Carrots do not improve eyesight but are good for eye health

Although they contain nutrients that promote eye health, the claim that carrots can actually improve your eyesight dates back to British WWII propaganda.

Parents often tell their children from an early age that they should eat all their vegetables if they want to grow up strong and healthy. Sometimes adults ask children to eat certain vegetables for certain benefits.

One such connection that is usually made is that you eat your carrots to get better eyesight.

We asked our readers about food legends they’ve heard over the years, and many responded classic claim about carrots improving eyesight. Nutrient-dense vegetables have all sorts of health benefits, so could that actually be true?

THE QUESTION

Does Eating Carrots Improve Your Eyesight?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is misleading.

No, eating carrots will not improve your eyesight unless you are vitamin A deficient. Although they contain nutrients that promote eye health, the belief that carrots can actually improve your eyesight dates back to British WWII propaganda.

WHAT WE FOUND

Carrots contain vitamins that can help maintain good eye health, but your diet most likely already contains many of these vitamins with or without carrots. Adding more vitamins from carrots won’t help you see better.

The reason people started believing carrots would improve your eyesight is because of British WWII propaganda.

During World War II, the United Kingdom successfully used radar to detect and shoot down German bomber planes US Department of Defense says. To keep the Germans from learning about the radar system, Britain tried to use deception. Their citizens, the British government claimed, are simply very good at seeing planes.

“To cover it up, they claimed that what’s basically happening here is that carrots improve their pilots’ vision,” said Bwalya Lungu, Ph.D., professor of food science and food folklore at the University of California Davis. “That’s what improves their eyesight; this is because they eat so many carrots.”

Examples of this can be found in a British War Recipe Booklet from 1943, which says that carrots help people “see better in blackouts” and a propaganda poster which reads, “Eat carrots and green or yellow leafy vegetables…rich in vitamin A, which is essential for night vision.”

But in reality, carrots don’t do enough for your eyes to actually improve your vision, as the propaganda suggests.

“Carrots won’t improve your visual acuity if you have less than perfect vision,” says the Illinois-based company Gailey Eye Clinic. “A diet of carrots will not give a blind person 20/20 vision.”

Corresponding Winchester Hospital In Massachusetts, carrots contain a pigment called beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A — a vitamin important for healthy eyes. According to the Gailey Eye Clinic, vitamin A can prevent cataracts and macular degeneration, and extreme vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness.

But you don’t need a lot of vitamin A to maintain good eye health.

Standard, balanced diets in countries like the US are high in vitamin A. Eating more carrots won’t make enough of a difference to impair vision, says Winchester Hospital. Your eye health and vision will only benefit from foods rich in vitamin A if your body is vitamin A deficient, which is more likely in poorer countries where people sometimes eat less varied diets.

According to Lungu, some studies suggest that vitamin A, and therefore carrots, may slightly improve the vision of people who are severely vitamin A deficient, causing their vision to go from “poor” to “slightly less bad.”

Lungu says a study by Nepalese women with vitamin A deficiency and High Rates of Night Blindness found that participants who were given supplemental vitamin A had lower rates of night blindness than those whose vitamin A intake was not increased.

But this kind of improvement was only possible because the Nepali women’s night blindness was directly related to their vitamin A deficiency. Increasing your vitamin A intake will not do much for vision problems caused by factors outside of your vitamin A intake, such as: B. Astigmatism.

“If your vision problems aren’t related to vitamin A, your vision won’t change no matter how many carrots you eat,” summarizes Gailey Eye Clinic.

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Laura Coffey

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