Teen goes blind after diet of Pringles, white bread and French fries

Henrietta Brewer
September 4, 2019

Sky News reported that that teenager had "lived off a diet of chips, crisps, white bread, and processed meat".

Doctors investigated and found the boy suffered several bone, vitamin and mineral deficiencies. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent vision loss. "The teen in this case study sounds like he was eating only junk food, without other meals to supplement needed nutrients". She is a consultant senior lecturer with Bristol Medical School at the University of Bristol.

Doctors have warned about the dangers of junk food diets after a teenager who subsisted on Pringles, fries, white bread and the occasional sausage lost his sight.

"Most of his diet was fat and carbohydrate, which contain a lot of calories", Atan said.

And that's a problem, she said, because "there are multiple vitamins and minerals that are important for eye health". The boy's earlier treatment for his B12 deficiency, coupled with some tests that showed his levels were low to normal, had likely delayed the right diagnosis. They tried hard to introduce vegetables and fruit to his diet. His vision problems got progressively worse. By the time he returned to doctors aged 17 the damage to his optic nerve was too severe to recover from. "An individual with no bowel concerns or drug consumption would need to be extremely underfed and malnourished to experience these same optic neuropathy effects", says Brittany Michels, R.D., a consulting dietitian with The Vitamin Shoppe.

OK. So by now, this kid is an adult. "Heavy reliance on pre-prepared foods and fast foods is very common".

"When I asked for help, they didn't listen to me", he says.

As the doctors behind the article published on Tuesday note, "the risks for poor cardiovascular health, obesity, and cancer associated with junk food" are well known and often discussed, but when a diet heavy in such foods becomes one based entirely on them, the risks mount.

So what explains it?

Over time, the teen's condition deteriorated. But Atan stressed that even after losing vision, the boy's diet has remained "quite entrenched".

"It's also worth noting that since 2016 the United Kingdom government has recommended daily vitamin D supplementation (10 micrograms/400 worldwide units) for everyone between October and March as we are not likely to get enough from fortified foods", McManamon said.

So what's a concerned parent to do?

But one recent case out of the United Kingdom serves as an important reminder for parents to vary their children's diets. "If you're on a restrictive diet and unsure if you're meeting nutritional needs, consult a dietitian".

ARFID, which was previously referred to as "Selective Eating Disorder, is similar to anorexia in that both disorders involve limitations in the amount and/or types of food consumed, but unlike anorexia, ARFID does not involve any distress about body shape or size, or fears of fatness".

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