British Teen Goes Blind After Restrictive Diet of French Fries, Chips, and White Bread

September 3, 2019 Updated: September 3, 2019

A 17-year-old British boy who subsisted on a diet consisting mostly of french fries, chips, processed meat, and white bread has gone blind due to vitamin deficiency.

The fussy eater, who is from Bristol and is now 19, had hardly eaten any fruit or vegetables in about a decade, according to a doctor who treated the teen in hospital.

“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,” said Dr. Denize Atan, according to a report in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal.

“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.”

The boy, who ended up dropping out of college, lacked a number of vitamins including vitamin B12, copper, and vitamin D, which are crucial for maintaining good health.

Tests showed that in addition to severe vitamin deficiencies, he also suffered malnutrition damage.

“He had lost minerals from his bone, which was really quite shocking for a boy of his age,” Dr. Atan said.

He lost his sight over the course of three years due to a condition known as Nutritional Optic Neuropathy (NON). Eventually, his loss of vision was so severe he met the criteria for being registered blind.

“He had blind spots right in the middle of his vision,” said Dr. Atan, the BBC reported. “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.”

Identified only by his first name—Jake—he told The Sun: “I’ve become very isolated. When I was little I’d go out and play football with my friends. I’m too frightened to do that now.”

‘Downhill Very Fast’

Jake’s mother, identified by The Sun as Angie, said she first sent him to doctors at the age of 14 when he complained of fatigue. He was initially diagnosed with anemia and told to improve his diet—including eating plenty of vegetables.

Over time, the teen’s condition deteriorated.

“They initially said it was all in his head,” his mother said. “By the time they realized what was wrong it was too late to save his sight.”

“What’s unusual about this case is the extreme picky eating and the fact it had gone on for quite some time, that the diagnosis had been missed, and the visual loss had become permanent,” Dr. Atan told The Telegraph.

“The link between poor nutrition and vision has been known about for quite some time, at least among specialists in neuro-ophthalmology. The problem is that awareness among other health professionals isn’t quite so high.”

“The whole ordeal has been very traumatic,” the boy’s mother told The Sun. “I want to scream about what we have gone through—it’s all very hard.”

“I have two other children who don’t stop eating. They are fine.”

Angie, who said she quit her pub job to look after her son full-time, told The Telegraph, “His sight went downhill very fast—to the point where he is now legally blind.”

She added her son also lost his hearing, has “no social life to speak of now,” and dropped out of an IT course in college “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.”

Dr. Atan told the Daily Mail: “He has only eaten chips, Pringles, sausages and other processed foods since he was primary school age.

“It’s the most serious case I’ve ever seen of blindness caused by junk food.”

The authors of the Annals of Internal Medicine journal case study wrote: “Junk foods are nutritionally poor but energy-dense and cheap.

“Hence, high-energy diets correlate with high BMI, low socioeconomic status, and poor health.

“Fussy eating that is restricted to junk foods and causes multiple nutritional deficiencies is an eating disorder.”

Rebecca McManamon, consultant dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, told the BBC that children might end up on restricted diets for various reasons, including eating disorders, allergies, and autism.

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

She urged specialist assessment for people on a restrictive diet to ensure proper nutrition.

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