Experts are warning about the risks of extreme fussy eating after a teenager developed permanent sight loss after living on a diet of chips and crisps.
Eye doctors in Bristol cared for the 17-year-old after his vision had deteriorated to the point of blindness.
Since leaving primary school, the teen had been eating only French fries, Pringles and white bread, as well as an occasional slice of ham or a sausage.
Tests revealed he had severe vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition damage.
Extreme picky eater
The adolescent, who cannot be named, had seen his GP at the age of 14 because he had been feeling tired and unwell. At that time he was diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency and put on supplements, but he did not stick with the treatment or improve his poor diet.
Three years later, he was taken to the Bristol Eye Hospital because of progressive sight loss, Annals of Internal Medicine journal reports.
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.
Dr Atan and her colleagues rechecked vitamin levels and found he was low in B12 as well as some other important vitamins and minerals – copper, selenium and vitamin D.
He was not over or underweight, but was severely malnourished from his eating disorder – avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder.
Dr Atan said cases like this are thankfully uncommon, but that parents should be aware of the potential harm that can be caused by picky eating, and seek expert help.
Sources of vitamin B12 for vegans include:
- breakfast cereals fortified with B12
- unsweetened soya drinks fortified with vitamin B12
- yeast extract, such as Marmite, which is fortified with vitamin B12
Rebecca McManamon, consultant dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, said restricted diets might happen for a range of reasons, including eating disorders, allergies and autism, and need specialist assessment.