Nothing but silence. Despite the violent combustion of elements and lethal amounts of radiation, the majority of space is dead quiet. Millions of miles from home sits a glowing ball of lethality, our sun. Without warning, a molten eruption hurls towards our planet intertwined with ultraviolet radiation. At 186,000 miles per second the photons smash into our skin, diving to the lowest layer and bouncing off a small molecule known as cholesterol. SNAP! The transfer of energy breaks a delicate bond in the molecule, like bending a paperclip. What we’ve just seen is the first step to forming Vitamin D, a wonder of the universe.
Sunlight, like oxygen, is one of those dangerous necessities. We can’t function without it but without sufficient protection the risk of cancer skyrockets. It makes sense then that sunlight is one of the biggest drivers of epigenetics changes.
Need a refresher on epigenetics? Take a peak at Antioxidant Lies for an introductory course.
UVB radiation is the one we’re most concerned with.
It’s responsible for our Vitamin D formation, our risk of non-melanoma skin cancer, and many of our epigenetic changes. It should come as no surprise then that plants have developed their own solution for sunblock, polyphenols.
Polyphenols are a group of chemicals classified as “nonessential nutrients”. Strange in fact because the more we learn, the more we realize how protective they are. Calling them nonessential is like saying a bulletproof vest is optional in a warzone. True but insane. What is most astounding about these little guardians, is that when we eat them, they turn on genes to protect us from radiation.
Let that soak in. That’s like taking a bite of chicken and turning on genes to grow feathers.
Life is altogether strange and beautifully complex.
Likewise, the vitamin D we form has its own functions for gene regulation, one of the many reasons for its often touted “cure-all” status. It regulates genes for bone, brain, cardiovascular, and even immune health. Without question we have just begun to scratch the surface on Vitamin D.
Today isn’t so much about the “what should we do”, it’s about standing back and marveling that a churning sphere of magma 93 million miles away directly affects the genes you’ll pass to descendants.
Part 3 next time. Be good to each other.