We Were Tricked Into Thinking Carrots Improve Vision

But it turns out to be kind of true
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2014 7:44 AM CST

Eating lots of carrots will improve your vision, right? Not exactly, the American Chemical Society explains in a new video. Bottom line: Carrots can contribute in a general way to overall eye health, but they're not going to prevent you from needing glasses. As the ACS video explains, carrots contain beta carotene, which the body processes into vitamin A. The vitamin is good for the eyes, but plenty of other foods also have it, including peas, cantaloupe, spinach, lettuce, even cheese. If you're already eating a balanced diet, then, carrots won't make much of a difference in vision. So how did they get the reputation as being great for eyesight? The answer goes back to World War II.

One story holds that British pilots during the war didn't want to reveal the existence of the radar that helped them "see," so the military made up a rumor that eating carrots explained the pilots' suddenly improved ability to shoot down enemy bombers at night. The myth didn't just trick the Nazis: The British public believed it, too, Snopes reports. As Scientific American recounts, the UK Ministry of Food rolled out a propaganda campaign telling Brits to eat lots of carrots to help them see better during blackouts, and a kitchen legend was born. The ACS takeaway: "Don't forget your vitamin A, but don't count on getting rid of your glasses anytime soon just because you're chomping on a carrot." (A bionic eye recently helped a blind man start to see again.)

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