Are Carrots Good for your Vision?
Everyone has probably heard that eating carrots is good for your eyes. However, is there any truth to this? The answer is, it really depends on what you mean by “good.”
Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A. Vitamin A is used to make retinal, which binds to the protein opsin and forms various photopigments. These photopigments are extremely sensitive to light. When light stimulates these photopigments, certain changes occur that eventually lead to our brain perceiving light through a very complicated process called phototransduction. So we need vitamin A in order for our eyes to function properly. However, getting enough vitamin A is not really a problem in developed countries. Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, but vitamin A can be found in other foods such as sweet potatoes, eggs, butter, and broccoli.
More vitamin A does not actually improve the function of your eyes. While a certain minimum amount is necessary, ingesting large doses will not give you superhuman vision or allow you to get rid of your glasses. Nor is vitamin A deficiency the reason people need to wear glasses in the first place.
So how did this myth about carrots being so good for your vision become so popular? Actually, the history behind it is quite interesting. It goes back to World War II when German bombers frequently raided Great Britain. The economic and psychological devastation from these surprise bombings was enormous for a country that had not been invaded for hundreds of years.
In 1935, Robert Watson-Watt had convinced the British government to spend money developing a radar system that could detect aircraft before they reached Great Britain. A chain of radar stations was set up around the south coast of England in 1940 and successfully detected approaching German aircraft.
The First Radar Transmitter
The British military did not want the Germans to know they had this technology. However, they had to come up with a plausible explanation for why so many German bombers were being shot down. So the government began having stories printed in British newspapers about a new dietary program administered to their pilots that centered around the consumption of carrots and other root vegetables. The program claimed to give British pilots increased vision as well as improved night vision. These newspaper reports not only fooled the Germans but also resulted in the British public consuming carrots in order to help their vision during blackouts.
Conclusion: Myth Busted
Do you have an eye question you have always wondered the answer to? Have you ever heard someone say something about eyes and wanted to know if it was true? Then email the Eye Mythbusters, Dr. Patty and Dr. Benfield at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out the answer. A new myth will be examined every month.