(TMU) — It should be obvious by now that when our parents told us not to leave the dinner table until we ate our fruits and vegetables, they definitely had our best interests at heart.
Indeed, if we had it our way, many of us may have subsisted on a diet consisting purely of nachos, pop-tarts, pizza, corn dogs, chocolate chip cookies and Butterfingers—with plenty of Capri-Sun and Mountain Dew to wash it all down. Wouldn’t that have been great?
Well, no—absolutely not. The risk factors would be absolutely staggering, as would be the toll taken on all aspects of our health.
Such was the sad outcome for a British teen from Bristol who became blind at the tender age of 17 due to his relentlessly vitamin-deficient diet consisting of french-fried potatoes, potato chips, and an occasional slice of processed lunch meat served between two slices of white bread.
The case was made public in the peer-reviewed physicians’ journal Annals of Internal Medicine, which delved into how the boy’s life was ruined by his eating habits that restricted his diet to non-nutritious junk food throughout his teens.
The unnamed boy, who has since been forced to drop out of college, slowly lost his eyesight beginning at the age of 14 due to a dangerous deficiency of crucial vitamins such as vitamin B12, copper, selenium, and vitamin D.
Dr. Denize Atan, the lead author of the study who also treated the boy during his hospital stay, told the BBC:
“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.”
He had lost minerals from his bone, which was really quite shocking for a boy of his age.”
When the boy began to complain of his “tiredness” at the age of 14, his family practitioner prescribed him injections to beat back his vitamin B12 deficiency. He was also told to change his diet or risk further health problems, to no avail.
By the time he was 15, hearing loss began to kick in—and then the vision problems started, according to the study.
Within two years, he eventually became blind.
Blindness caused by a junk food diet.
Note low B12 and macrocytic anemia indicating very low meat intake. pic.twitter.com/j6J4pzf2Fa
— P. D. Mangan 🇺🇸 (@Mangan150) September 4, 2019
Dr. Atan explained:
“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’s mother was forced to quit her job to look after him. She told told the Telegraph:
“His sight went downhill very fast—to the point where he is now legally blind.
He has no social life to speak of now. After leaving school he got into college to do a course in IT. But he had to give it up because he could not see or hear anything.
He would love a job—but he has not been able to find anything he can do. I had to quit my job in a pub. I now look after him full-time.”
The case study described the boy’s problem as nutritional optic neuropathy, a relatively rare problem in relation to dietary cases that is treatable if diagnosed early before the nerve fibers in the optic nerve die and result in permanent damage.
Atan notes that the boy’s case is an extreme rarity that shouldn’t cause alarm among parents. She explained:
“It’s best not to be anxious about picky eating, and instead calmly introduce one or two new foods with every meal.”
Tragically, while the boy has been described as a “fussy eater,” his severe malnourishment was mainly the result of avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), an eating disorder that poses a high danger to those diagnosed with the condition.
ARFID is a relatively new diagnosis, according to the study. The article said:
“Unlike anorexia nervosa, it is not driven by weight or shape concerns. Onset is in middle childhood, with lack of interest in food, heightened sensitivity to food textures, and fear of the consequences of eating.”
Atan told the Daily Mail:
“It’s the most serious case I’ve ever seen of blindness caused by junk food.
He was clearly getting enough calories, but not nutrients. When the problems started he seemed, on the outside, like a health 14-year-old boy.
His family actually bought him the chips because if he didn’t eat them then he wouldn’t eat anything. They tried hard to introduce veg and fruit to his diet.”
As psychologist Dr. Gillian Harris notes on the ARFID Awareness website:
“The difference between a ‘picky eater’ and a child with ARFID, is that a picky eater won’t starve themselves to death. A child with ARFID will.”