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WWII Propaganda Popularized Myth That Carrots Help You See in the Dark (2013) (smithsonianmag.com)
124 points by samclemens 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 84 comments





It's fascinating how wartime propaganda assumes a life of its own. Another common myth spread by the English as a means of demeaning the leader of their then French enemy during the Napoleonic Wars was that Napoleon Bonaparte was short when in fact, and according to most contemporary descriptions, he was of average height. Yet to this day a cottage industry has been built around Napoleon's height that even persists to the present through our language - see "Napoleon Complex".

My understanding is that Napoleon was of average height for a peasant, but was short compared to well-fed officers.

I believe the consensus was that he was approximately 170cm (5'7") which was, contemporaneously, fairly average. There is a surprisingly large number of Google hits relating to why he was perceived to be short but none that offers a definitive answer. The most compelling is that he was constantly surrounded by large bodyguards which gave the public the impression that he was not tall.

> he was constantly surrounded by large bodyguards

This (and indeed, the Coldstream Guards more generally) appear to be a recurrent problem for French leaders:

https://s-i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/237977/slide_237...


What I had understood was that it was due to the fact that the French foot was larger, so he was 5'2" in French feet which sounds short to someone used to the English foot. I honestly have no idea what the truth is.

Thread from 2017: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13690676

And a nice weird carrot thread from 2009: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1191190


I don't think the article quite connects the dots.

As I understood it, it was mainly for homefront consumption, to encourage kids to eat their veg. Pilots are cool ergo they can make veg cool, so the theory goes.


The article discusses the "victory gardens" which are quite interesting to me. Gardens I know of in the US zone 6 (without grow lights that help start the season early) are productive a few months of the year. Early spring you get leafy vegetables, but the bulk comes July/August and wanes in September. This schedule certainly doesn't seem like a major help in war time, so did they do something else? Preservation, better soil so food lasted longer,different planting varieties that produce spring - fall?

Ask an old person :-)

Canning will go a long way, especially if you plan your garden with that in mind. Used to be (mid 20th c) just about every family grew veggies and canned them for the Winter/Spring, excepting rich city-folk.

Old recipes are built around what's in-season or what's probably still in your root cellar from last Summer/Fall. Get-anything-any-time is a very new thing—I remember an awful lot more produce falling out of availability in certain seasons as late as the '90s. You still see signs of it with price/quality variability and a few things that remain seasonal—so, cooking those old recipes at the right times of year still makes some sense.


All food used to come from those growing periods. I think you grew certain kinds of tubers that could be stored over winter in a root cellar or made into preserves.

If you look at the picture on Wikipedia, potatoes and onions and carrots are prominent: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victory_garden

That said I don't know the answer and I'd be curious what they did in winter in wartime.


Preservation is largely unnecessary. If a garden provides say 1 month of food for a family, then that family buys less food for that month. Being self sufficient was possible, but takes significant labor and land.

This sounds plausible, but....you couldn't just "buy" more food into the economy in winter. You had to store it somehow.

A victory garden would let other farms concentrate on more storable foods though, if the gardens accounted for greens in summer.

But actual victory gardens had storable foods, I think.


That was already happening.

Large scale agriculture was already set up to do long term preservation. People normally eat storable foods every month. Bread for example generally does not last long, but it’s made from grains that could have been harvested 2+ years ago. Modern preservation methods can push that to 10+ years at minor cost.

That said, canning and other food storage was common. It was simply not a major focus of victory gardens. Otherwise the focus would have been on potatoes and other easily preserved foods not vegetables.


There were a lot of pamphlets and campaigns around storage, and rotating so your veggies lasted the longest possible time. We weren't quite as distant from the land and nature as we are today, so most had some connection with seasons, what to grow and when.

Here's one ww2 era guide to storing carrots, and how to make a clamp: http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/photos/storageguide.jpg

Most houses still had a larder or cellar, so there was more often a cool, dark area to keep boxes of onions, carrots, spuds, apples etc where they might keep for months. Far longer than most manage today, because few do anything beyond "throw them in the fridge" which can often shorten possible life!

There was even the Anderson shelter[1] that was the air raid shelter everyone could put in the garden. Designed for six, they were often handy tool shed and veggie storage for smaller families! Not much help if it was one of the many that tended to flood, but if you had a dry one...

[1] http://primaryfacts.com/506/anderson-shelter-facts/


Brassicas (cabbage, kale) stand happily all winter, as do leeks. Certain types of lettuce and salad can stand all winter especially with a bit of protection. Potatoes, carrots, onions/garlic store happily over winter. Beans and peas can be easily dried.

Fall (Autumn) is when I would say the bulk of the harvest comes in. Maincrop Potatoes and carrots, beans plus 'tree crops', apples, pears, nuts etc.

Spring is always the problem (its called the hungry gap), you can't really grow anything of any size that soon after winter, and biannuals are wanting to flower.

The internet tells me I'm in zone 7, but quite exposed, so I guess not that different

"better soil" I think they actually tended to overcrop the soil, in the UK the yields were starting to fall in 44/45 because the soil was starting to become exhausted.

https://dig-for-victory.org.uk/

That has guides and stuff for gardeners of the time


In WWII refrigeration was still somewhat new, even if you were young enough to not remember life without them, you had neighbors and grandparents who did. In 1875 you had to live with the same growing months and store food for the rest - those ways were still personally remembered by many. In fact some people didn't get electricity until the 1950s and so they still were using the old ways because there was no other option. (My grandpa remembered his dad paying $600 to connect the farm in 1936 - about $12000 today so you can understand why most neighbors didn't)

My mother remembers getting lightly boiled potatoes which were let to cool, put on a stick, then sprinkled with sugar. (Korea in the 50's.) Unlike the little girls in the picture, she says she was delighted to get one of those.

With regards to WWII and night vision, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) at the time had the most effective non-radar night fighting training and techniques. Some of the worst defeats dished out by the IJN to the USN were due to their excellent night fighting and an over-reliance by the US on nascent RADAR technology.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWEEHOKcTnA

That said, the US radar-laid guns were a game changer. In some interpretations of the Battle off Samar, the US destroyers created such a high density of hits, that Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita mistakenly identified those ships as cruisers and mistakenly identified the whole group as much stronger, which ended up saving the landing force.


Radar-guided guns had the practical effect of doubling the firepower, due to more accurate shooting. This is an absolutely enormous advantage.

I heard the counter that Germany had ground based radar and would develop airborne radar later, so the propaganda was not helpful. Can somebody answer?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radar_in_World_War_II#Germany

> In February 1943, a British bomber containing a H2S radar was shot down over the Netherlands, and the 10-cm magnetron was found intact. In short order, the secret of making successful magnetrons was discovered, and microwave radar development started.

> In June 1941, an RAF bomber, equipped with an ASV (Air-to-Surface Vessel) Mk II radar, made an emergency landing in France. Although the crew had attempted to destroy the set, the remains were sufficient for the German Laboratory for Aviation to discern the operation and its function. Tests indicated the merits of such a radar, and Wolfgang Martini also saw the value and tasked Lorenz to develop a similar system.


I spam this everytime WW2 engineering is mentioned and I'll do it again:

https://youtu.be/GJCF-Ufapu8

The secret war is a documentary about exactly that (amongst other things e.g. the magnetic mine): WW2 RADAR and radio navigation, and the intellectual battle between the Brits and Germans as they tried to locate beams and steal (genuinely!) entire German ground radar stations

It's very long, very detailed but well presented - in a style that assumes you aren't stupid.


Thanks for spamming --- I hadn't known about the documentary. I presume you are familiar with this classic book on the topic as well: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/r-v-jones/the-wiz...

I'm aware of it but haven't got a copy myself

Ooof. 5 hours. Looks good though.

It's a 7 part series: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Secret_War_(TV_series)

So, you know, eat it in chunks


It's 5 hours but it's absolute gold if you like stuff like that (like me)

YouTube remembers where you left off now so it's not a huge issue in 2019


During the Battle of Britain (1940) the Brits used a radar network to track German planes and successfully concealed the existence of the network from the Germans (using the carrot propaganda and other means).

The stations of the radar network were a string of about a dozen wooden towers, each about 100 feet tall, situated along the east coast of Britain. If the German knew that they were radar stations, they probably would have destroyed them and prevented Britain from rebuilding them. Without the radar network, the Royal Air Force probably would've been destroyed in the Battle of Britain, and the Royal Air Force was the only thing preventing the Germans from invading across the English Channel.

So if it helped keep the Germans ignorant of the British radar network until the Germans gave up trying to destroy the Royal Air Force in September 1940, it was monumentally helpful regardless of what happened after September 1940.


> the Royal Air Force was the only thing preventing the Germans from invading across the English Channel.

Apart from the Royal Navy, of course. I think the general consensus now is that Germany couldn't have sucessfully invaded the UK, even if it had won the Battle of Britain?


A loss of air supremacy would've had extremely significant impact on the Royal Navy, I suspect. The Pacifc theater showed us this pretty conclusively.

Naval ships are essentially artillery platforms that can reach 10 or more miles inland, but over the first 3 or 4 years of thewar the Royal Navy never dared to use these platforms against any of the coastlines (Norway, Northern France, Germany itself, Poland) occupied by the Germans except when they had to cover the evacuation of their Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk and except for a few small raids relying on the element of surprise. (What they did instead was to use subs to land commandos on the coast.)

And of course by D-Day the Luftwaffe had been mostly destroyed relative to what it was in 1940.

So, no, I tend to doubt that if the RAF had been destroyed, the Royal Navy could have prevented the German army from making a crossing of the English Channel.


> Naval ships are essentially artillery platforms that can reach 10 or more miles inland ....

Naval ships also are just a bit useful for control of the sea; indeed, historically that's been arguably the foremost purpose of the navies of island nations such as the UK and U.S.

If the Germans had tried to invade Britain, the Royal Navy would have thrown in every last ship it had to attack the German troop transports in the Channel. (I'm paraphrasing Herman Wouk here.) The RN ships would have been extremely vulnerable to U-boat and E-boat attack there, of course (just as the U.S. Navy and RN are worried about in today's Strait of Hormuz). The RN would also have been vulnerable to air attack (as the British, U.S., Dutch, and Japanese navies learned at terrible cost in the Pacific War), especially if the Luftwaffe had previously gained mastery of the skies over the Channel. But as the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures.


If they had gained air supremacy over the Channel, the German's first move probably would've been to start shelling the southern coast of Britain using a low-value naval asset. If the Brits send in a warship to stop the shelling, attack it with the Luftwaffe. If the Brits don't send a warship, keep on shelling with the goal of preparing a segment of the coast for the landing of German troops.

The Luftwaffe had about 2600 planes in 1940 and the ability to build as many airstrips as they pleased all along one border of the Channel. What do you think the chances were of a British ship or task force's surviving a single mission into the Channel? I agree with what you're saying that the Brits would've been willing to risk their entire Navy to stop an invasion of the homeland (which BTW was the original reason for the creation of their Navy centuries ago) but would that have been enough? (And if they lost most of their Navy, would they have been able to continue to feed their population? Remember that the Brits were dependent on food from overseas.)

If some power wants to attack a US aircraft carrier, they face the formidable task of finding it first. On the open ocean this is very hard: during the Cold War, the Soviets deployed an entire constellation of satellites for the sole purpose of locating US carriers in the North Atlantic (then transmitting the location to their submarines and long-range bombers). I mention this because the reputation for awesomeness earned by the British Navy before WW II was earned mainly in unconfined waters; against air power and subs, it is much less powerful in the confined waters of the Channel.

Also, look what happened to the British Pacific Fleet the next year when it dared to sail within range of Japanese aviation assets. And I think that happened in unconfined waters.


Check out this actual war game they conducted in 1974 where they concluded that the invasion would have been a resounding failure.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Sea_Lion_(wargame)


That says they assumed a Germany with no air supremacy yet.

Based on the simulations they ran according to historical data, they concluded that the Germans would have thought they had air supremancy even if that was impossible, even with the Germans continuing to bomb RAF bases long after they switched to cities.

Honestly, I figured the GP would get a kick out of reading about a hypothetical war game of the scenario they envisioned.


OK, thanks, but that war game didn't consider what would've happened if the Germans had learned about the British radar network.

No problem, just thought it was interesting to compare what could have happened compared to what you proposed.

> Also, look what happened to the British Pacific Fleet the next year when it dared to sail within range of Japanese aviation assets. And I think that happened in unconfined waters.

Um, yes — I think I mentioned that.


> by D-Day the Luftwaffe had been mostly destroyed relative to what it was in 1940.

From my reading about D-Day, it would have failed if the Allies had not achieved absolute air superiority. The Allied positions behind the front line were safe, and any strong points of German resistance were immediately attacked by ground attack airplanes.


That's because the amount of firepower you can cram on a stretch of coastline, is far greater than that of a ship.

The British had no reason to risk their ships, by shelling the European coastline. Little of the vital war-making industry was along the coast, and harbors and dockyards were heavily defended through geography, mines, and fixed coastal batteries.

Instead, the Royal Navy had complete sea superiority of the English channel. Trying to ship, and then support hundreds of thousands of soldiers, and thousands of tanks, on slow-moving barges, through the English channel, while being outnumbered 4:1 by the opposing Navy would have been complete suicide.

Not to mention the months of supplies, that would also have to come over the channel, that any sort of invasion would require.

If, by some miracle, Operation Sealion actually made a landing on the British Isles, the most likely outcome of any such invasion would have been another Stalingrad. [1]

[1] In one of his speeches, Hitler quite famously stated that the Sixth German Army (after its encirclement in December 1942) would never leave Stalingrad.

He was not wrong.


> and successfully concealed the existence of the network from the Germans (using the carrot propaganda and other means).

This is not true. The RADAR stations were well-known to the Germans, who bombed them from the very start of the BoB and devised many tricks to counter them.


The "Radar" episode of the tv show "Battle Stations" says that Goering and most of his staff believed the towers to be communications towers, but one member of his staff supected the truth. This one staff member got permission from Goering to bomb the towers once or twice at the very start of the BoB. He also got permission to fly a blimp loaded with radio receivers up and down Britain's east coast to settle the question of the nature of the towers, but the German radio engineers made a technical mistake that led them to the wrong conclusion, after which the Germans never again made any moves against the towers or the other components of the radar network during the BoB.

Just because it was said on TV doesn't make it true. I don't mean to sound condescending, but if you are interested in this topic you will find a wealth of information in actual history books.

The RADAR wasn't the key, the infrastructure around the RADAR was more important i.e. the command centres where fighters were dispatched from.

By this, I mean that the Germans would've had to be very very lucky to completely stop British radar (Chain Home was pretty rubbish by the time the Germans knew about it, so it could've been rebuilt very quickly) but bombing something that small would've been very difficult given that it was in operation and well covered by fighters


>bombing something that small would've been very difficult given that it was in operation and well covered by fighters

The veteran British radar scientist and others interviewed on the TV show _Battle Stations_ said different.

>the infrastructure around the RADAR was more important i.e. the command centres

The fact that the stations by themselves would have been useless has no bearing on the question of how vulnerable the stations would have been to German attacks.

I didn't mention the communications lines and the command centers because they were less vulnerable to German attack.

To summarize: if they had known about it, the Germans probably could've degraded the British radar network enough to succeed in their goal of destroying the RAF. They came close to destroying the RAF as it is.


The network was only outward facing though?

It still relied on spotters to keep track once they were over land.


That is my understanding.

Also I think a British squadron usually tried and often succeeded in meeting the German force before or shortly after it crossed the coastline, and the British squadron had radios.


It makes this factoid even more hilarious if the propaganda campaign successfully created the misinformation without actually obfuscating the desired information, but it's kind of irrelevant to the question of whether they should have bothered with the attempt.

Propaganda is relatively cheap and doesn't consume a lot of resources more directly useful to the war effort. You have a half dozen guys coming up with ideas and doing the graphic design, some printers, and you can either let civilians or enlisted put up the posters when they don't have anything better to do.

At that level of cost, if any piece of propaganda makes an impact, it probably pays for the entire campaign.


I thought the propaganda was also used to hide the fact that the Brits were actually learning about a lot of these operations from spies rather than actually detecting the planes in real time? Thus protecting their spies.

Relevant QI part: https://youtu.be/0PzNDMCT0rg?t=1495

EDIT: Actually, a better relevant QI part: https://youtu.be/7Quyte7zN70?t=228


The last image of Disney carrot characters is absolutely terrifying.

Britain was really good at running propaganda during WWII. I once read how they used radio to change the public support and opinion about Iranian King (Reza Shah) by telling fake and often scary stories about how he treated his people because he wasn't taking a side on second world war and Iran was neutral. After running the propaganda British and the Soviet invaded Iran to secure their oil fields as supply lines for allies and they replaced the king easily.

Can anybody explain to me how British & France culture felt about colonialism post-WWII? Especially for France, I would have expected that "being invaded and exploited by a foreign nation" would suddenly take a completely different moral outlook, but no, they resist Algeria separating. Why?

Semi-relevant Wikipedia:

When Britain reached out to the US asking for help in the war, the US offered help contingent on Britain decolonizing post WW2, and that agreement was codified in the Atlantic charter. The decolonization of Britain (post war) also meant that US and other countries would possibly have access to markets to sell goods that were previously under British Empire-which was not accessible to them then[86][87] To bring about these changes, the establishment of UN following World War 2 codified sovereignty for nations, and encouraged free trade. The war also forced the British to come to an agreement with Indian leaders to grant them freedom if they helped with war efforts since India had one of largest armies.[88] Also, following WW2, it was untenable for British to raise capital on its own to keep its colonies. They needed to rely on America and did via the Marshall Plan to rebuild their country.


> Can anybody explain to me how British & France culture felt about colonialism post-WWII? Especially for France, I would have expected that "being invaded and exploited by a foreign nation" would suddenly take a completely different moral outlook, but no, they resist Algeria separating. Why?

It's completely different, you see, because Germany is a nation of militaristic Huns who are bent on nothing less than the destruction of civilization, while France is the bastion of the Enlightenment and bringing civilization to the uncivilized peoples. That sort of special pleading goes a long way, especially when the main proponents are trapped in an echo chamber and seriously believe that their colonizing missions are well-accepted by the native populations.


> It was only after this logical train of thought had been put into practise [...] that the second type of lecture was commenced.

> This is how the second kind went:

> a. We are more numerous than they are, therefore we have a right to their syrup.

> b. They are more numerous than we are, therefore they are wickedly trying to steal our syrup.

> c. We are a mighty race and have a natural right to subjugate their puny one.

> d. They are a mighty race and are unnaturally trying to subjugate our inoffensive one.

> e. We must attack in self-defence.

> f. They are attacking us by defending themselves.

> g. If we do not attack them today, they will attack us tomorrow.

> h. In any case we are not attacking them at all: we are offering them incalculable benefits.

(T.H. White)


It's always different when YOU'RE the colonizer/invader bringing civilization.

The French tried harder than almost anybody else to maintain their colonial empire. The Vietnam war would have been several orders of magnitude less likely to have happened if France just granted French Indochina independence.

The independence of Algeria was also extremely traumatic for France (De Gaulle was almost assassinated by Pieds-Noirs (white french born in Africa)). It's a fascinating story that involves storied history that gets ingrained into your culture. Keep in mind, Algeria was a full department of France (but the nonwhites had less political power), so it'd be a lot like a state or province leaving in other countries. You might very well think it'd be disastrous socially and economically, not to mention absorbing the people who wanted to remain part of the country it's leaving (which is what happened, a lot of bitter french whites and natives headed to France, but never felt truly at home). It's best to just read up here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algerian_War

The British wanted to keep their empire, but they were broke after the war. There were some futile attempts to keep what they had left (see the Suez crisis), but it rarely panned out. Most attempts at managed decolonization resulted in white minority-declared independence in places like Africa (See Rhodesia and South Africa).

There were several other attempts to maintain their colonies by more minor European powers that were invaded during the war as well, such as the Dutch (Indonesia), and Belgium (Congo).


And the US involvement in Vietnam independence was closely tied to the US needing France for a united NATO front against Russia (at least in the beginning). Without US support for keeping IndoChina, France was threatening to not be a part of NATO.

So when someone tells you "This was happened because of X", you ignore what they say as these conflicts are always complicated and have a long history.


While on the topic of Algerian War, there was a ~spy operation: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleuite

I'm sorry there doesn't seem to be any English text about it but it was an amazing low tech psychological warfare maneuver. Worth reading if you have some french reading ability or friend.


Arguably the Suez Crisis was UK and France invading a sovereign state and trying to setup a new colony in 1956. Had they succeeded, I have no doubt they will attempt to setup new colonies all way into the '60s and '70s.

American help was dependent on decolonisation. Yet many of those smaller islands quietly became American air bases, fuelling ports and what have you. In some regions, such as Japan, you see a continuing US military presence that was a post war rebuilding, but also what is sometimes called "soft empire".

The French colonial subjects had a little extra in terms of rights. If I remember right, a citizen of a French colony had as much right to go to and live in France as a Frenchwoman born in Paris. It wouldn't therefore be that surprising to think they saw Algeria as part of France, to be resisted as much as the independence of Cherbourg.

The British experience was a little more separated, but there was a era of decolonialisation during the 50s and 60s. They not only relinquished the colonies but had a clear policy of local majority rule in place before independence. At the same time the citizens were resenting the waves of immigrants arriving to help in the NHS, post-war rebuilding, and driving buses and trains - leading to today's Windrush scandal. Yet some immigrants had been in the UK, without too much problem, for centuries.

There's a certain consistency to the inconsistencies. If you follow me. :)


> Can anybody explain to me how British & France culture felt about colonialism post-WWII? Especially for France [...] they resist Algeria separating. Why?

The First Indochina War is also relevant and an enlightening example of France's post-WWII colonialism. And it lead to the Vietnam War.

As for Britain, apparently at least some factions, such as Churchill and some conservatives, favored the continuing existence of the British Empire and its colonies. It's so odd, looking at it with modern eyes, that the people who fought against the expansionism of Nazi Germany themselves thought it was their right to keep an empire with colonies. It would seem the "free" world wasn't free for everyone.


I've had a number of friends from India tell me that the British colonization left them some valuable heritage, such as some on the institutions. Maybe it's not quite the same as Nazi occupation.

Nobody said it was the same as Nazi occupation, though British occupation of India was at times brutal, and involved much bloodshed.

What's curious is that some of the so-called leaders of the "free" world thought it was ok to keep colonies -- an "empire", in fact -- as late as the post-WWII world. Again, some tried to keep those colonies through VERY brutal methods, like the French; in turn, their experience in "counterinsurgency" (i.e. torture) while fighting guerrillas and independence movements was propagated in later conflicts, such as the various dictatorships in Latin America which were trained by the School of the Americas using French methods. And all of this coming from Western democracies.


Patriotism is one hell of a drug.

Not an expert, but I think Algeria wasn't seen as a colony, but as the southern part of France proper.

How would that work? Algeria was located in another continent, and was acquired by force and much bloodshed in the 19th century. French as a language became prominent during and after colonization.

Most of current day France was also acquired by force and much bloodshed from people speaking other languages.

I don't think the continent argument holds any moral value. Algeria is not far from the rest of France.


It's in another continent. You have to cross a sea to get to it from France, and in fact an armada was used to invade it. The natives were not culturally related to the French. It was taken by direct force at the whim of the ruling monarch. French culture and language was imposed after colonization. It is listed as a former French colony in mainstream references. Africa in particular was a target of colonialism by European powers.

What's your definition of "colony"?


We agree on the geographic and historic facts.

It had the same status as present-day French Guiana (which is similar to Hawaii or Alaska in the US), the only difference is Algeria's indigenous population was opposed to it.

I'd say that's not a minor difference ;)

> Britain was really good at running propaganda during WWII.

It helps when you literally control the entire enemy intelligence operation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-Cross_System

> After the war, it was discovered that all the agents Germany sent to Britain had given themselves up or had been captured, with the possible exception of one who committed suicide.


I imagine they still are, and the fact we dont really recognise it is a testament to their success.

FWIW, severe vitamin A deficiency does harm eyesight. But past a certain healthy level it doesn’t help.

Same idea for vitamin C.

Vitamin C deficiency cause fatigue but eating large doses of vitamin C won't help you stay awake. In fact, it is unlikely to do anything at all, you will just piss all the excess off.


Vitamin A is actually worse because it is fat soluble, not water soluble like Vitamin C. If you consume too much Vitamin A, you don't pee it out, it gets stored in your fat cells. And because it stays in your system it can build up to toxic levels and you get hypervitaminosis.

Fun fact, there's a drug to treat severe acne called Accutane (isotretinoin). It's really for the severe cases of acne, because there are a ton of side effects (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isotretinoin#Adverse_effects ) and if you get pregnant while on it there will be severe birth defects. Anyway, this drug is a retinoid, which means it is essentially just large doses of vitamin A.


> Vitamin A is actually worse because it is fat soluble, not water soluble like Vitamin C. If you consume too much Vitamin A, you don't pee it out, it gets stored in your fat cells. And because it stays in your system it can build up to toxic levels and you get hypervitaminosis.

However, that is only the case for the retinol form of Vitamin A, found mostly in animal sources (and in infamously toxic amounts in polar bear liver). The "Vitamin A" in carrots is actually in the form of beta-Carotene, which is technically Provitamin A – the body uses beta-Carotene as a precursor to make retinol as needed.

Fortunately, the body will never convert more beta-Carotene to retinol than needed, so you will never suffer from hypervitaminosis A from eating too many carrots. On the other hand, you might literally (and otherwise harmlessly) turn orange: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carotenosis


> If you consume too much Vitamin A, you don't pee it out, it gets stored in your fat cells. And because it stays in your system it can build up to toxic levels and you get hypervitaminosis.

Not long back I heard about this happening to a small child.

Apparently, he and his mother had immigrated to the United States from - IIRC - a former Eastern European country. She didn't speak english, and wasn't familiar with certain customs and such here, so when one day they went inside a CVS or Walgreens, when her son asked her for some gummy candies, she purchased a bottle of such for him.

Well - you can see where this is going.

The woman had no idea that such candy here in the US wasn't sold in bottles, and that what she had purchased was gummy vitamins. Her son ended up eating the whole bottle. Over a couple of weeks or so, she ended up getting him multiple bottles which he ate, until he became sick and she took him to the hospital.

From what I recall, the doctors treating him weren't sure what was happening, because they had never seen the symptoms or such - but ultimately they figured out what happened, and treated him for hypervitaminosis. He survived and is supposedly ok condition today.

Sadly I can't find the original article I read, but it was over a year ago, IIRC. My details may be wrong, but the overall gist isn't from what I recall: That a new immigrant mother to the US, who didn't speak or understand English, purchased what she thought was candy for her child and it turned out to be vitamins which caused an overdose where she had to take him to the hospital.



I believe it's still being prescribed for common cold, by similar logic w.r.t. the immune system.

The actual benefit is weak, unless you're a marathon runner or a soldier on subarctic exercise: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23440782


I've found that taking 3-5000mg/day for the first 2-3 days I have a cold seem to make them far less severe; just a running nose instead of full on sinus closure. I don't know about shortening the duration, as colds only usually last 3-5 days.

>Regular supplementation trials have shown that vitamin C reduces the duration of colds, but this was not replicated in the few therapeutic trials that have been carried out. Nevertheless, given the consistent effect of vitamin C on the duration and severity of colds in the regular supplementation studies, and the low cost and safety, it may be worthwhile for common cold patients to test on an individual basis whether therapeutic vitamin C is beneficial for them."


Excessive vitamin C (at gram-scale doses) will also induce diarrhea. If you eat more than a kilogram of it, you might die, but anything between ~5 g and kilogram just blows out your colon.

The threshold for "excessive" is higher when sick. The dose that would send you to the porcelain on a normal day may be well tolerated with a sniffle.


> In fact, it is unlikely to do anything at all

Excess vitamin C breaks down L-tyrosine, which could contribute to thyroid and/or neurological issues in individuals with L-tyrosine deficiency (L-tyrosine is a precursor to thyroid hormone and L-dopa which is the primary building block of dopamine).

Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor.


An earlier discussion 2 years ago:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13690676

(No, not a dupe, link given for interest purposes.)


I thought that was something Minecraft came up with



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