Health And Medicine

Poor Diet Causes Blindness

Poor dietary habits have a profound effect on vision. Study says consumption of junk food, strict veganism can lead to irreversible blindness.

Having a poor diet leads to many other chronic illnesses. But now researchers from the University of Bristol believe that the same may be true for eye disease as well.

In an extraordinary case report published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers say that a patient has suffered from optic neuropathy after years of having a limited diet of chips, crisps, white bread, and some processed pork. 

Optic neuropathy occurs when the nerve cells which transmit visual information to the brain become abnormally short. These cells are called retinal ganglion cells. When this occurs, the neurons which control the sight are no longer functioning properly, or when the nerve cells die, the optic nerve is no longer able to send information to the brain.

The onset of optic nerve neuropathy varies in children. In some cases it is asymptomatic, and the affected person has perfect vision in the dark without any trouble. In other cases, the illness is life threatening and the affected person is completely blind because the nerves leading to the optic nerve are no longer working properly. The condition is reversible, only if caught and treated early.

Nutritional deficiencies such as nutritional optic neuropathy affect more than 2 billion people globally, and they have a high prevalence in developing countries, especially where a growing population will be particularly poor and where the food supply remains fragile.

The condition, however, is rarely seen in people in developed countries because of good food supply, and when it appears, it mainly stems from malabsorption (where the digestive system imperfectly metabolizes absorbed nutrients), taking drugs and having poor diet.

The case of a teenage patient who suffered from vision loss after years of bad dietary habit became known following a visit to his GP complaining of tiredness. Initial test showed he was anaemic and had low vitamin B12 levels, so he was given vitamin B12 injections and dietary advice.

The patient also confessed that he had been a picky eater, but aside from that, his BMI was normal, he showed no signs of malnutrition, and didn’t take any form of medication.

Then a year later, the patient had developed vision symptom and problems with his hearing. By the time he turned 17, he was diagnosed with optic neuropathy. Tests revealed the cause was entirely nutritional.

The patient also had several micronutrient deficiencies – including low copper and selenium levels, and low vitamin B12, which means the injections no longer worked. He also had high zinc levels, and conspicuously low vitamin D levels, which explains his low bone mineral density.

The onset of nutritional optic neuropathy, as the researchers concluded, resulted from the patient’s ‘junk food’ diet and limited intake of nutritional supplements. The condition could become more prevalent in the future, given the widespread consumption of junk food at the expense of food that is more nutritious, and the rising popularity of veganism.

Reference: Blindness Caused by a Junk Food Diet ( Annals of Internal Medicine ) / University of Bristol

4 comments

  1. I would say this happens to more people with their illnesses (that it is connected to malabsorption and poor diet) but it gets mistreated and I hope more articles like this get out – let’s all learn for health!

  2. Junk food from fast food places is a for to frequent meal for far too many people. Obesity in teenagers is a national health issue as well as is poor nutrition. One would think just any average person would know and follow rules of good nutrition but it is not happening.

    1. The United States has the highest obesity rate of any developed country with an estimated 22% of the population obese compared to just 15% of the general population. Obesity rates in middle-aged men have increased by 60% and women 15 to 24% since 1980.

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