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19-Year-Old Goes Blind Due to Diet of Pringles, Bread, Fries, and Processed Meats

"I would make him nice sandwiches—and put an apple or other fruit in—and he wouldn’t eat any of it."

by Jelisa Castrodale
Sep 4 2019, 11:00am

Photo: Getty Images

A copywriter at once legendary, now shuttered ad agency Wells Rich & Green was credited with writing the Pringles slogan "Once You Pop, You Can't Stop," a phrase that was accompanied by generic-sounding beats and Rollerblading teenagers—so many Rollerbladers—in countless mid-90s TV commercials.

Even those of you who sat through dozens, if not hundreds, of those ads eventually figured out that you could stop, eventually, and you still ate other foods that didn't slide out of a sturdy cardboard tube. But one English teenager whose diet largely centered around cans of Pringles probably wishes that he'd never popped one of those cans, and had never seen the lush mustache and severely parted hair of one Julius Pringle.

According to a study recently published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the unidentified teenager has gone blind, all because he refused to eat anything other than Pringles, French fries from a fish and chips shop, white bread, ham, and sausage.

CTV News reports that he initially went to a doctor at age 14, because he felt tired all the time.

The doc noted that he had vitamin deficiencies and macrocytic anemia, and treated him with B12 injections. Although the teen had a normal BMI, the doctor also recommended that he make some changes to his diet, like, you know, possibly eating anything that could be categorized as a fruit or a vegetable. (Spoiler Alert: he didn't stick with the vitamin treatments, and he didn't add a sixth food to his rotation, either.)

Over the course of the next three years, he started having hearing problems in addition to his worsening vision, and he was ultimately referred to the Bristol Eye Hospital. According to a press release from the University of Bristol, he still had low levels of vitamin B12, copper, and selenium, a "markedly reduced" vitamin D level, and low bone mineral density. He also finally admitted that, for the past seven years, he'd been living on nothing but processed meats and starchy carbs.

"The first we knew about it was when he began coming home from primary school with his packed lunch untouched. I would make him nice sandwiches—and put an apple or other fruit in—and he wouldn’t eat any of it. His teachers became concerned, too," his mother told The Guardian. "He has always been skinny, so we had no weight concerns. You hear about junk food and obesity all the time—but he was as thin as a rake.”

After receiving some supplementary vitamin treatments, he had some improvement to his color vision, but his overall vision will never improve; his mother says that the now-19-year-old is legally blind.

"Nutritional optic neuropathy if it’s caught early is very treatable and the vision problems all get better with treatment,” Dr. Denize Atan, one of the authors of the case study, told CTV. "The problem in this case is that actually, he had been following this restricted diet for a number of years and so by the time that we had seen him, he had already developed some permanent damage to his optic nerves."

In 2009, two doctors from St. Thomas' Hospital in London published their own case study and suggested that there could be a link between nutritional choices and developing optic neuropathy. Their patient was a 32-year-old Jamaican-born UK resident who said that he'd had blurred vision, in addition to other nerve-related symptoms in his lower limbs.

"He was a strict vegan consuming no meat, fish, eggs or dairy products, after adopting the Rastafarian religion one-year previously," the doctors wrote. "His diet consisted of nuts, pulses, seeds, a variety of fruit and vegetables, as well as tofu, soy products, rice, whole-grain bread and cereals, including some fortified products occasionally and vegetable oils."

They believed that his vision problems were because of his diet—he was also deemed to be deficient in B-vitamins—and he was treated with injections and vitamin supplements. (Two months later, he reported that basically nothing had changed).

Regardless, the doctors suggested that his optic nerve issues were caused by his all-vegan diet and his bottomed-out B-vitamin levels—but they did acknowledge that his symptoms overlapped with those of Strachan's syndrome, a nerve condition that hasn't been completely explained, but seems to be associated with malnutrition, assorted vitamin deficiencies, and having lived in a tropical or subtropical climate. (Dr. H. Strachan first noticed his now-namesake collection of symptoms while he was working in Jamaica.)

Back in Bristol, the 19-year-old walking case study is unable to finish his college courses or to get a job, but he hasn't changed his eating habits, either. "He is taking vitamin supplements, but his diet is still pretty much the same," his mother said. “When he was having counseling we managed to start him on fruit smoothies. But he’s gone off those now.”

Damn, maybe those Pringles commercials were right.

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diet
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