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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 October, 2003, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Teen told to eat more junk food
Fatty foods have high levels of salt
A British teenager has been ordered by doctors to eat more burgers, pizzas and packets of crisps.

Doctors say it is the only way to stop 18-year-old Ashley Clarke from continually passing out.

Ashley, a student at Leeds University, has been diagnosed with a condition called vasovagal syncope syndrome.

The condition means he is prone to fainting because his blood pressure and heart rate can fall too much, starving his brain of oxygen.

Ashley's diet
Breakfast: Bacon, sausages, eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, fried bread and black pudding
Lunch: Chicken burgers, chips pizza, bacon butties or crisps
Dinner: Roast chicken with vegetables and chips
Snacks: Chocolate bars, crisps, nuts, pies, cakes, pasties
Ashley, from Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire, was diagnosed with vasovagal syndrome in May of this year.

Prior to that he had been fainting three times a day, everyday for the past four years.

"Doctors just thought it was stress or my age," he told a newspaper.

However, eventually his condition was diagnosed and Ashley was prescribed his junk food diet.

After years of fainting for no apparent reason, he was relieved to know that doctors now knew why.

"I was so overwhelmed someone had found the cause, I burst into tears," he said.

Doctors told him to eat more cakes, crisps and fatty food to stop his faints.

"It sounds daft, but because I was super-healthy it made me ill.

"My heart wasn't having to work very hard and sometimes there wasn't enough reaching my head."

Extra salt

Ashley's junk food diet aims to boost his intake of salt. There is increasing medical evidence that low salt levels can lead to low blood pressure, which can trigger a blackout.

"There is now very good evidence that a deficiency in dietary salt is to blame," said Dr Julia Newton, a consultant physician at the specialist Falls and Syncope Clinic at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary.

"If salt intake is increased, the symptoms will decrease. Essentially, what we say to patients is to have a packet of ready salted crisps at hand or put a teaspoon of salt in a glass of water to boost their salt levels when they need to."

Dr Newton said the condition is relatively common and mostly affects young people.

"It is very common and affects people in all age groups, although predominantly younger adults. We are treating 603 people at our unit.

"There is also a suspicion that the condition is genetic. About 20% of patients at our centre also have a family member with the condition. We think it is inherited."

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06 Sep 02  |  Health
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15 Nov 01  |  England
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30 Sep 03  |  Scotland

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