By ARIADNE WEINBERG, Featured Columnist
Carrots ---they’re great for you, right?
Full of carotenoids and dietary fibers, carrots even are a rich source of anti-cancer antioxidants.
With good reason, the carrot (Daucus Carota) is one of the world’s most popular root vegetables. Over 80% of the carrots produced in the US are from California. Americans eat about 9.8 pounds of carrots per person, according to a report from Colorado State University's School of Public Health.
Datt Sharma Krishnan and researchers from Parmar University in India point out the versatility of carrots. They can be juiced, dehydrated, eaten plain, boiled, and much more. Additionally, they’re great for curing a host of diseases, including diabetes and bad eyesight.
Carrots are nothing new. They are believed to have originated in Afghanistan and adjacent areas in ancient times. The oldest record of carrots was found first in the writings of Athenaeus (A.D. 200), and in the cookbook by Apicius Czclius.
While we are still cooking with them, in this modern world of juice binges and weight loss, we must remember that dosage is everything.
Even carrots, when taken to the extreme, can cause harm (or at the very least orange skin). Read on to find out about some weird cases of where carrot ingestion has gone too far.
A 48-year-old with Liver Issues
Carrots can lead to elevated liver enzymes. Randy Sansone and doctors from Wright State University school of Medicine observed the case of a 48-year-old male who presented with mid-abdominal discomfort and elevated liver enzymes as primary symptoms.
Additionally he had constipation, hypercarotenemia, and vitamin A toxicity. When they obtained more information from the patient, they discovered he had ingested 6-7 pounds of carrots per week to facilitate diet efforts.
While losing weight is excellent, varying diet is important. Luckily when the patient stopped excessive carrot ingestion, the enzymes normalized within a month.
2. Allergic Contact Dermatitis in Japan and the U.K.
Dietary factors can cause allergies, and carrots are no exception. The reaction is usually more common within infants or children with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis.
According to a 2014 study from Rajani Katta from the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, usually elimination of the food in question will do the trick. There have been multiple serious cases reported of contact dermatitis from carrots, one reported from the M. Kawai at the Kyoto prefectural University of Medical Science, another by S.R. Murdoch at the Royal South Hants Hospital in Southampton, U.K.
Not everyone’s skin gets along well with carrots. If that is your case, choose another thing to cook or get an assistant for that carrot-chopping.
3. Anaphylaxis from Carrots and Ice Cream
In some cases, carrots not only cause an superficial allergic reaction, but they cause the whole body to flare up.
Anaphylaxis is defined as a severe, whole body reaction to a chemical that has become an allergen. In the case of carrots, an anaphylactic reaction often occurs in combination with another food.
For example, in 2002, M. Schiapoli from the Verona General Hospital in Italy observed a case of anaphylactic shock, when someone accidentally ingested carrot mixed into ice cream. They confirmed that the culprit was the carrot, and not a different ingredient, by conducting in vivo and in vitro studies, as well as double-blind placebo controlled experiments.
4. Paralysis from Carrot Juice
One of the more severe cases of carrot ingestion, comes from carrot juice. Flashback to Canada 2006. Two toronto residents were paralyzed after drinking carrot juice tested positive for a botulinum toxin.
"There are two adults who are severely ill in hospital and they had a history of drinking the exact same juice that's been part of the carrot juice recall," Dr. Elizabeth Rea, an associate medical officer of health a the Public Health Institute stated Botulism has many side effects including blurred vision, slurred speech, difficulty breathing, and paralysis.
Two more reports were issued at the time, where a Florida woman was unresponsive and 3 people in Georgia suffered from respiratory failure and had to use ventilators.
5. Yersinia Pseudotuberculosis in Finnish Schools
As observed above, the key to a lack of carrot poisoning is clean vegetables. This case is similar.
The yersinia pseudotuberculosis outbreak affected over 400 children from 23 schools and 5 daycare centers between August and September 2006. The condition is somewhat like scarlet fever, not something fun to undergo. The incident was strongly associated with the consumption of grated carrots served at school lunch, because there were identical genotypes of Y. Pseudotuberculosis in the contaminated areas. Poor quality carrots had been delivered to the school municipality, according to the 2009 report by Ruska Rimhanen-Finne from the National Public Health Institute in Helsinki.
6. Hypercarotenemia in Children
The saying “You are what you eat” applies to carrots. A 2011 case study by N.D. Wageesha and published in the International Journal of Food Sciences looked at cases of children turning orange due to excess consumption of carrots, pumpkins, and pawpaws. While turning orange may not be lethal, the experience sure can be scary. So how does this work? The aforementioned delicious veggies contain carotenoids, which are broken down into vitamin A, and spread through the system. The faster you metabolize carotenoids, probably the faster you get yellow, hence the cases with children. Luckily, while pretty weird, the phenomenon is relatively harmless if you simply eliminate carrot (or pumpkin or pawpaw) intake.
7. Malnutrition from Carrots in a 4-year old Autistic Boy
Malnutrition can happen to anyone who eats too much of the same thing. In the case of a 4-year-old autistic boy, he was found to have had a narrow range of food and to have consumed an excess quantity of carrot juice.
He was found to be underweight and have raised serum carotene levels. Luckily, he was looked at by dieticians and autism spectrum disease specialists. Whether the case was resolved, reported by K. Keown at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust in 2014, is inconclusive. However, there have been serious cases of malnutrition and diabetes related problems with eating almost only carrots. With children, you must be more careful, given their heightened sensitivity.
8. Breastfeeding and Infant Food Avoidance
A 1999 report by J.A. Menella at the Monnell Chemical Senses Center revealed an interesting but disturbing dietary trend. Infants breast fed with carrot juice, as compared to infants breast fed with water, were more likely to avoid cereal with carrots added to it. This could be a consequence of the fact that they were already satiated; however, it could be a future psychological link to avoid carrots and carrot-like veggies in “regular” solid foods.
9. Vitamin A Intoxication from Carrot Juice with a 9-year-old Girl
In 1982, a case report from Philadelphia-based Dr. H.K. Rosenberg told of a 9 year-old-girl with a case of skeletal pain, dermatitis, and hepatitis inflammation was treated with vitamin A. pills. On top of that, she was drinking an excess of carrot juice and developed vitamin A. poisoning. Yes, you can overdose on something as good for you as vitamin A. Keep juicing, but mix in other things.
10. Infant Nitrate Intoxication
While breastfeeding can be a concern amongst mothers who love carrots, the likelihood that you will intoxicate your baby is pretty low. Princeton University graduate Dr. Greene confirms that there has only been one recorded case, in 1973, of an infant with nitrate poisoning. This was due to the baby drinking carrot juice directly, however.
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