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Eyesight myths and misconceptions

Eyesight myths and misconceptions

Friday 02 April 2021

Will eating carrots help me to see in the dark?

The short answer is no, however there are many links between carrots and eye health that don’t result in immaculate night-time vision.

Carrots have long been heralded as miracle vegetables and were once thought to be a bit of a cure-all. In the Middle Ages they were even thought to cure snakebites. They weren’t associated with eyesight though until centuries later when, during World War II, everyone was directed to eat carrots in order to see better during the mandatory blackouts. But alas, this was simply propaganda.

But before we dismiss the carrot altogether when it comes to improving our eyesight, it’s worth noting that although it isn’t able to restore sight or make any structural changes to the eye itself, it is beneficial for overall vision health.

Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A in the liver. Deficiencies in vitamin A are the leading causes of blindness in the developing world, and a lack of vitamin A can also lead to conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration and xerophthalmia.

Carrots also contain lutein, which is an important antioxidant. Lutein-rich foods are known to improve and even prevent age-related macular degeneration by increasing the density of pigment in the macula. As pigment density increases, the retina is better protected and the risk of macular degeneration is reduced.

So, in conclusion, although eating carrots won’t give you 20/20 vision or help you to successfully navigate shin-height furniture during a power cut, they are rich in vitamin A and lutein, which makes them a great choice as a nutrient-rich snack or a delicious accompaniment to your Sunday roast.

Does dark chocolate improve eyesight?

Back in 2018, research published in JAMA Ophthalmology found that eating dark chocolate might boost visual acuity and contrast sensitivity. The study involved 30 healthy adults eating dark chocolate and milk chocolate in equal quantities on separate occasions, and taking a routine eye test using traditional eye charts two hours later.

Researchers demonstrated “significantly higher” visual acuity and contrast sensitivity after having consumer dark chocolate. At the time it was noted that “the duration of these effects and their influence in real-world performance await further testing,” they hypothesised that the “better visual performance” may stem from increased blood flow as a result of the flavanol-rich dark chocolate.

But don’t rush out to spend your hard-earned cash on dark chocolate Easter eggs for that reason just yet. The not-so-sweet news is that a subsequent study has found no evidence to support the 2018 research, but acknowledges that “further trials with larger sample sizes would be needed to rule in or out possible long-term benefits confidently.”

Any study that involves eating chocolate for the advancement of science sounds like our kind of study!


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