Carrots, Science and WWII

I’ve grown up with the saying that “carrots help you see in the dark” – but is this true?

There is intriguing science behind the question, but it may not be exactly for the reasons you may think!

But before we get into all of that, there is another question that needs answering, what came first… the theory or the science?

Believe it or not, it supposedly started as British Propaganda during the second world war. As we’ve all learned from numerous text books and The History Channel, the Allies, which included the UK, were amongst the first to invent the radio-based detection and tracking technology that we now know as “radar’’. Obviously, the Germans were not in possession of this technology at the time, but their bombers were consistently being shot down before making it across the Channel – why was this happening?

The Air Ministry (the department of UK government that managed RAF affairs) came up with the idea to “leak” the fact British pilots were, supposedly, eating lots and lots of carrots to help them see in the dark – this was done to send the Germans, and their allies, in a wild goose chase. There is no way to say for sure if this worked as intended, but there once was a time that people believed the Earth was flat – anything was believable at some point!

Now onto the science – there have been numerous studies which have demonstrated that vitamin A is used by the body to produce light-sensitive proteins, known as Rhodopsin. This protein is very light sensitive and, therefore, allows for vision in low-light conditions – “seeing in the dark”. Adding more vitamin A to your diet will only allow you to see better in the dark if you have vitamin A deficiency.

To answer the original question – it looks like it’s a yes but only if you didn’t eat your carrots to begin with!

 

Jorge Sobral

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