A Combination You Never Saw Coming
by Noah Wilsey
Pringles, deli ham, french fries, white bread, a British teenage boy. These all seem like harmless things, but according to Bristol University they are a recipe for blindness. Recently in the United Kingdom a teenage boy’s picky eating habits led to complete vision loss. He would only eat Pringles, french fries from a local restaurant, white bread, and slices of ham. To me, this seems like a completely acceptable diet. It hits every food group: carbs and ham. But according to researchers, this diet’s lack of key nutrients and certain vital vitamins and minerals has the potential to cause optic neuropathy: a fancy, scientific way of saying you’re irreversibly blind.
The first time the patient’s diet was called into question was when he was 14. He went to the doctor complaining of tiredness and all he received were vitamin B12 shots and diet advice. I would have suggested a diet consisting of solely baby carrots since they’re good for your eyes, but nobody could have had the foresight to know this kid was going to go blind. A year passed, and he returned to the doctor now complaining of something more sinister: increasingly impaired vision and signs of hearing loss. While doctors weren’t able to determine a cause, by the time the patient turned 17, he had gone blind. Sadly, there is no diet, or amount of carrots one could eat, that could restore his vision. The optic nerve damage was already permanent.
At this point, you’re probably saying, “So what? I don’t have a crippling addiction to Pringles.” And I get it. Most of us don’t. But take a second to imagine who this anonymous British teenage boy could be. Maybe he was the least attractive member of the beloved boy band One Direction, Niall Horan, and they changed his age to better conceal his identity. We haven’t seen Niall in a while and a Pringles-induced legal blindness would explain his disappearance from the public sphere. I bet you’re starting to care now, and if you’re still don’t then you clearly have no heart for the international superstar Niall Horan.
The case study done at Bristol University concludes that a poor diet can lead to vision impairment and complete vision loss. But not everyone is convinced. Tom Sanders, a professor of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London, disagrees, saying that the report relied too much on the patient’s own record of his eating habits and doesn’t take into account other explanations for the condition, such as a genetic defect, or looking directly at a solar eclipse with your naked eye because those special glasses sold out on Amazon. All of these things are possible. Gary Frost, a professor of nutrition and dietetics at Imperial College London, states that the patient’s case “is an extreme example,” but admits that the report highlights the importance of a varied diet in order to ensure that you’re getting the key nutrients necessary for healthy development. Other researchers also commented on the report. Allen Taylor, director of the Nutrition and Vision Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts, emphatically called the patient’s case “intriguing.” Well no duh, Allen. It’s more than just “intriguing.” It is downright terrifying. I will never feel safe eating Pringles again. Taylor continues his criticism noting a lack of information that was actually available to the researchers.
As a man who spent multiple months existing solely on pork rinds and pepperoni slices, this story hits close to home. I start to wonder if I’m headed towards life as a blind man because younger me was drawn to cheap greasy food and current me has yet to learn what it means to have “self-control.” I’m probably going to be alright but just in case I’m going to start learning the piano now so that if I do eventually go blind, I can just Stevie Wonder my way to stardom.