Today is Halloween & what is more iconic than a pumpkin carved into a Jack o’ Lantern? The orange colour is due in part to beta carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A. It turns out that pumpkins do more than help ward off blindness or evil spirits, they may also protect us from other undesirables.  For more, read on…

Pumpkin Chemistry

The infographic below lists some of the compounds found in pumpkins. The most important for us is beta carotene which is also found in carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and collards. This molecule helps us produce vitamin A which is needed for healthy vision. Vitamin A in large amounts is quite toxic so the advantage of making it from beta carotene is that you can’t get an overdose.The chemistry of pumpkins explained. Image courtesy of Andy Brunning of Compound Chem.

Some of the many chemicals found in pumpkins are described. Image courtesy of Andy Brunning of Compound Chem.

Pumpkins;  Fungus Fighters?

A study published in the Journal of the Chemical & Engineering News  suggests that there may be chemicals in pumpkins that offer benefits both health and otherwise.

Pumpkins take months to grow and are in constant contact with soil which is home to a multitube of microbes including many different types of fungus. Normally, one would expect pumpkins to be covered in mold which would render them inedible, yet this rarely occurs until after harvesting.

It turns out pumpkins produce a range of antifungal compounds that may find use in protecting house plants, treating athletes foot or even cleaning bath tub tiles.

Build a Model of Beta Carotene

As with almost any organic compound, you can build a molecular model of one for your own use for teaching or display simply by going to our 3D Molecular Model Builder. Simply type in “beta carotene” and choose the model style you prefer. The list of parts will appear ready for you to add to the shopping cart.