Fri | Sep 20, 2019

Junk food diet blamed for teenage boy going blind, deaf

Published:Wednesday | September 4, 2019 | 12:19 AM

A teenage boy in the United Kingdom is believed to be the first to go deaf and blind due to his junk food diet, a report has warned.

The 17-year-old lived off a daily portion of chips, crisps, white bread and processed meat for around a decade.

His poor diet, which resulted in a number of vitamin deficiencies, led to the boy developing a condition called nutritional optic neuropathy (NON).

More commonly seen in malnourished children in developing countries, purely dietary causes of NON are rare in the Western world.

It manifests in damage to the optic nerve, which leads to sight loss and if undiagnosed, blindness.

The unnamed patient, from Bristol, also developed hearing loss and bone weakness.

Since primary school, he suffered from a rare eating disorder, avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID).

Sufferers become sensitive to taste, texture, smell or appearance of certain foods. He had previously told doctors he did not like the “texture” of fruit and vegetables.

Dr Denize Atan, of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, who co-authored the report published in Annals of Internal Medicine, and treated the patient, said there is a lack of awareness among healthcare professionals and the public about the link between poor diet and sight loss.

“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 stated.

“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.”

Scientists have previously raised concerns that the majority of British diets are increasingly made up of poor-quality, processed foods.

A study of 19 European countries by the University of Sao Paulo last year found that UK families buy more ultra-processed food than any others in Europe, amounting to 50.7 per cent of the diet.