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Carrots 'as addictive as cigarette smoking'

EATING raw carrots may be as addictive as cigarette smoking, and every bit as difficult to give up, according to research on people who develop serious cravings for the vegetable.

The phenomenon of 'raw carrot abuse' and the nervous disorders that come in its wake are described today in the British Journal of Addiction. Although it has been known since the early 1900s that excessive carrot intake can turn the skin orange, the psychological effects of such behaviour are only just coming to light.

One 35-year-old woman patient at a psychiatric clinic in Prague, who was eating a kilogram of raw carrots a day, had to be treated in hospital for 'neurological disturbance'. Another woman seen by the Ludek Cerny, author of the study, started consuming huge quantities of carrots while pregnant with her first child, and managed to stop for 15 years after the baby was born. The habit resumed after a stomach upset. 'Her desire became so intense that she preserved the peelings as a reserve supply. She resorted to purchasing and eating carrots secretly,' the report says.

Switching to radishes helped her reduce her dependency, and she now survives happily on a carrot-free diet.

The third case described in the study concerned a 40-year-old man who sought help to give up tobacco. 'His wife had advised him that it was necessary to replace cigarettes with something else and recommended . . . crunching some vegetables.

'He was soon eating carrots constantly, consuming up to five bunches a day, and as it was spring he put himself to considerable expense.' Unfortunately, although the man has kicked the carrot habit, he has resumed smoking.

The author suggests that the psychological dependence arises not only from the carotene contained in the vegetable, but possibly from some other active ingredient. 'The withdrawal symptom is so intense that the afflicted persons get hold of and consume carrots even in socially quite unacceptable situations.'