Volume 12, Issue 41 |  
How long does it take a bad diet
to cause problems?

Let's say you radically changed your diet to one that was deficient in various vitamins or minerals. How long do you think it would take before your body started showing the signs of a nutritional deficiency? One month? One year? Longer? It may surprise you to learn that poor diets often create damage to your body long before the final signs show up. Here is a case of a woman whose poor diet did not start to damage her eyes until three or four years later.

The authors of the case reported on a 47-year-old woman who started to lose her vision. It turns out that she markedly changed her diet four years before any of the symptoms happened. She was eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, and very few vegetables. When the doctors examined her, they found out that her optic discs were starting to degenerate. These are the areas in the eyes that send the nerve impulses for vision to the brain. Because of her unusual diet, the doctors immediately checked her vitamin B12 and folic acid levels. Her B12 levels were in range, but her folic acid levels were below normal.

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Fortunately for her, she had not waited too long to get medical attention. Her vision was completely restored after normalizing her diet and starting a folic acid supplement. It's also fortunate that her doctors were alert enough to think of nutritional deficiencies in a patient with degenerative conditions and asked her about her diet. I once saw a patient who had been seeing a psychiatrist for several years for anxiety and insomnia. He had him on several medications, which were only minimally helping. Too bad for him that the doctor never asked about his diet. It turned out that he was drinking a case of Coke a day. Once I took all his Coke away, he was miraculously cured. I am sure that many other docs aware of how important diet is have similar stories.

So if your diet is lousy, don't justify it just because you don't have any symptoms and appear to be getting away with it. Things could be starting to breakdown even while you feel great. This woman got away with it, but you may not.

Yours for better health,

Hsu CT, Miller NR, Wray ML. Optic neuropathy from folic acid deficiency without alcohol abuse. Ophthalmologica. 2002 Jan-Feb;216(1):65-7.

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