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September 2017

Orangeness—Peeling Back the Myths Behind Carotenemia

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of Florida, Department of Anthropology, Gainesville
  • 2University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville
JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(9):873. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.2673

Orange skin, often attributed to carotenemia, features prominently in pop culture and media. Such appearances tend to fall into 2 categories: biomedically oriented approaches or ones indicating deeper symbolic meaning. The first approach emphasizes biological mechanisms, as seen in medical television shows such as House (season 1, episode 1) and Scrubs (season 6, episode 4). Patients present as orange after gorging on carrots (turning skin yellow) and either niacin or tomato juice (turning skin red). In a clear example on the children’s show The Magic School Bus, Ms Frizzle takes her audience on a field trip to determine why Arnold has turned orange (season 4, episode 6). They discover that rapacious consumption of Sea Wheedies, Arnold’s favorite snack, released massive amounts of beta-carotene, causing his skin change.

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