In the annals of bizarre medical cases, the story of a man who eats iron, plastic & glass stands as a truly extraordinary and perplexing one. This remarkable tale takes us into the world of pica, a rare and peculiar eating disorder characterized by the consumption of non-food items. But Hoelzel’s case is a standout, challenging the limits of what the human body can endure. Frederick Hoelzel’s saga began in the 1960s, in a small town in Michigan. Born with a condition known as pica, he exhibited an insatiable and dangerous appetite for non-food substances. While pica is not uncommon among children, Hoelzel’s case was exceptional.

He consumed everything from glass and steel wool to coins, rubber bands, and plastic. His unnerving dietary choices presented a real and immediate threat to his health.

The Enigma of Pica

Pica is a strange disorder where people eat things that aren’t food, like dirt or paper. Usually seen in kids or pregnant women, Frederick Hoelzel’s case was different. Even as an adult, he couldn’t stop eating non-food items.

Nobody could figure out why Hoelzel had this strange urge. Usually, pica happens because of emotional or nutritional issues, but Hoelzel’s reasons were a puzzle.

A Remarkable Endurance

What’s really surprising is how Hoelzel survived eating all these strange things. Doctors found nails and other objects in his stomach, yet he somehow stayed alive. He even had surgery to remove 87 nails from his stomach.

Despite his strange eating habits, Hoelzel faced constant health problems and had many surgeries.

Medical Marvel and Lifelong Struggles

Doctors tried hard to understand and treat Hoelzel’s condition, but they couldn’t completely stop his unusual eating habits.

For Hoelzel, life was a struggle against his own body. His story shows how complex the relationship between mental and physical health can be.

The Enigma of Pica

Frederick Hoelzel’s case remains a mystery to the medical world. While pica isn’t rare, Hoelzel’s extreme case challenges our understanding of it.

Why Hoelzel ate non-food items remains a puzzle. His story highlights the mysteries of the human body and mind.


Frederick Hoelzel’s story teaches us about the incredible resilience of the human body. It also shows the difficulties doctors face when dealing with rare conditions like pica. Despite his struggles, Hoelzel’s story reminds us of the mysteries still waiting to be solved in the world of health and behavior.

Next: Destroyer of the World


  • Parry-Jones, Brenda, and W. Ll Parry-Jones. “Pica: symptom or eating disorder? A historical assessment.” The British Journal of Psychiatry 160, no. 3 (1992): 341-354. [Paper]
  • Stein, Dan J., Colin Bouwer, and B. Van Heerden. “Pica and the obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders.” (1996). [Paper]

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We, researchers from the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge, are dedicated to sharing the latest updates, breakthroughs, and even the occasional blunders in Science & Technology. Stay tuned for some truly mind-blowing science experiments!

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