UK boy goes blind after eating only fries, chips, and white bread for years

PHOTO: The Straits Times file

Experts are warning about the negative effects of junk food on health after a boy became legally blind after living on a diet of only French fries, Pringles and white bread (and the occasional slice of ham or sausage) for years.

The case study was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine on 3 September 2019.

EXPERTS WARN ABOUT EFFECTS OF JUNK FOOD ON HEALTH AFTER BOY GOES BLIND DUE TO DIET

Apparently, this boy (from the United Kingdom), now 17, had been eating only French fries, Pringles and white bread, and an occasional slice of ham or a sausage, ever since leaving primary school.

When he was 14, he had consulted his doctor for tiredness. Tests had detected macrocytic anaemia and a low vitamin B12 level. He was then treated with vitamin B12 injections and given dietary advice.

But he apparently did nothing to improve on his diet.

Three years later, he was taken to the Bristol Eye Hospital because of loss in vision - his vision had deteriorated to the point of blindness.

DEFICIENT IN VARIOUS VITAMINS

The teenager explained that the reason for his poor dietary choices was because he was an extremely picky or fussy eater, and could not tolerate certain kinds of foods. He did not like the "texture" of fruit and vegetables.

Apparently, chips and crisps were the only food he craved for, and felt that he could eat.

Dr Denize Atan, who treated him at the hospital, has been quoted as saying "His diet was essentially a portion of chips from the local fish and chip shop every day. He also used to snack on crisps - Pringles - and sometimes slices of white bread and occasional slices of ham…"

His diet had been devoid of any fruits and vegetables.

According to Dr Atan, the boy was suffering from a rare eating illness known as avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder or AFRID, where you become sensitive to the taste, texture, smell or appearance of certain types of food.

Dr Atan and her colleagues did various tests, and found that the boy was deficient in various vitamins. Not just vitamin B12, but also other important vitamins and minerals like copper, selenium and vitamin D.

"He had lost minerals from his bone, which was really quite shocking for a boy of his age," said Dr Atan.

SEVERELY MALNOURISHED AND ALMOST BLIND

Though he wasn't underweight or overweight, this boy was severely malnourished. He had also developed hearing loss and bone weakness. And most worryingly, he was almost blind.

According to Dr Atan, "He had blind spots right in the middle of his vision. That means he can't drive and would find it really difficult to read, watch TV or discern faces."

"He can walk around on his own though because he has got peripheral vision."

The boy had lost his vision due to a condition called nutritional optic neuropathy, which is visual impairment due to optic nerve damage that occurs due to nutritional deficiency.

Nutritional optic neuropathy is treatable with improved nutrition, if diagnosed early. If left untreated for too long, however, the nerve fibres in the optic nerve die and the damage becomes permanent.

Treatment usually involves providing a well-balanced diet with plenty of protein and green leafy vegetables, vitamin supplementation (thiamine, vitamin B12, folic acid, multivitamins), and reduction of smoking and/or drinking.

In the case of vegans who are at increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency-related sight problems, Dr Atan recommends to add nutritional yeast to your diet.

While we know that junk food is linked to poor cardiovascular health, obesity, and cancer, this incident tells us that poor nutrition can also permanently damage the nervous system, particularly vision.

This article was first published in theAsianparent.

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