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Dangerous diet? How one teen's restrictive diet led to blindness

Dangerous diet? How one teen's restrictive diet led to blindness

A diet of Pringles, French fries, and white bread and sausage was enough to make one teenager lose his sight., according to the Annals of Internal Medicine by researchers from the University of Bristol, Bristol Medical School and Bristol Eye Hospital.

Registered dietitian Stephanie Espinoza says that the reportes showed that the young man had an eating disorder called "ARFID," or “avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder."

Individuals with this disorder lack interest in food and have sensitivity to food textures and fear of the consequences of eating, such as vomiting or choking.

It generally starts in mid-childhood. This young man’s eye problems started when he was about 14 and he reported limiting his food intake to French fries, Pringles, white bread, processed ham and sausage for about 7 years prior to that.

This type of nutritional deficiency is a rare occurrence.

His diet was extremely low in essential B vitamins, and minerals and low in quality protein sources and devoid of fruits and vegetables.

So is nutritional optic neuropathy reversible?

A very restrictive diet eliminating whole food groups will eventually result in nutritional deficiency. Espinoza says this type of deficiency caused damage to the nerves in his eyes causing blindness.

Nutritional deficiencies develop over time so the harm caused may be insidious in nature. Symptoms are often nondescript, such as fatigue and weakness.

Nutritional deficiencies, if caught early, CAN be reversible with dietary correction and supplementation. If left untreated, permanent irreversible damage can occur.

Nutritional optic neuropathy, the cause of blindness in this young man, is a result of folic acid (B9) and Vitamin B complex deficiencies.

Even though he has lost his sight he still faces the challenge of correcting his nutritional issues. Continued breakdown of bodily function will occur without nutritional therapy.

Espinoza says dietitians see nutritional deficiencies all the time, like iron deficiency anemia or macrocytic anemia, which is what this child suffered from as well.

Macrocyctic anemia is the deficiency of B12 and folic acid. It is easily corrected with supplementation and change in diet.

This man was of normal weight with vague symptoms of fatigue. However, his diet was essentially bereft of nutritional value, Espinoza tells us.

Could nutritional optic neuropathy become more common due to our junk food obsession?

Well, this case so worried the researchers they had it published in the Annals of Internal Medicine to highlight the impact diet can have on health, specifically vision.

Americans consume 60% of their calories from processed foods, many without nutritional value. Better nutritional screening in the healthcare systemwould alleviate problems like this. Quick intervention is key.

So should people supplement?

Supplementation is essential in bringing values back up to normal. However, this child had been supplemented for 3 years before losing his sight.

There was no mention of significant dietary change.

Whole foods provide essential nutrients in their most usable form. Foods contain many different compounds that act synergistically to maintain health. Dietary change in the case of deficiency is essential.

How does this case highlight the impact of diet on health?

It was found that this young man was deficient in B12, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, folic acid, copper, selenium, vitamin D, and a decrease in bone density denoting poor calcium intake. A diet that includes a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, lean meats/dairy and healthy fats provides the nutrition necessary for good health and the avoidance of nutritional deficiencies.


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