The origin of the myth about the benefits of carrots for vision has been the subject of a long-standing dispute. The Smithsonian Institution in the US aims to put an end to the argument once and for all. Although carrots do contain beta-carotene, which the body can convert into retinol that benefits the cornea of the eyes, eating the root vegetable alone will not significantly improve vision.
John Stolarczyk, curator and creator of the virtual Carrot Museum at the Smithsonian Institution, has put forward his own theory about the myth’s origin. According to Stolarczyk, the false claim can be traced back to propaganda during World War II in Britain. The lights in British cities were turned off to avoid bombing by the Luftwaffe air forces, and the Royal Air Force used radar to fend off air attacks. The RAF had to classify the success of radar technology, so they made up a story that pilots could see in the dark due to their consumption of carrots.
An advertising campaign, known as the “Kitchen Front”, launched by the UK Department of Food during a time of food shortages in the country, reinforced the carrot myth. The campaign caught the attention of Disney artists, who inspired the creation of animated carrots in American cartoons.
As a result, the belief in the magical power of carrots to improve human vision became a widespread myth in post-war Europe and America.