Do Carrots Improve Eyesight?
Do carrots improve eyesight? Does spinach make you stronger like Popeye? Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away? Like all good food myths, there is an element of truth to the link between carrots and eyesight. But there are also some wild exaggerations, thanks to the RAF pilots of World War II…
Carrots and Vitamin A
These orange veggies are a great source of vitamin A – which itself is undeniably important for healthy eyesight. Vitamin A maintains a healthy cornea and helps proper perception of light at the retina.
In fact, a deficiency will leave you wild eyed and blinking with night blindness, which is exacerbated by a lag in recovery time after seeing a flash of light in the dark. So if you suffer from a vitamin A deficiency, eating carrots will improve your vision – at least, your night vision.
Carrots and Beta Carotene
Carrots also contain a substance called beta carotene, which may help protect the eyes against cataracts and macular degeneration. However, the amount you would need to stay healthy is impossible to get into the typical diet – no matter how many carrots you eat! This is one reason why eye vitamins are becoming so popular, because they pack all the vitamins and nutrients required for healthy vision into a single daily supplement.
Do Carrots Improve Eyesight? The RAF Urban Legend
During World War II, the link between carrots and eyesight was vaguely understood. This led Britain’s air ministry to start a rumor that a diet rich in carrots improves vision – leading the Nazis to believe this was why the Brits saw their night bombers coming before they even reached the English Channel.
In fact, the rumor was covering up a new secret technology being used by the Royal Air Force: Airborne Interception Radar (or AI). As long as they didn’t think the technology existed, the Nazis would not question the uncanny ability of the British to see the enemy planes approaching in the dead of night.
The rumor was a great success – news stories appeared in the British press about extraordinary personnel manning the defenses, such as Flight Lieutenant John Cunningham, an RAF pilot nicknamed Cats Eyes for his “exceptional” eyesight. Cunningham attributed his superb night vision to eating carrots – and lots of them.
However, the RAF was so convincing in its plight that the English public began eating more carrots to help their night vision during blackouts.