In my sophomore
year of college, I had a lot of problems
. One manifestation of this was that I ate up to a kilo
(2lbs.) of carrots
every day. What can I say? I was frustrated and depressed, and scared of getting fat, and tearing apart thick crunchy cellulose wands seemed like a good idea.
After a while, my formerly dusky skin began turning yellow-orange. I knew why it was happening and I didn't care, or I valued the fact that it made me more of a freak
Carotenemia or hypercarotenemia is a condition in which skin color is altered by a high intake of carotenoids. It can be differentiated from jaundice or hepatitis because it does not discolor the whites of the eyes. Beta-carotene is considered a healthful vitamin because the body converts it into the antioxidant vitamin A. Foods high in beta-carotene include carrots, sweet potatoes, and some gourds. There have also been reported cases of people taking huge doses of beta-carotene in "tanning pills."
On a visit to my parents
, I was dragged in to see a doctor. He told me horror stories about the dangers of vitamin A overdose, and warned me to stop eating carrots. But I didn't show any of the symptoms of excessive vitamin A.
Beta-carotene is considered an especially safe form of vitamin A, because the body converts it as needed and won't reach toxic levels. Symptoms of A toxicity include dizziness, drowsiness, and scaly or peeling skin. Pregnant women should not take more than 10,000 IU / day
It became clear to me that they didn't have a leg to stand on
, and I ignored them. Once, I visited a friend in the emergency room and the doctor dropped what he was doing to ask if I was all right. I pointed to the whites of my eyes and he left. On another occasion, I was visiting a physician and he called in a medical student because I was such an unusual specimen
Because the carotenoids are fat-soluble, they can build up to clinically significant levels over months or years. Beta-carotene stored in the skin is released slowly.
Finally, two caring friends
sat down with me and explained that I looked desperately unhealthy. Regardless of how I actually was, a psychology
student has to work with experimental subjects and therapeutic clients, and this might compromise their ability to feel comfortable with me.
This made sense, and I was grateful that someone would be honest after I'd been jerked around
by my doctors. So I cut down to a normal human
intake of beta-carotene, and after about a year my skin had returned to a less unbelievable shade.
Lexical note: "carotenemia" does not share a root with "anemia," and does not indicate anything about the quality of one's blood.