OK, I am of course only assuming that Marla Lopez is one of the world’s pickiest eaters but, given she eats only three types of foods, I don’t think it’s that far a stretch.

The 54-year-old mother recently told ABC News that her diet – which consists of milk (including ice cream), white breads (including crackers, tortillas, and pancakes), and potatoes (including potatoes and French fries) has been a picky eater since she was an infant. She would gag and spit up her baby food and, these days, can’t even touch spaghetti.

Oh, and you know how important it is for us to “shop the perimeter”? Grab as much of that healthy, brightly colored produce as our buggies and budgets allow? By her own words, Lopez doesn’t “see food” when she looks at the fruits and vegetables.

Nancy Zucker, the Director for the Center for Eating Disorders at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC, studies picky eaters and says Lopez is not alone.

We don’t quite understand what adult picky eating is…but what we do know is that there is a real biological struggle going on that’s not all in their heads.

As I read about Ms. Lopez, naturally I wondered about the state of her brain health. What, if any, mental health issues or brain deficiencies did her diet, void of fresh produce like fruits and vegetables, contribute to?

So, I talked with a licensed nutritionist.

Dr. Corey Schuler, a board-certified nutrition specialist and functional medicine practitioner and the clinic director for the Metabolic Treatment Center in Minnesota, made it clear that – as far as Lopez’s mental state is concerned – he can’t offer a hallway diagnosis but admits it seems like she suffers from EDNOS (eating disorder-not otherwise specified).

From a nutrient intake perspective, I would have to assume non-variable diets are insufficient in multiple vitamins and minerals. We encourage varied diets to cover the broad range of nutrient needs humans have for optimal health.

Her case actually highlights a couple things:

  1. Vitamin and mineral insufficiency are long-latency conditions and the repercussions may not appear for years, and
  2. Health cannot be adequately measured by particular biomarkers.

We see examples of vitamin and mineral insufficiency in regards to vitamin D and immune health as well as more illustrations which are well explained by Bruce Ames’ Triage Theory. Total cholesterol as mentioned in this article [Lopez states her cholesterol is 174] is only potentially suggestive or predictive of atherosclerosis. However, there are many more measures of health status and even cardiovascular disease.

Regardless of the enthusiasm, evidence or data that I, as a nutritionist have for these clients, these individuals must be approached by a full medical team including mental health professionals and preferably as in-patient care. Out-patient offices like mine are suitable for proper assessment, test selection, and follow-up care only.

Currently, I’m doing some research to present you with basic, simple reasons why fruits and vegetables are essential to good body and brain health.

In the meantime, though, what kind of “picky eating” have you dealt with in the past – or currently? Have you suffered, or do you suffer, from picky eating? Have you been diagnosed with an actual selective eating disorder (or picky eating disorder)? Or, are there just foods you refuse to eat that might lead to a dangerous deficiency?

Share with us in the comments below.