Scientific Mystery of the Month: Carrot Skin

hannah gibson
By: Hannah Gibson

Let’s talk about Daucus carota. Also known as the common carrot, a typically orange root vegetable, that is apparently also available in purple, red, white, yellow, black, and can grow and mature quickly, within about ninety days. They also contain alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, Vitamin K, and Vitamin B6…aren’t carrots great! I was disappointed to learn that the myth that carrots improve night vision was made up by the British in World War II to mislead their enemies about their night vision capabilities, but that will be a story for another day.

Carotenemia [noun]: a clinical condition characterized by the yellow pigmentation of the skin and increased beta-carotene in the blood. While harmless, the discoloration of the hands and feet can sometimes be mistaken for jaundice. Carotene is a lipochrome that adds a yellow color to the skin. The more foods consumed with this coloring property, the more prominent the coloring will become. It is most often seen in infants and young children being fed commercial baby foods, but is also found in my friend Susie, who just really likes carrots.

As I mentioned before, this condition is harmless but it can take a few months for the skin to return to its normal color. For parents who turned their baby orange, more green vegetables are often recommended, and tomatoes are to be avoided because they could lead to the development of lycopenemia, which leads to a reddish discoloration of the skin. Maybe yellow, red, and orange skin will become a weird fashion trend in the future or maybe just continue to be a way to trick your enemies into turning themselves orange, but for now we’re going to sit back, keep calm and eat our greens!




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