Health Benefits of Pumpkins

It’s pumpkin season!  This widely grown squash has a high and diverse abundance of healthy nutrients, including antioxidant carotenoids that the body can convert into vitamin A.  The health benefits of pumpkins have anti-diabetic, anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory qualities.

In the U.S., Halloween will be celebrated on October 31 with carved and decorated pumpkins.  Unfortunately the Cucurbita maxima variety used for jack o’ lanterns is not bred for eating, and these pumpkins are usually discarded after Halloween.

The food industry has tried using organic solvents to extract the carotenoids from discarded pumpkins, but these substances raise environmental concerns.  An alternative method is supercritical-CO2 fluid extraction, but this method produces much lower yields.  Chinese scientists discovered they can increase carotenoid yield – and antioxidant activity – by combining SC-CO2 extraction with modifiers such as olive oil, ethanol or even water.

In a separate study, researchers in Malaysia wanted to determine how to increase the production of carotenoids in pumpkins.  Scientists harvested pumpkins at various times of the year.  November pumpkins had the most zea-xanthin; February pumpkins had the most β-carotene, and June pumpkins had the most lutein.  The team also found that storing pumpkins at 20°C for two months would maximize the amounts of β-carotene and lutein.

Both studies used Agilent equipment, including an Agilent high-performance liquid chromatograph and an Agilent UV diode array detector, for their research.

This information is for research purposes only.  It is not intended for any use in diagnostic procedures.


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