahoo cornstarch group discussion it’s about 15,000 response and stories from different people just like you and I talking about their addiction to cornstarch and different things they have gone through from eating cornstarch from gaining weight and other health conditions they have gained from eating cornstarch. Good luck on your surgery oh there is a story of a lady who went through gastric bypass too and what happen to her after having surgery and went back to eating cornstarch.

  22. marki

    I have been consuming cornstarch off and on or about 2-3 years an my husband is not comfortable with it he has asked me to check to the ramifications and harm that can come from consuming cornstarch. I have yet to get an honest answer about what consuming cornstarch does to your body. All the things I have read from different websites say the same things and they are just peoples opinions and I have one just like every one else, I have had no reactions so I just feel it is a matter of choice, and if you are uncomfortable then DEFINITELY check with your doctor.
    I just lost 9lbs, and as I said I eat cornstarch, it depends on the person. I plan to have the gastric bypass now I may not be able to consume cornstarch after the surgery you bet your bottom dollar I plan to ask and if I can’t I will definitely will quit but if my doctor says it will not cause any harm to me I will continue eating it as I always have. My wish I good luck to all, and God Bless. Will keep you posted on my upcoming surgery.

    • Ms Freeman

      My daughter is on that cornstarchrnstarch bad, she has been on it for over10yrs. She gets sick like a real junkie. She called the
      Addiction line and they laughed at her when she told them her addiction to corñstarçh. It is no laughing matter my daughter is sick behind cornstarch. Is there a hotline number to help and refer people with this cornstarch addiction problem that is really hurting her.


  23. YVETTE

    yes I do eat the great value one also, I was eating the clabber girl one, but I don’t like the way that one taste. I was eating the family dollar baby powder also. I just start taking my meds. again because I don’t want to end up in the hospital with congestive heart failure from eating this stuff, I’m kind of scared that something will happen.

  24. YVETTE

    omg!!! I thought I was the only one with this craving! I have been eating cornstarch for about 2 months now and I do notice I have gained weight, so now what I do is take the back of the spoon and slide the residue of cornstarch to the back of my tongue, but I won’t swallow it I will spit it out, and rinse my mouth out with water. Now when you do spit the cornstarch out, turns clumpy; so just imagine what it is doing to our system! Yes I am anemic, my blood count runs low because I don’t take my medicine like I should. I am prescribed ferrous sulfate 300mg (iron pills), but the medicine constipates me so bad! but I really should start taking the medicine because I want to quit eating the cornstarch, because it is not healthy for you.

  25. cd

    dI used to eat starch when I saw my mother it it. This was in the 1940’s, when nearly everyone was eating starch. I found it activates the salivary glands and causes a slight “pull on the muscles in the back of my mouth”. I think this was the addiction. I stopped when the stores in my neighborhood stopped selling starch and everyone started using spray starch (in the 60’s). The taste wasn’t bad… I thought the stores stopped selling the starch – I haven’t heard of it since.

  26. PS

    I tried the argo laundry starch when I was a little kid, about one time. I am now 48 years old and started this craving 2 years ago. I don’t know where the craving came from. Its like when I am under stress, I crave Argo Cornstarch and I love the texture. Its been 2 years now and I don’t want to stop. Its worst than a craving for cigarettes. I have not gained weight, I’ve actually lost weight. I don’t know if I want to stop. Is this unhealthy? I am glad I am not alone in this craving.

  27. Ashia

    Hey my name is Ashia too lol. I thought I was alone and to see so many ppl have the same problems is crazy but I’ve been eating starch since I was 8 yrs. old and when u got pregnant I didn’t crave it as much and my family ate it all my life but they said I’m going overboard and its unhealthy. I’m 28 slowed down since I had my first child at 23 I use to eat almost 2 boxes a day now I barely eat it thx god but it took forever but I made it n still luv starch just don’t consume too much thx to my first born

  28. Marie M.

    I been eating cornstarch off and on (more on) for over 30 years. My mom used to eat when I was younger. I am addicted. Whenever I quit I will go to the store find the box in the aisle and squeeze it. I love the sound of the crunch and how it feels between my teeth. Sometimes i bake it then let it dry and eat it that way. I want to stop but I guess it better then being addicted to crack?

  29. TT

    I think I may have pica. I eat cornstarch but not from the box, I eat Johnson and Johnson pure cornstarch baby power. Lately I’ve been craving baby powder but only pure cornstarch. My periods have been really irregular; sometimes lasting 3-6 months non stop heavy, or nothing for 3-6 months. My hair is getting brittle and breaking off like crazy. For some reason lately I have an obsession with the smell of cleaning products and washing my hands 7-10 times a day using an excessive amount of hand soap. I’m a homeless college student with no health insurance, but I really would like to know if any of this is normal.

    • portia l
      Gulfport, MS

      I have been eating cornstarch, on and off for many years. At one point my hair was brittle and breaking off, my teeth would hurt, my vision would be blurred. This stuff is bad for you, but it is so hard to stop eating it.. Let’s all be in prayer


What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.