Eating Junk Food Leads to Blindness

Ellie Teng ’21

food
Figure 1. Deteriorating vision in a young patient is caused by a diet lacking in nutrients.

A case report presented a 14 year old male adolescent with “fussy” eating habits feeling fatigued. Scientists from Bristol Medical School and the Bristol Eye Hospital performed tests that showed anemia and low levels of vitamin B12 but the patient was otherwise well. At 15, he was suffering from hearing loss and not long after, deteriorating vision. He was referred to an otolaryngologist and opthamologist but they found no abnormalities. Two years later, his vision loss progressed yet doctors could not find a direct cause. The patient admitted to a diet limited to fatty, processed meats and ‘junk’ food, and was given supplements. 

He was diagnosed with nutritional optic neuropathy, usually caused by malabsorption or poor diet, but had become blind by the time the diagnosis was made. Deficiencies in vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B9 (folate), vitamin B12 (cobalamin), and copper all contributed to the patient’s hearing and vision loss. Junk foods are low in nutrition but energy-dense and affordable. High calorie diets are associated with high BMI, low socioeconomic status, and poor health. Given the situation, “fussy eating” is considered an eating disorder. It falls under the category of avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder which, unlike anorexia nervosa, is not driven by weight or body image concerns. Nutritional optic neuropathy is reversible if caught early and treated. If allowed to progress, it results in permanent blindness. 

This case expressed the importance of diet on physical health, and that the amount of calories consumed and BMI are not reliable indicators of nutrition level. This condition could become more prevalent in the future, either due to widespread consumption of ‘junk food’ or to the rising popularity of the vegan diet when not properly supplemented. This case study should also raise awareness of topics such as malnutrition and poverty in the population. 

 

References

  1. R. Harrison, et al., Blindness caused by a junk food diet. Ann Intern Med (2019). Doi: 10.7326/L19-0361
  2. Image retrieved from: https://pixnio.com/food-and-drink/french-fries-meat-food-nutrition-lunch-plate-lunch

 

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