Can Eating Only Junk Food Really Go Blind?

The teen lost his sight after following a very limited diet for years. This story is making headlines about junk food going blind, and this boy is sure to be the culmination of his parents’ cautionary tale for years to come. But this is actually a story about a very specific eating disorder.

According to a case report in the Annals of Internal Medicine , the boy consulted his family doctor at age 14 with fatigue and low vitamin B12 levels. The doctors were told that he was “picky about food,” and they prescribed vitamin B12 shots and dietary advice. Over the next three years, he developed hearing loss and then vision loss, which baffled doctors, who eventually found out that he was suffering from the effects of multiple nutrient deficiencies. It turned out that he was not getting enough vitamin B12, copper, selenium, and vitamin D.

How can you be so picky about your food?

Restrictive eating disorder is an eating disorder that is especially common in people with autism, including autistic children. (This can also happen on its own or in the context of another disorder.) The report does not specifically say that he was autistic, but notes that the boy avoided “certain textures” and that he usually ate fries, pringles, white bread, slices hams and sausages.

So it’s not really a “junk food” story. Include a few burgers and milkshakes and you’ll probably get a different nutritional result. The purpose of this report was not to shame people who eat french fries and white bread, but to warn doctors: “Food-related optic neuropathy should be considered in any patient with unexplained visual symptoms and poor nutrition, regardless of BMI.” …

To learn more about how ARFID differs from food pickiness and how it differs from other eating disorders, read this description of an autistic person on what it actually looks like:

ARFID makes me reluctant to limit the types of food I can eat based on appearance, smell, taste, texture, brand, presentation, or past negative experiences with that particular food. You could say that I’m picky about food. You can also think of it as a food phobia. It has nothing to do with body image, it has everything to do with anxiety and sensory sensitivity.

People with ARFID can sometimes lose weight due to insufficient nutrition, but they can also get enough calories and have a normal body type. It seems that the boy who lost his sight was in such a situation: his family and doctors knew that he did not eat a variety of foods, but they did not realize that his diet was strict enough to cause health problems until he was damage is done.


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