Saturday, March 6, 2010

Carrots are orange, are you?

Will carrots turn me orange?  I'm not sure, but I'd like to find out.

See, I've often heard that if you eat enough carrots your skin will turn orange.  My college roommate Jake wondered about this, and even designed an experiment in which he was to eat a pound a day for a week; only he gave up after a couple days.  Was he sick of carrots, or did he just not want to turn orange?  And would it have worked anyway?  More importantly, how would having orange skin have affected his dating life?

Questions lingered.

Lately I've consumed copious carrots.  And while enjoying this carrot bounty, I've oft been reminded of the carrot questions of yesteryear, and the unfinished experiment.  Isaac Newton once said, "If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."  Well Jake's kind of a giant (he's about 6'4), so I'd like to stand on his shoulders and sample the view.  Not to mention finish the carrot experiment that he started.  In doing so, not only may I advance the frontier of human knowledge, I will also find out if carrots can turn me visibly orange.

So here's the plan:

Starting today, I will eat a pound of carrots every day for not just a week as in the original experiment, but for a month!  I'll only stop if I turn clearly and grotesquely orange before the end of the month, or I become deathly ill.  Afterward I'll post my results, with a picture                                                     

Related things I've looked into that you may want to know about:

Turning OrangeWhen your skin turns orange after eating carrots it's called carotenosis.  The compounds that turn you orange are carotenoids, and carrots have a lot of them.  Many other foods contain carotenoid (mostly vegetables and fruits), but in widely varying amounts.  So you might be able to turn orange from eating, say, mangoes, but it's a lot less likely (and maybe impossible) that you would eat enough of them for this to happen.  Carotenosis is benign, and the treatment is to stop eating carrots.

Vitamin A & likelihood of Death:  One thing that's not benign is getting way to much vitamin A.  It gets stored in your liver and can have detrimental effects.  Will I be getting way too much during this experiment?  Maybe but not really.  First of all, vitamin A consumption is cumulative, so if I ate a pound of carrots every day for the rest of my life, it might build up to toxic levels.  But in the short term, I'm probably ok.  Second, the natural precursor to vitamin A that you get from carrots is not as likely to be harmful as the preformed kind you get in some vitamin supplements.  And that's why toxic doses of vitamin A come almost exclusively from either overdosing on vitamin supplements, or from eating liver.  As a safety precaution, during the experiment I will not take any supplements containing vitamin A, nor eat even one liver.

Will my Whole Body Turn Orange?  It's possible, but most often the visible color change is limited to the palms and soles, with honorary mention to the knees and the skin on either side of the nose. 

Price of Carrots:  Did you know carrots are free?  That's right, you can go to the grocery store and pick up as many carrots as you want, and you don't have to pay for them!  That will be really convenient for the next month or so.  Ok, I'm lying.  But in Weight Watchers, the ever-popular diet plan, carrots are considered a "free" food.  That means that while there are limits on how much you can eat of most foods while following Weight Watchers, there's no limit on how many carrots you can eat!  This is because they have so few calories that the positive benefit of the fiber is equal to or greater than any detriment derived from those extra calories.  So carrots are free.  You couldn't get fat off them if you tried.  

Price of Carrot Cake:  Carrot cake is not free.  

        Last and probably least, a couple "before" pictures, with focus on the palms:     

        UPDATE:  Here's where I talk about the results of the experiment. 


          1. At first, I didn't even remember the old experiment, but then I realized that I had tried to erase it from my mind. My experiment was dropped after several days due to a complete and alarming rejection by my digestive system at an emergency gas station stop as Bryan Cook was driving me to Joe’s apartment. Without getting into details I'll just let you know that it was a disaster. Now, don't let this discourage or intimidate you in any way. I feel that your stomach is in a much better position to handle the stress of this experiment thanks to your impressive history of eating Guatemalan food for two years and the amazing marathon diet of potatoes and onions, which, you so easily surpassed me in. I think if I could go back and do it all again I’d juice the carrots from time to time to give my stomach a break. If anyone can do this, it’s you Ben! I’m really excited to see your results…

          2. When my brother was a kid, he snacked on carrots all day long. I don't know if he actually turned orange, but I think I remember my mom mentioning his hands did and that she had to buy him smokers toothpaste to keep his teeth clean. He also has strawberry blond hair now, but that might be a coincidence.

            I recommend eating sweet potatoes to add some variety to your diet. They also provide a lot of carotenoids.

          3. I'm so excited to see you turn orange!! This reminds me of this old website I used to follow where these guys would do crazy projects. If I remember right there was the stinky feet project, the fat project, etc. I can't find them anymore but I miss people doing crazy experiments with their bodies :)Good luck!!

          4. Oh. My. Gosh. Ben, you will turn orange you big NERD! Take a look at my sisters blog... my nephew's ORANGE!! She fed him sweet potatoes and carrots a little too often and now he's as orange as you're gonna be! you crack me up!!! You need to come back to AZ!!

          5. What was the result? I used you as an example of what would happen if humans were specialist consumers, and now they all want to know if you actually turned orange or not. Post pictures!