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Q: Recently I noticed that the palms of both my hands have turned a yellowish-orange color, like the color you'd get from a self-tanner. The only problem is I'm not self-tanning. In fact, the only thing I'm doing differently is eating salad for lunch instead of fast food so I can squeeze into last summer's shorts. But shouldn't that make my skin rosier?

Dr. Donnica:
Are you sure you're just eating more salad? One mistake many dieters make is to eat lots of baby carrots as though they are "free food." We like to snack on them because they're very tasty and healthy and we assume that if a little is good, a lot is better. But not only do carrots have a relatively high glycemic index, eating too many of them can cause the skin condition you described. This is called carotenemia and refers to the increased blood levels of carotene, the primary of Vitamin A.

The good news is that this condition is harmless and is not associated with increased levels of vitamin A. While carrots are the main source, carotene is found in all pigmented fruits and vegetables (especially squash, sweet potato, pumpkin, spinach, beans, corn and yams). If your skin doesn't return to its normal color within four weeks of a lower carotene diet, consult your physician. While carotenemia is rare in other conditions, it has been found with hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, anorexia nervosa, liver disease, and renal disease. There is also a similar condition called lycopenemia, which causes an orange-red discoloration of the skin. This is a result of excessive intake of tomatoes and beets.

Created: 4/8/2005  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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