Our Ophthalmology Module Coordinator welcomed the Class of 2015 into the second semester of our Year Level 7 (third year) by giving us a short true or false pre-test on eye myths and facts. One of the statements that was given to us was: Eating carrots will improve your night vision. I’m curious to know what people think of this statement! I wonder how our class’ answers (which was more ore less split down the middle) compare to the answers of those outside the medical school world.
Getting to the point: If you haven’t gathered from the title of my post, eating carrots to improve your night vision is actually a myth! This was a myth that was actually propagated by the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom during World War I. The story goes that, during the first World War, members of the UK Royal Air Force were asked how they were able to bomb structures at night; to which they would reply that they eat a lot of carrots to help their night vision! The fact of the matter was that they could bomb structures at night, because they already had radars! It may just be me, but I found that a really fun fact to learn. :)
The substance of interest for carrots, in relation to vision, would most likely be vitamin A. Significant vitamin A insufficiency has been associated with night blindness, which is probably what gives credence to this particular myth. However, the keywords would be significant vitamin A insufficiency. If you don’t have vitamin A insufficiency, you will most likely NOT need the additional vitamin A from additional carrots in your diet. In fact, taking additional vitamin A in the absence of vitamin A insufficiency can lead to too much vitamin A in your body, which may overwork your liver and may open up a whole new can of worms!
Luckily, vitamin A deficiency is actually rare, especially in developed countries where sources of vitamin A are more easily accessible. Even developing nations like the Philippines have been making steps towards improving the statistics of vitamin A deficiency by fortifying staple foods like rice and even instant noodles with vitamin A.
So, if you’re really not that fond of carrots, fret not! Your night vision is safe enough. In fact, according to the US Office of Dietary Supplements, three (3) ounces of pan fried beef liver is more than enough for the weekly vitamin A needs of an adult. Alternatively, if you’re not into beef liver (or just not into liver, period), about four (4) to five (5) whole sweet potatoes baked in the skin are also enough for an adult’s weekly vitamin A needs.
Drop in again for more medical myths! Until my next writing! :)