Science and Medicine

Mid-Atlantic Suburbs Can Expect an Early Spring

A recent study has found that spring is indeed arriving earlier—and autumn later—in the suburbs of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

If you’ve been thinking our world is greener than frozen these days, you’re right. A recent study has found that spring is indeed arriving earlier—and autumn later—in the suburbs of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The reason? The urban landscape traps heat in the summer and holds it throughout the winter, triggering leaves to turn green earlier in the spring and to stay green later into autumn. The result is a new, extended growing season.

Scientists used high-resolution satellite data collected over the past 25 years to look at the number days that trees have green leaves in the forests of the Mid-Atlantic. The study found that urban heat islands affected the growing season in areas within 20 miles of the city. As a result, gardeners may have more time to grow their vegetables and plant new varieties.

“This study provides important insight not only into the length of the growing season, but also into changes in water balance and carbon storage that will be accompanying climate change,” said Dr. Don Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

The longer growing season has a profound impact on forests. Forests are, in effect, the world’s air filters. Green leaves on trees turn carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas that traps heat in our atmosphere—into oxygen. Carbon dioxide also helps trees grow since they use energy from the sun to convert the gas into plant matter. A longer growing season could change quickly forests grow and increase the amount of carbon dioxide taken out of the atmosphere.

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Heart Attacks Rise Following Daylight Saving Time

Luckily, the body's clock eventually synchs with the environment

Daylight-saving time this year begins March 11, and while we all might look forward to another hour of sunshine a University of Alabama at Birmingham expert says the time change is not necessarily good for your health.

"The Monday and Tuesday after moving the clocks ahead one hour in March is associated with a 10 percent increase in the risk of having a heart attack," says UAB Associate Professor Martin Young, Ph.D., in the Division of Cardiovascular Disease. "The opposite is true when falling back in October. This risk decreases by about 10 percent."

The Sunday morning of the time change doesn't require an abrupt schedule change, but, Young says, heart-attack risk peaks on Monday when most people rise earlier to go to work.

"Exactly why this happens is not known but there are several theories," Young says. "Sleep deprivation, the body's circadian clock and immune responses all can come into play when considering reasons that changing the time by an hour can be detrimental to someone's health."
Why is daylight-saving time tied to these? Young says:

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Another Mechanism Discovered by Which Sulforaphane Prevents Cancer

The influence of sulforaphane on DNA methylation was explored by examining methylation of the gene cyclinD2.

Researchers in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University have discovered yet another reason why the “sulforaphane”compound in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables is so good for you—it provides not just one, but two ways to prevent cancer through the complex mechanism of epigenetics.

Epigenetics, an increasing focus of research around the world, refers not just to our genetic code, but also to the way that diet, toxins and other forces can change which genes get activated, or “expressed.” This can play a powerful role in everything from cancer to heart disease and other health issues.

Sulforaphane was identified years ago as one of the most critical compounds that provide much of the health benefits in cruciferous vegetables, and scientists also knew that a mechanism involved was histone deacetylases, or HDACs. This family of enzymes can interfere with the normal function of genes that suppress tumors.

HDAC inhibitors, such as sulforaphane, can help restore proper balance and prevent the development of cancer. This is one of the most promising areas of much cancer research. But the new OSU studies have found a second epigenetic mechanism, DNA methylation, which plays a similar role.

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