A British teenager has suffered from permanent loss of vision and loss of hearing as a result of his poor diet. The teen, who was labeled a "picky eater" was said to have lived off a steady diet of french fries, chips and white bread for over a decade, leaving him with severe vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition damage. This kind of damage is said to be the first case seen in the UK.
The 17-year-old, who cannot be named, was initially seen by his family doctor when he was just 14 years old, the BBC reports. At that time the teen was feeling tired and generally unwell, and his doctors had determined that he was vitamin B12 deficient. He was prescribed a vitamin regimen and advised to improve his diet, but the teen failed to follow the doctor's advice.
Teenager 'blind' from living off crisps and chips https://t.co/o8lwPw4TD3— BBC Health News (@bbchealth) September 3, 2019
Three years later, after noticing progressive vision loss, the boy was diagnosed with a condition called nutritional optic neuropathy. Researchers from Bristol Eye Hospital publish reported on the case in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
"His diet was essentially a portion of chips from the local fish and chip shop every day," Dr. Denize Atan, who treated the patient, said. "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 noted in the report on the teen that his limited diet caused him to be not only deficient in vitamin B12 but also showed low levels of copper, a high zinc level, as well as a very low level of vitamin D and bone mineral density.
Although the teen was neither over or underweight, Dr. Atan said that his restrictive diet had caused permanent damage. "He had lost minerals from his bone, which was really quite shocking for a boy of his age," Dr. Atan noted. Due to his unhealthy diet, the teen is now legally 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 got peripheral vision."
While cases like this are extremely rare, Dr. Atan says parents should be aware that a junk food heavy diet can have long-lasting effects on children, and that while vitamin supplements are helpful, a balanced diet is the best way for children to fulfill all their nutritional needs.
"It's much better to take on vitamins through a varied and balanced diet," she said. “Our vision has such an impact on quality of life, education, employment, social interactions, and mental health. This case highlights the impact of diet on visual and physical health, and the fact that calorie intake and BMI are not reliable indicators of nutritional status.”