Diet Causes Child’s Blindness

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An extreme case of picky eating caused a 17-year-old’s blindness, according to a case study from the University of Bristol.

The patient, who had first visited his general practitioner complaining of tiredness, had a normal BMI and height and no visible signs of malnutrition. Initial tests showed macrocytic anemia and low vitamin B12 levels. A year later, the patient visited the GP again, with hearing loss and vision symptoms, but no cause was found. By age 17, vision had worsened to the point of blindness, and further investigation found that the patient had vitamin B12 deficiency, low copper and selenium levels, a high zinc level, and a markedly reduced vitamin D level and bone mineral density.

Since starting secondary school, the patient had consumed a diet of chips, crisps, white bread, and some processed pork.

The researchers concluded that the patient’s diet resulted in the onset of nutritional optic neuropathy, a condition they suspect could become more prevalent in the future, given the widespread consumption of ‘junk food’ at the expense of more nutritious options. They also noted that veganism could result in health issues, too, if vegans don’t supplement with vitamin B12 appropriately.

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Researchers noted that purely dietary nutritional optic neuropathy is uncommon in developed countries–it’s more likely to be caused by bowel issues or drugs that prevent the absorption of nutrients. That said, countries struggling with war, poverty, or famine have higher rates of this condition.

Dr. Denize Atan, the study’s lead author and consultant senior lecturer in ophthalmology at Bristol Medical School and Clinical Lead for Neuro-ophthalmology at Bristol Eye Hospital, 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.”

The team notes that some associated visual loss can fully recover if nutritional deficiencies are treated early enough.

Picky eating can be handled: As per WholeFoods’ August article Nutritious + Delicious = Happy, Healthy Kids!, Julie Ruelle, RD, nutrition programs manager at Happy Family Organics, notes: “It’s important to set up healthy eating habits early in life—to cultivate healthy taste development and ultimately raise a healthy eater.” For more advice on helping customers access good food their kids will love, read the full article here.

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