New Zealand sunshine makes a BIG difference!

It is well known by international research scientists who study the effect of the atmosphere on plants and animals that New Zealand’s location in the South Pacific represents a unique case study into the effects of having a seasonal hole in the ozone layer.

The ozone layer acts as a natural filter in the atmosphere, which protects plant and animals from the increased UV irradiation from sunlight. Annually, scientists from around the world come to New Zealand to examine the impact of high UVB sunlight on plants and animals due to this natural hole in the ozone layer. From comparative research, it has been shown that New Zealand has a 40 percent greater UVB light level than its geographically matched location (latitude, longitude and altitude) in the Northern hemisphere.¹

For those who enjoy the unique lifestyle offered in New Zealand, the higher UVB levels require Summertime precautions such as protecting the skin with sunblock, and wide-brimmed hats. But what has been discovered is that plants also take precautions to avoid overexposure to UV light. Plants do this by producing secondary metabolites. These include bio-actives such as flavonoids, phenolic compound, alkaloids, essential oils, etc. as well as phytoestrogens, which are considered important compounds often exhibiting human health benefits. These group of compounds can act as plant sunscreens, thus providing protection for the plants against UVB radiation.²

Because of its greater UVB light level, New Zealand-grown plants produce compounds that can potentially improve the overall health of the human diet because these natural bioactive compounds exhibit potent antioxidant and other functional properties that promote health.

As further evidence of this UV effect, in 2011 a research scientist from ARS Western Regional Research Centre in California published a report that showed a moderate dose of UVB light given to fresh, sliced carrots for 14 seconds can boost their antioxidant capacity threefold. The research went on to explain that exposing carrots to UVB light causes a stress response and these plants respond by increasing their production of natural bioactive compounds including plant phenolics. Some plant phenolics such as those found in green tea, are powerful antioxidants with a range of health benefits.³

Content courtesy NZTE1. Seckmeyer, G., and R. L. McKenzie, Increased ultraviolet radiation in New Zealand (45_S) relative to Germany (48_N), Nature, 359, 135 –137, 1992.2. W J Zhang, L O Björn / Fitot erapia 80 (2009) 207-2183.

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