If anyone has doubts about the power and dangers of nutrition, they need only to read the story of a teenager in the UK, who developed permanent sight loss after living on a diet of junk food.
The adolescent, who cannot be named, went to see his doctor at the age of 14, because he had been feeling tired and unwell. At that time he was diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency and put on supplements, but he did not make efforts to stick with the treatment or improve his poor diet.
Three years later, he was taken to the Bristol Eye Hospital because of progressive sight loss, Annals of Internal Medicine journal reports. Eye doctors in Bristol, UK cared for the 17-year-old after his vision had deteriorated to the point of blindness.
Extreme picky eater
Since leaving primary school, the teen had been eating only French fries, Pringles, and white bread, as well as an occasional slice of ham or a sausage. Tests revealed he had severe vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition damage.
Dr Denize Atan, who treated him at the hospital, said, “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, and not really any fruit and vegetables.
“He explained this as an aversion to certain textures of food that he really could not tolerate, and so chips and crisps were really the only types of food that he wanted and felt that he could eat.”
Dr Atan and her colleagues at the hospital rechecked the young man’s vitamin levels and found he was low in B12 as well as some other important vitamins and minerals – copper, selenium and vitamin D.
The teenage was not over or underweight, but was severely malnourished.
“He had lost minerals from his bone, which was really quite shocking for a boy of his age.” He was put on vitamin supplements and referred to a dietitian and a specialist mental health team.
In terms of his sight loss, he met the criteria for being registered blind. He had blind spots right in the middle of his vision,” said Dr Atan. “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 peripheral vision.”
Nutritional optic neuropathy – the condition the young man has – is treatable if diagnosed early. Left too long, however, the nerve fibres in the optic nerve die and the damage becomes permanent.
Dr Atan said cases like this are thankfully uncommon, but that parents should be aware of the potential harm that can be caused by picky eating, and seek expert help.
The idea of going blind as a result of a poor diet is shocking, but I believe this is only one of many stories ever told.
You don’t often see poor nutrition written as a cause of death, but the truth is time and time again major studies have shown unhealthful eating is responsible for more deaths worldwide than any other risk factors, including smoking.
The dangers of not eating enough fresh fruit and vegetables are all too real.
The positive news is that your body makes new cells from the food you eat every day, your skin replaces itself every 28 days, your bones every 10 years, and so on… what you eat literally becomes you; so it’s never too late to change.
Need help eating more fresh fruit and veg? Check out our essential oil-free recipe guide: Raw Dinner Recipes: Made in 5 minutes or less.
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