“Violet, you're turning violet!” That's the classic line from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, spoken by a dad to his naughty daughter who eats blueberry candy and ends up looking exactly like one. It's funny in the movie, but it's hardly something anyone would expect to happen in real life. But as it turns out it can and it has. There's this 4-year-old kid in the UK, Leo Barnett, who turns a bright shade of orange when he eats carrots.
Leo actually suffers from a condition called hyper-beta carotenemia. This means that his body lacks the necessary enzymes to digest carotene, the substance that provides the orange color to carrots and other foods. So carotene just builds up in his body, turning him orange over time. Leo's mother Angie says the boy is now on a diet devoid of any food containing the substance. The only vegetable that he's allowed to eat is cauliflower. According to Angie, the problem was first noticed when he was 6 months old and suffered from pneumonia. His kidneys and liver were failing so they had mistaken the color to be a symptom from the disease. But a month after recovery, he was still orange and that's when they discovered his allergy to carotene.
When a normal person eats carrots or other foods that contain carotene, it is digested and converted to Vitamin A. But with Leo, that just doesn't happen. When he had last turned orange, there was such a large build up of un-digested carotene in his body that the color wouldn't fade even though he had stopped eating the substance-containing foods. As a substitute, the boy is now given Vitamin A drops to meet his daily dietary requirements. Angie says that apart from this bizarre condition, Leo is a normal and active child. She jokes that when he grows older, he might just eat a lot of carrots to show off to his friends how orange he can get. Now, that's a neat trick!
I bet every kid in the world would actually be jealous of Leo, since unlike them, the boy doesn't have to eat all his veggies.