University Battles Global Warming

The University of California will play a large role in the Global Warming Solutions Act — signed this week by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.

The act is partially attributed to a group of UC economists who took the lead last July by urging the governor and the state Legislature to act quickly to control greenhouse gas emissions.

The UC system has long been involved in studying climate changes and ways to regulate global warming, and today it boasts many top experts on greenhouse gases and environmental sustainability.

At UCSD, researchers are working to understand atmospheric pressure and the consequences of rising temperatures. Chemists, using the San Diego Supercomputer Center — in collaboration with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory — are working to better understand the atmospheric processes that affect our pollution-weary lungs.

“To understand a force as dynamic and complex as the Earth’s atmosphere — or something as ephemeral as a cloud — … [it] involves simulations with massive computing resources and data collections [that are only available today],” Supercomputer Center Director Fram Berman said.

San Diego researchers have also been instrumental in showing that rising temperatures will be responsible for a number of costly wildfires in upcoming years, along with the Nobel Prize-winning discovery that chlorofluorocarbons damage the ozone layer.

Orange Juice Does a Body Good

Researchers from UC Davis have recently found that two daily servings of a reduced-calorie orange juice fortified with plant sterols can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Sterols — recognized for their cholesterol-lowering ability when added to fats — have also been found to decrease “bad” low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, when added to orange juice. The study added to this body of knowledge, showing that low-calorie orange juice also reduces C-reactive protein, an accepted risk marker for heart disease.

Sterols are present in small quantities in a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, cereals and legumes, and are thought to lower LDL levels in the body by limiting absorption of cholesterol in the intestine.

According to study author Ishwarlal Jialal, the combination of reducing LDL cholesterol and C-reactive protein levels prevents more heart attacks than decreasing either measure alone.

“The best way to fight heart disease is through changes in diet and exercise,” Jialal said. “But the reality is that people have trouble making those changes. Drinking a plant sterol-fortified orange juice beverage is a relatively simple thing to do and it may have important preventative effects.”