A teenager who for years had lived off a diet of chips, crisps, white bread and processed meat has lost his hearing and sight because of a lack of vitamins and minerals.
The unnamed boy from Bristol had first gone to his doctor complaining of tiredness when he was 14.
Tests showed that he had low vitamin B12 levels and macrocytic anaemia – a condition bringing larger-than-normal red blood cells. It was said the ailments had been brought on by him being a “fussy eater”.
A case report by researchers from Bristol Eye Hospital, published in in the Annals of Internal Medicine, said he was given B12 injections and dietary advice, but when he returned to the doctor a year later his hearing and vision were already impaired.
The report said that “by the age of 17, the patient’s vision had become progressively worse, to the point of blindness”.
It was at this point that he confessed that since primary school he had “avoided foods with certain textures and only ate French fries, Pringles, white bread, processed ham slices, and sausage”.
“By the time his condition was diagnosed, the patient had permanently impaired vision,” the report said.
Investigating the boy’s nutrition, physicians found vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiencies, a reduced bone mineral density and low levels of copper and selenium.
Such minerals and vitamins are vital for overall good health and a lack of them is more usually associated with countries with high levels of poverty and scarce food resources.
Health professionals recommend a varied diet that includes green vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains and dairy, or dairy substitutes. Oily fish and some meat might also help towards a properly balanced diet.
The Bristol Eye Hospital report said: “The risks for poor cardiovascular health, obesity and cancer associated with junk food consumption are well known, but poor nutrition can also permanently damage the nervous system, particularly vision.
“It is rare in developed countries. The condition is potentially reversible if caught early. But if left untreated, it leads to permanent blindness.”