A medical paper recently described a tragic case of lost vision due to a deficient diet. In a clinical case report the Bristol University published the details of this case. A 14-year old boy decided to live primarily on Pringles (potato chips), white bread and French fries. He visited his doctor complaining of tiredness. The doctor did not feel that he looked malnourished and his body mass index was normal. But blood tests showed anemia and vitamin B12 deficiency. The doctor treated him with vitamin B12 injections and gave him dietary advice. One year later his doctor saw him again, and this time the teenager was complaining of hearing loss and visual disturbances. His doctor could not find the cause. By the time he was 17 his vision had deteriorated to the point where he was legally blind.
Blood tests and bone density
Tests at that time showed again vitamin B12 deficiency, but in addition low copper, high zinc and low selenium. Also, his vitamin D level as his bone density were lower. Researchers from the Bristol Medical School examined the case and found that he developed a dysfunction of the optic nerve due to nutritional optic neuropathy.
This condition rarely develops because of poor nutrition, but usually is due to bowel problems with malabsorption. At other times it is due to medication that interferes directly with the absorption of the vitamin B complex. The researchers said that this case of blindness was due to a poor diet consisting of junk food with an utter lack of minerals and vitamins. They also mentioned that people on a vegan diet must supplement with vitamin B12 injections to avoid damage to the optic nerves.
Comments by other researchers
Gary Frost, who was not part of the research group, is a professor of nutrition and dietetics at Imperial College London. He commented: ”Although it is an extreme example, it highlights the importance of having a wide and varied diet to ensure that you get the profile of nutrients and micronutrients that are necessary for healthy development.” He added: “Fussy eating is very common in young children and in extreme cases can lead to very limited food choices. There is a need to pick up on eating problems such as these as early as possible so the issue around limited textures and tastes can be addressed.”
Tom Sanders, a professor of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London was critical of the case study. He said: “Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause optic neuropathy, but it is very unusual to find dietary deficiency when animal products are consumed e.g. ham and sausages, which are significant sources of the vitamin B12.” But the young patient did not consume any of those either, which led to his dramatic onset of blindness.
A teenager who lived primarily on Pringles, white bread and French fries, turned blind at the age of 17. This demonstrates how important a balanced and diverse diet is to get enough of the trace minerals and vitamins. This prevents that blindness happens. A case like this is extremely rare in the developed world. But fuzzy eating patterns are very common in young children. Parents need to watch their children that they eat a variety of foods in order to prevent deficiency states. One of the best diets is a Mediterranean diet. It is anti-inflammatory and has a large variety of vitamins and minerals at the same time. It contains all the nutrients a person needs for normal growth.