Eating broccoli

Good (and super futuristically strange) news for parents and vegetable lovers, and not-so-good news for you kids and Brussels sprouts haters: Scientists have created a laser that can tell if you’re eating enough fruits and vegetables simply by shining a beam onto your skin. For. Real.

Capable of detecting biomarkers created by carotenoid pigments present in the skin, the process is super quick, with results available in just about a minute, and virtually painless. (Sixty preschool children were some of the beam’s first test subjects.) While it’s a new application, the technology itself is not actually new, but modified slightly from RRS (resonance Raman spectroscopy), which is an established laser technology able to detect changes that occur in the skin’s molecules when exposed to the laser beam.

The technology comes via Susan Mayne, head of chronic disease epidemiology at Yale University and Werner Gellermann, a laser physicist at the University of Utah, reports Mashable.com. The two collaborated on the idea after discussing the noticeable changes in skin color of people who eat large amounts of vegetables high in orange and red carotenoids (they can often appear yellow). There are also changes in the eye’s retina when high levels of carotenoids are present, which scientists believe can prevent macular degeneration.

While the technology still needs some tweaking—researchers have yet to determine just how long the carotenoids are present in the skin after eating fruits and vegetables—preliminary results found that it compared exceptionally well with standard tests. The technology would mainly be used by nutritionists, who currently use much more invasive tests involving blood, skin and urine samples. 

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Image: lindaaslund