“Eat your carrots – they’re good for your eyes!”
When I was younger and found all vegetables repulsive, this was one argument that my mother would frequently use to convince me to eat those crunchy orange sticks at the dinner table. At that time, I didn’t know any better and unquestioningly accepted this line of reasoning.
However, as I grew older, I began to question the logic behind this assertion. Is it really true that carrots have the ability improve our eyesight? Do they possess the miraculous power to help remove my dependence on my chunky spectacles? Could chomping on these sweet vegetables really help me regain perfect vision?
It turns out that that unless you suffer from vitamin A deficiency, consuming more carrots will not improve your vision. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which is subsequently converted to vitamin A that affects eye health. Those who are deficient in vitamin A are hence more prone to night blindness and general loss of vision due to the lack of the nutrient. However, this is completely preventable by eating foods which are high in vitamin A. In this sense, only those who lack sufficient vitamin A in their diet stand to benefit from eating more carrots.
However, there has been research in recent years to show that carrots, which contain a pigment called carotenoid that is responsible for the bright colours in plants, may actually reduce the likelihood of being diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is an untreatable disease that damages the retina, thereby causing blurred vision and blindness in people over 50 years old.
A study done by the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study found that there was an almost 40 per cent risk reduction of advanced AMD for patients aged 50 and older who consumed more carotenoids. While the results suggest that carrots may actually be effective in preventing AMD in the long run, the study was unable to prove a direct relationship between carrots and improved eye health.
Aside from carrots, there are other foods which can also reduce the risk of being diagnosed with AMD. According to a study conducted by the National Eye Institute (NEI), “taking high levels of antioxidants and zinc can reduce the risk of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by about 25 per cent”. Some of these foods include oysters, shellfish and poultry, which are high in zinc, as well as eggs, which are high in glutathione, a natural antioxidant.
Now that the age-old myth has been debunked, I’m finally able to counter my mother’s previously deceptive arguments with scientific evidence. What’s even better is that I can also suggest other more palatable alternatives to carrots – guess we’ll be having more seafood for dinner from now on!