Things That Matter

This Boy Ate A Ton Of French Fries And Pringle’s And Now Doctors Blame His Poor Diet For His Blindness

A British teenager is the first believed to have gone blind solely due to a poor diet of junk food. This has to be one of every young person’s worst nightmares. How many of us were raised to believe that it’s in those formative teen years we are able to indulge in all the bad foods we want before our slower metabolism kicks in with age? 

Before we did that bizarre experiment in tenth grade, where you put a penny in Coca-Cola and it dissolves due to the acids, I singularly lived off of soda. I did not drink water. My Dominican abuela would put a teaspoon of sugar in my brother and I’s Sunny Delight orange juice. I am not saying this is right (it’s definitely not the best way to live), I am just saying it is not uncommon for young people to make the worst possible food choices when left to their own devices. And of course, junk and fast food companies aren’t so innocent. 

The combination of aggressive marketing along with food scientists who make artificial flavors taste better than real food and more addictive, has had damaging effects on public health. So while it might be your first instinct to roast this boy, let’s consider all the social factors that made his blindness possible in the first place.

How can junk food make you go blind? 

Scientists from the University of Bristol examined the case of a young boy who slowly lost his hearing and vision over the course of four years. The boy who was a picky eater since elementary school, only ate Pringles potato chips, white bread, processed ham and sausage, and avoided many nutritious foods.

He first saw a doctor at 14, complaining of tiredness. He was not on medication and had a normal BMI. Tests revealed he had low vitamin B12 levels and anemia. After treating him with B12 injections, a year later, he showed signs of hearing loss and vision. Doctors were baffled. By the time he was 17, he became legally blind. Doctors detected low vitamin B12, low copper, selenium, vitamin D and bone level density, along with high levels of zinc.

Essentially, he was malnourished. 

Developing countries face similar health hurdles.

Researchers from the Bristol Medical School and Bristol Eye Hospital determined he had nutritional optic neuropathy. For the patient, the blindness was permanent, although it is reversible if detected early. Typically, a case like this in the developed world would be the result of bowel problems or medication that obstructs the absorption of nutrients. 

However, poor diet was the cause for the 17-year-old. Nutritional optic neuropathy is typically found in patients from developing nations with poverty, famine, drought, and war. 

A cautionary tale. 

“Our vision has such an impact on quality of life, education, employment, social interactions, and mental health,” said study lead author Denize Atan, an ophthalmologist at Bristol Medical School and Bristol Eye Hospital. “This case highlights the impact of diet on visual and physical health, and the fact that calorie intake and BMI are not reliable indicators of nutritional status.”

Researchers believe this is an extreme case but caution against a junk food diet. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat the Popeye’s Fried Chicken sandwich, it just means it can’t be the only thing you eat over the course of a decade.

“Although it is an extreme example, it highlights the importance of having a wide and varied diet to ensure that you get the profile of nutrients and micronutrients that are needed for healthy development,” Gary Frost, a professor of nutrition and dietetics at Imperial College London, told CNN.

Because this teenager is anonymous lots of questions remain. Why didn’t the parents intervene sooner? Will they be held accountable? Why weren’t doctors able to address the seriousness of the child’s diet sooner? 

We should hold food companies more accountable.  

Food scientists intentionally make foods unnaturally delicious and addictive because their goal isn’t to make people healthy, it’s to sell more food products.

“Humans have an inherited preference for energy-rich foods — like fats and sugars — and thus natural selection has predisposed us to foods high in sugar and fat,” Jennifer Kaplan, a teacher at the Culinary Institute of America, told Salon. “Food scientists know this and create ingredients that are far higher in fat and sugar than occur in nature. The most common such sugar is high-fructose corn syrup and is therefore intrinsically addictive.” 

study in 2013, showed that high fructose corn syrup, the artificial sweetener used in most prepackaged foods, is as addictive as heroin and cocaine because of the way it releases dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone that tells your brain it is being rewarded.

When society ain’t looking out for you and the adults in your life ain’t looking out for you, well it is hard to stand a chance. Let’s hope this patient’s cautionary tale helps someone make more thoughtful food choices.

A Look Back At The Legacy Of Pedro Zamora, 25 Years After His Death

Culture

A Look Back At The Legacy Of Pedro Zamora, 25 Years After His Death

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Back in 1992, MTV first aired “The Real World,” which went on to define reality TV forever. The shows premise and tagline — “This is the true story…of seven strangers…picked to live in a house… and have their lives taped…to find out what happens…when people stop being polite…and start getting real… ” — seemed like a fresh concept. At the time, viewers were simply taking in how people from different backgrounds got along. A lot of the time, they didn’t. In the middle of all that TV drama, something unusual was taking place: viewers were meeting individuals that presented extraordinary stories. In the show’s 27-year span, only one person stood out among them all and is remembered for literally changing the world. 

In 1994, MTV’s “Real World” San Francisco featured a 22-year-old Cuban named Pedro Zamora. 

Credit: @dc408dxtr / Twitter

For those not familiar with Zamora, his life story is a remarkable one of survival. He was just 8-years-old when he and some of his family members left Cuba on the Mariel Boatlift and settled in Miami. Sadly, his mother died of cancer a couple of years later when he was 13. Zamora still excelled in school. It was around this time that he realized he was gay. While he did come out to his family, they mostly feared that Zamora would get discriminated against because of his sexuality. 

At 17, Zamora found out he contracted HIV and decided to bring awareness to his disease. 

Credit: @theadvocatemag / Twitter

While attending Miami Dade College, Zamora became a fierce AIDS educator. One of the most impressive traits that he possessed was that he could engage with people of different ages and backgrounds. He was a great speaker. It was his charming characteristics and profound knowledge that made him perfect for TV. He ventured into several famous talk shows of that time to speak about what it was like to be a young gay man living with AIDS. 

With the encouragement of friends, Zamora felt he could reach more people with his message of empathy and education about HIV and AIDS by auditioning to be on MTV’s “Real World.” Naturally, he was one of nine to be cast on the show. 

As a cast member on the show, Zamora helped to educate his housemates about living with AIDS. Those moments on MTV also informed millions of viewers. Zamora loved for people to learn about his Cuban culture. 

Credit: @simplymiatx23 / Twitter

Today with the lack of Latino representation in the arts and entertainment industry, we now see how rare it was to have two Cuban Americans on MTV talking about their culture and family. Another castmember that has continued to be in the limelight was Zamora’s housemate Rachel Campos Duffy. She was a young conservative back then, and she still is today as the wife of former GOP representative Sean Duffy (he too was a former cast member of the “Real World” Seattle). While Rachel and Zamora clashed on various topics, including his homosexuality, their bond broke through her closemindedness. 

While Zamora died shortly after the last episode of the “Real World” aired, his legacy continues to be inspiring 25 years later.

Zamora’s housemate and one of his loudest advocates today, Judd Winick, who wrote the 2000 book “Pedro and Me” said this on social media: 

“I’d ask that on this incredible milestone that we try to remember how he lived, and how he literally changed the world, rather than focusing on our loss of him. By appearing on The Real World in ‘94, he showed everyone what it was really like to be living with AIDS, to be living out, to love, to be loved by friends, supported by family—to have a full life. And it seems crazy that this was a lesson that needed to be taught. But it did.” 

Rachel echoed that sentiment on the 25th anniversary of his death on Twitter: “@RealWorldMTV changed many lives -including mine. #PedroZamora died 25 yrs ago today, but his impact lives on. I miss Pedro & the days when MTV respected young people enough to make shows like the Real World, San Francisco.”

For those of us who watched Zamora on the “Real World,” we learned about showing empathy and compassion for those that suffered AIDS and HIV and continue to live with it today. Zamora also taught viewers to always show kindness, respect, and love for one another.

Credit: nycaidsmemorial / Instagram

Click here for more information on the Pedro Zamora Young Leaders Scholarship and The Pedro Zamora Public Policy Fellowship

READ: A Single Mom On DACA Is One Of The Newest Cast Members On MTV’s New Season Of ‘The Real World

Selena Gomez Says Fans Bullied Her For Her Weight

Entertainment

Selena Gomez Says Fans Bullied Her For Her Weight

selenagomez / Instagram

Two years ago, actress and singer Selena Gomez opened up to fans about her experience with lupus and undergoing a kidney transplant. The summer before she took a public break from her music career. The singer had been traveling her for Revival world tour when she announced her decision to take a break to focus on her health. She cited anxiety, panic attacks and depression as side effects to her lupus diagnosis and expressed her need to take care of her health. Now, Gomez has revealed why she spent so much time out of the spotlight. She was undergoing a kidney transplant.

Since her surgery, Gomez has been open about her experience and its impact on her physical and mental health.

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The singer opened up even more about the process of recovery during a recent podcast, in which she revealed that she’d experienced body shaming her health led to weight gain. During an appearance on a recent episode of “Giving Back Generation,” a video podcast by Raquelle Stevens, Gomez said criticism impacted her “big time.”

During the interview, Gomez said that after being attacked by body shamers online she decided that she needed some time away from social media. This was primarily because they were having so much of an impact on her mental health.

“I experienced [body-shaming] with my weight fluctuation for the first time,” Selena told Stevens during the podcast. “I have lupus and deal with kidney issues and high blood pressure, so I deal with a lot of health issues, and for me that’s when I really started noticing more of the body-image stuff.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that, occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs. Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other ailments. The most distinctive sign of lupus — a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks — occurs in many but not all cases of lupus. Some people are born with a tendency toward developing lupus, which may be triggered by infections, certain drugs or even sunlight. While there’s no cure for lupus, treatments can help control symptoms.” 

Speaking about how the autoimmune disease has affected her weight, Gomez said that it’s normal for her to fluctuate.

“It’s the medication I have to take for the rest of my life — it depends on even the month, to be honest. So for me, I really noticed when people started attacking me for that,” she explained. “In reality, that’s just my truth. I fluctuate. It depends what’s happening in my life.”

Gomez went onto further explain how the body shaming affected how she has chosen to interact with her fans moving forward.

“I’m very happy with living my life and being present. Because that’s it. Similar to me posting a photo and walking away. For me that’s it. I will do a red carpet, I will do whatever. I don’t need to see it. I participated. I felt wonderful and that’s where the extent of it is,” she said. “I don’t care to expose myself to everyone and hear what they have to say about it… I don’t care about that stuff but I did start gaining weight and I didn’t mind it. And that hurt…I’ve experienced people who try to control that kind of stuff before. This is my time and I want to do it the way I want to do it.”

It’s not the first time Gomez has opened up how criticism about her appearance has affected her mental health and how she chooses to include social media in her life. 

In 2018, Gomez explained that she was taking a step back from social media because she was being affected by disparaging and negative comments online.

“Update: taking a social media break,” she wrote to fans in a post on Instagram at the time. “Again. As much as I am grateful for the voice that social media gives each of us, I am equally grateful to be able to step back and live my life present to the moment I have been given. Kindness and encouragement only for a bit! Just remember— negative comments can hurt anybody’s feelings. Obvi.”

“Update: taking a social media break,” she wrote to fans in a post on Instagram at the time. “Again. As much as I am grateful for the voice that social media gives each of us, I am equally grateful to be able to step back and live my life present to the moment I have been given. Kindness and encouragement only for a bit! Just remember— negative comments can hurt anybody’s feelings. Obvi.”