Miriam Belsham, NZEDC, on the recent BBC article “Teenager ‘blind’ from living off crisps and chips”

You may have seen that the BBC UK has published an article about a young man with ARFID. This discussed how this young man has experienced eyesight deterioration due to his diet being low in B12. I know that this may cause worry or panic amongst families who live with a selective eater.

It is unfortunate that this has occurred for this young man. But I would like to let you know that having worked with children with restrictive eating for 10 years I have not seen this occur to any child that has been known to my services. Which may be of little reassurance to families.

I thought it would be helpful to review why we don’t frequently see children going blind from B12 deficiencies – and actually B12 is in many foods that are often safe foods for children with ARFID.

B12 is found in foods such as:

  • Yogurt, cheese and milk – which many children I see in clinic will eat either as is or in baking.

  • Fortified breakfast cereals – this is one reason why we often encourage a breakfast cereal either with milk or dry.

  • Fish – now not a ‘typical’ ARFID child’s food, but some will accept fish fingers or fish from the fish n chip shop.

  • Egg – again not many ARFID children will tuck into an egg, but egg is frequently used in baking and therefore they are eating the nutrients.

  • Beef or Chicken – Burgers or chicken nuggets therefore provide some B12 to a child’s diet.

  • Ham – Many children with ARFID will have ham either on a pizza or in a toasted sandwich.

So although you may think that your child’s eating is full of “rubbish” actually it is likely to be better than you realise!
If you are worried about your child’s food intake then I would recommend that you may like to do some of the following:

  1. Take a food diary to then be able to analyse what they are eating over a 3 day period.
  2. Talk to your GP and request a blood test if you are still concerned that your child may be low in vitamins or minerals.
  3. Talk to a dietitian for a nutritional assessment to highlight areas of concern – which can then be addressed during feeding therapy.

Don’t suddenly panic and start trying to change your child’s diet overnight. Please don’t try to hide new foods – like I always say: Your child needs to trust that you are not being sneaky with their foods!

In feeding therapy we don’t necessarily aim for a perfect diet but rather for one that is providing adequate nutrition whether that is through food or supplements – so it is possible for your ARFID child to eat a “good enough” diet.

If you have concerns regarding your child’s eating or would like to discuss anything raised by this article please feel free to contact Miriam.

Link to original BBC article

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