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Dr. Gillian Harris responds to BBC News Article

SEPTEMBER 3RD, 2019.

In the news today - a teenage boy has apparently lost his sight because of his limited range ‘junk food’ diet; one vitamin in particular was missing, Vitamin B12. This has, of course, struck terror into the heart of every parent of a child with a restricted diet.

What action if any should you take?

Firstly, a word or two of re-assurance; I have worked with or around children and adults with restricted range diets for over 35 years, and this is the first report of loss of vision that I have ever heard of.

Why might this be?

ARFID is defined as involving a potential dietary imbalance. And we all tend to concentrate on how necessary fruit and vegetables are in a child’s diet, but these are the foods that are rarely accepted by ARFID children. Surprisingly though, the diet that most ARFID children stick to; beige carbohydrates, with yoghurt, milk, a bit of chocolate (and if you are lucky the odd fish finger or chicken nugget) is not as bad as you might think. The beige carbohydrates which are usually accepted often include dry cereals, and if you look on the box you will see that these cereals, unhealthy as they might seem, are fortified – with vitamin B12.

So, the staples in the ARFID diet, • milk, yogurt, dry cereal, • some cheese? an egg? something with an egg in it? • a fish finger, some processed meat shapes (dinosaurs, nuggets) - all provide Vitamin B12 – even good chocolate has a trace.

So check – look at the foods that your child eats – what do they provide in the way of vitamins and minerals? Even the bread that our ARFID children prefer (Warburtons!) is fortified.

If you are worried?

Don’t try to change foods, hide foods, or disguise foods, to get vitamins and minerals in. If your child takes a vitamin supplement, or supplementary drinks or puddings, then you probably don’t need to worry. If not, ask for an appointment with your dietitian, so that they can assess your child’s diet to see what, if any, vitamins and minerals are missing. If you need to supplement, don’t add to already accepted foods and drinks, you might change the taste and the food might well be rejected. With your dietitian’s advice, go through the range of products available to see if you can find one that will be taken - or ask other parents to see what they have tried with success.


Dr Gillian Harris BA, MSc, PhD, Cert Ed., AFBPsS, C.Psychol. Consultant Clinical Psychologist HCPC registered; number PYL29611.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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