A teenager has developed permanent sight loss after living on a diet of chips and crisps.
After leaving primary school, a teenager based in Bristol decided to live off a diet of French fries, Pringles and white bread. Occasionally adding a slice of ham or sausage to his diet.
The adolescent, who cannot be named, was referred to a GP after complaining of feeling tired and unwell. He was diagnosed with a vitamin B12 deficiency and was advised to start taking supplements.
However, the teenager decided not to stick to the recommended treatment to improve his bland and lacking diet.
Over three years, the teenager noted a progressiveness in his loss of sight, as reported by Annals of Internal Medicine journal.
Dr Denise Atan, who has been treating the teenager, 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 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.”
After investigation, Dr Atan and colleagues decided they would need to recheck the young man’s vitamin levels. From these results, they discovered he was low in B12 as well as other important vitamin and minerals such as copper, selenium and vitamin D.
The boy was found to be severely malnourished from eating, despite not being over or underweight. Yet he was diagnosed with an eating disorder – avoidant restrictive food intake disorder.
“He had lost minerals from his bone, which was quite shocking for a boy of his age.”
The teenager has been referred to a dietician as well as being given more vitamin supplements. He has also been given specialist help by a mental health team.
In regards to his sight loss, he has met the criteria needed to be qualified as blind.
Dr Atan said: “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.”
If diagnosed early, the condition the young man has – nutritional optic neuropathy – can be treated. However, if this is left too long, the nerve fibres in the optic nerve die and any damage is permanent.
Thankfully cases like this are rare, but parents should be alert if they have any picky eaters, and make sure to seek expert help.
Dr Atan added further: “It’s best not to be anxious about picky eating, and instead calmly introduce one or two new foods with every meal.
“It’s much better to take on vitamins through a varied and balanced diet, so you don’t want to overdo it”.
Dr Atan advises that supplements not be taken as a substitute for healthy food, but rather to add to an already nutritious diet.
She also said vegans are most at risk of a B12 deficiency-related sight problem. Excluding meat from your diet means you need to replace those B12 vitamins in another source, such as nutritional yeast.
Consultant dietician and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, Rebecca McManamon said a restricted diet could be the result of many things, such as eating disorders, allergies and autism, and they may need specialist assessments.
“It’s also worth noting that since 2016 the UK government has recommended daily Vitamin D supplementation (10 microgrammes/400 International Units) for everyone between October and March as we are not likely to get enough from fortified foods.
“Multivitamin supplementation is recommended for all children up to their fifth birthday.”
If you found this interesting, have you heard of the man who hates the sound of chewing so much he’s not spoken to his family in four years?