Can eating carrots give you a natural tan? The science behind this medical oddity

A beauty trend that’s become popular on TikTok is called carrot tan, which claims that eating three carrots a day will give you a natural tan.

But can this really give you natural light? And is it healthy?

Why do carrots affect your skin color?

Carotenoids are natural pigments that give fruits and vegetables their red, orange, and yellow colors. Think of them as natural paintings.

High in carotenoids, including lutein, lycopene, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is the carotenoid that gives carrots their vibrant orange color.

When food containing beta-carotene is digested, special cells in the intestines split the food into two molecules of retinol (also known as vitamin A). This Vitamin A is then used in various important functions of the body such as vision, reproduction, immunity and growth.

The body controls the conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A based on the body’s needs. Therefore, when the body has enough vitamin A, the body will slow down or stop converting beta-carotene into vitamin A.

Any additional beta-carotene is then stored in the liver and fatty tissue, excreted in the stool, or eliminated through sweat glands in the outer layer of the skin. This is when an orange tan can occur. In medicine, this condition is called carotenoderma.

Carotenoderma gives your skin a yellow/orange pigmentation that is not the same as the color you will turn when you tan. It is concentrated on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and laugh lines near the nose.

Carrots are not the only food containing beta-carotene. Dark green leafy vegetables and some (but not all) other yellow and orange vegetables and fruits also contain high levels. Beta-carotene is also found in parsley, basil, chives, chili powder, sun-dried tomatoes and some dietary supplements.

How many carrots are we talking about?

Eating a lot of carrots over a few days is unlikely to lead to changes in skin color.

No high-quality trials have been performed to examine the relationship between the number of carrots eaten per day and changes in skin color or other outcomes. However, there is evidence that carotenoderma appears when blood levels are higher than 250 to 500 g/dL.

A published case report (in which researchers talk about a patient’s case) found that eating about 3 kg of carrots per week (about seven large carrots per day) caused a change in color. skin.

Other experts say you need to eat at least 10 carrots a day for at least a few weeks for the color change to occur. Most people will find eating these carrots a challenge.

The number of carrots needed to change the skin color will also depend on the type of carrots, their size and ripeness, how the carrots are prepared (raw or cooked), and whether the carrots are eaten with a source of nutrients. fat or not. A person’s weight and digestive health will also affect how much beta-carotene is absorbed.

Is eating too much beta-carotene dangerous?

Vitamin A comes in two main forms: preformed vitamin A and provitamin A.

Preformed vitamin A is the active form of vitamin A found in foods of animal origin, including liver, cod liver oil, egg yolks, and dairy products. When you eat these foods, pre-formed vitamin A is ready for the body to use.

Provitamin A compounds (including beta-carotene) are precursors to vitamin A. Provitamin A compounds need to be converted into active vitamin A once in the body.

Preformed vitamin A can be toxic if consumed in large quantities. However, provitamin A compounds do not cause vitamin A toxicity in humans because the body tightly regulates the conversion of provitamin A compounds to vitamin A. For this reason, no limit is recommended. about how much beta-carotene a person can safely consume each day.

However, there is some evidence that high-dose beta-carotene supplements (20 mg per day or more) increase the risk of lung cancer in people who smoke or have ever smoked. This may be due to changes in chemical signaling pathways.

Therefore, the Cancer Council recommends avoiding high doses of beta-carotene supplements (more than 20 mg per day), especially if you smoke. However, this has nothing to do with whole foods, so smokers should still consume fruits and vegetables with beta-carotene.

Why you should aim for a variety of vegetables

You can still use food to look better without focusing on eating carrots. Incorporating a variety of colorful vegetables, especially those high in carotenoids, into your diet can bring out natural radiance and gently improve skin tone.

Instead of processed foods, lots of fresh vegetables provide a variety of nutrients and some may have others lacking. Therefore, it is important to have a balanced diet that does not depend on any one vegetable.

No matter how many carrots you eat in a day, it’s important to protect your skin with sunscreen when you go out.

This article was originally published on The Conversation by Lauren Ball at the University of Queensland and Emily Burch at Southern Cross University. Read the original text here.

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