Researchers suggest living in 'eternal summer' may be adversely impacting our health

October 14, 2015 by Bob Yirka report

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers at the University of Aberdeen in the U.K. has had a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, outlining what they describe as the dangers of living in an "eternal summer." By artificially changing the environment we live in, they argue, we may be working against health related bodily systems that have evolved over many years to protect us from dangers unique to each season.

Scientists have known for some time that we humans are sensitive to seasonal variations—it is in our genes, roughly a quarter of them by recent estimates. Yet we continue to live our lives in heated homes filled with light, long into short winter days that simulate conditions. What impact does this have on our bodies? No one really knows, but the researchers with this new effort believe that there is an impact, and it is not good.

As the researchers point out, our bodies have been programmed to adapt regularly to seasonal changes—important genes have evolved to the nudge the production of proteins, for example, that normally would be responsible for helping ward off ailments such as the flu. Instead, we fool our bodies into thinking it is summer all the time, and thus leave ourselves vulnerable. They also point out that we are also artificially protecting ourselves against global warming—as it grows warmer outside, all we have to do is keep the thermostat at the level we like. But, doing so could be dangerous, they suggest, because it is leading to a disconnect with the reality of what is going on outside of our homes and places of business.

In their paper, the researchers offer a variety of scenarios surrounding seasonal disruption, highlighting what they believe are key areas of concern—all from a variety of viewpoints which include an overall environmental perspective, one focused on agricultural and others focused on anthropological, veterinary or biomedical standpoints—with each circling around the de-synchronization of our internal biology and the real environment outside of our virtual existences. They point out that each topic should be an area of study and that taken together they could all form the basis of a framework for trans-disciplinary research that could ultimately reveal the true impact of us humans living in artificial environments.

Explore further: Seasonal body clock discovered in animals

More information: Disrupted seasonal biology impacts health, food security and ecosystems Published 14 October 2015.DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.1453

Abstract
The rhythm of life on earth is shaped by seasonal changes in the environment. Plants and animals show profound annual cycles in physiology, health, morphology, behaviour and demography in response to environmental cues. Seasonal biology impacts ecosystems and agriculture, with consequences for humans and biodiversity. Human populations show robust annual rhythms in health and well-being, and the birth month can have lasting effects that persist throughout life. This review emphasizes the need for a better understanding of seasonal biology against the backdrop of its rapidly progressing disruption through climate change, human lifestyles and other anthropogenic impact. Climate change is modifying annual rhythms to which numerous organisms have adapted, with potential consequences for industries relating to health, ecosystems and food security. Disconcertingly, human lifestyles under artificial conditions of eternal summer provide the most extreme example for disconnect from natural seasons, making humans vulnerable to increased morbidity and mortality. In this review, we introduce scenarios of seasonal disruption, highlight key aspects of seasonal biology and summarize from biomedical, anthropological, veterinary, agricultural and environmental perspectives the recent evidence for seasonal desynchronization between environmental factors and internal rhythms. Because annual rhythms are pervasive across biological systems, they provide a common framework for trans-disciplinary research.

Press release

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30 comments

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dogbert
2.9 / 5 (25) Oct 14, 2015
We can't even have an article about chronobiology with the apparently obligatory AGW pitch.

Science has become so P.C., that much of what is published is simply a waste of everyone's time.
Returners
2.1 / 5 (14) Oct 14, 2015
We can't even have an article about chronobiology with the apparently obligatory AGW pitch.

Science has become so P.C., that much of what is published is simply a waste of everyone's time.

I agree.

Further, they spend 2 years doing a "study" only to publish a "peer reviewed paper" presenting "findings" which I already knew about 5 or 10 or 15 years ago, and thought pretty much all educated people know about. I run into this scenario all the time on this site.

These people fail to realize how technology is evolving. Nanotechnology and designer medicine is going to supplement the human immune system, just like the freaking Borg in Star Trek (they had that so right). One day viruses and pathogenic bacteria as we know them may be extinct due to advanced nano-machines designed to hunt them down and terminate them...which will be designed with a fail-safe mechanism to ensure they don't go haywire and become pathogenic themselves....
gkam
2.6 / 5 (17) Oct 14, 2015
Gosh doggie, perhaps you would be happier at FreeRepublic?
EnsignFlandry
4.8 / 5 (17) Oct 14, 2015
We should see the effects of "eternal summer" on people who live in it: the Amazon basin, central Africa, southern India, many Pacific Islands. This hypothesis is empirically verifiable.
axemaster
3.9 / 5 (17) Oct 14, 2015
We can't even have an article about chronobiology with the apparently obligatory AGW pitch.

Actually, the real problem is that you're looking at it from different viewpoints. Most scientists are very worried about global warming. So it's no wonder they relate things to it. Being a poppy-chewer, you don't have a care in the world beyond "keep off my lawn".

they spend 2 years doing a "study" only to publish a "peer reviewed paper" presenting "findings" which I already knew about 5 or 10 or 15 years ago

Given how often you're wrong about things, you'll have to forgive us wanting to double check on the things you "know".

Nanotechnology and designer medicine is going to supplement the human immune system

For once we agree. I look forward to this with great eagerness, provided it gets provided to the public in a reasonably non-discriminatory way.
ECOnservative
4.6 / 5 (14) Oct 14, 2015
By this theory, everyone living in Hawaii, Fiji or San Francisco should be at risk since they pretty much have ideal weather year round.
jeffensley
3.3 / 5 (7) Oct 14, 2015
I actually agree with this though I will say summer in the South without AC is hell on sleep. Nature has done a pretty fine job of creating these bodies but when we stop exposing them to nature either via over-sanitization or indoor climate control, the body starts getting weak pretty quickly.
Minnaloushe
2.2 / 5 (13) Oct 14, 2015
Yet another study with a Leftist agenda -- whatever the political overseers want to hear. They have the grant money, after all. Ah! The fruits of the Great Academic Dole!

Hate away....
krundoloss
3.9 / 5 (7) Oct 14, 2015
Human beings, with the advent of clothing, quickly became able to handle different temperature extremes. If we are evolving in any direction in regards to temperature, it is the ability to withstand rapid change in temperature. We have the ability to sweat, and to put on clothes, so therefore we are already the most adaptable species on the planet, when it comes to handling temperature changes. We have been doing this since caveman days, where we would try to find caves to live in with more stable temperatures. Mankind can handle temperature changes, and this article proves nothing.
TulsaMikel
3.2 / 5 (9) Oct 14, 2015
This article un-scientifically implies heating and cooling your home is overall a bad thing.
This person can be the one to sneak into a bears cave and convince the bear hiding from winter is un-natural.
TulsaMikel
3.8 / 5 (10) Oct 14, 2015
Politics interfering with science is just as bad as religion doing it.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (10) Oct 14, 2015
"we may be working against health related bodily systems that have evolved over many years to protect us from dangers unique to each season"

-Funny. We evolved in the tropics. A large percentage of the species still lives in the tropics. Our reproductive system is still a tropical one - we can mate year-round, we have no mating season like most animals adapted to temperate and sub-arctic climes do.

And we eat the same foods year-round. Perhaps this is bad for us. Perhaps eating domesticated foods originally from temperate climes is bad for a tropical species like us.

Who knows? JVK?

But assuming that we are a temperate species seems to be a flaw in this study by a guy from aberdeen.
SciTechdude
3.7 / 5 (9) Oct 14, 2015
Bunch of morons coming out of the woodwork to whine about the agenda of the study. All they are saying is maybe it's good for us to experience a range of temperatures and natural lightning that correspond to the proper time of year. I've read a lot recently about how cold temperatures stimulate the immune system, cause your body to go into thermal genesis and burn more energy to become more efficient, etc. They have the same problem with not experiencing these things in Hot Climes yes, we wouldn't be living in most of them if it wasn't for air conditioning. Go look up where people used to not live before the advent of it.
nilbud
2.3 / 5 (9) Oct 14, 2015
What's with these moronic derpmericans and their oil company lies. The dumbest most gullible populace in history.
Zzzzzzzz
3 / 5 (6) Oct 14, 2015
Ghost..... we evolved in the tropics, but we also evolved in temperate places, as well as very cold places. Ever look at an Inuit, and then a Pygmy? We evolve in any place we stay long enough for evolutionary forces to act on us. Evolution is not something that happened a million years ago and is now long over. While this article may be poorly written, it appears to be even more poorly understood judging by some of the posting.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 14, 2015
They have the same problem with not experiencing these things in Hot Climes
So how do you explain that we spent most of our 800,000 year existence in the tropics? Are you saying that we moved north for our health?
we evolved in the tropics, but we also evolved in temperate places, as well as very cold places
So youre saying that zulus are more adapted to temperate climes than tropical? Are you saying that they would be better off living in chicago even though they didnt 'evolve' there?

inuits dont experiience seasonal change either. The majority of our species doesnt. Many temperate dwellers are recent arrivals from the tropics and I doubt they benefit from seasonal change they never adapted to.

Our repro rate has not changed for 800k years. How do I know? because it is a tropical rate, evolving to match the high attrition rates found in the tropics.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.3 / 5 (6) Oct 14, 2015
"The date of the earliest successful "out of Africa" migration (earliest migrants with living descendants) has generally been placed at 60,000 years ago based on genetics"

60k years is not much time for significant 'evolution'. Neanderthal had 300k years to adapt. Our species can still interbreed no matter what the differentiation.

I wonder if the gentlemen in the article think that inuits and pygmys benefit from seasonal change.
Osiris1
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 15, 2015
I am NO expert. I just live in beautiful sunny Southern California in the middle of a retirement paradise. I am almost seventy years old and see as good as when I was 26. I have read about and personally been to areas and environs now referred to as 'blue zones' where decagenarians and even dodecagenarians are found far more frequently than in cold 'seasonal' zones. I personally know of a lady who shops in a local WinCo food store, whizzing up and down the aisles...WALKING...and is over a hundred years old. Personally think the author of this above piece may be a bit of a chowderhead.
thingumbobesquire
1 / 5 (2) Oct 15, 2015
Fire bad!
antigoracle
1 / 5 (2) Oct 15, 2015
What next?
Modern medicine is unhealthy for you?
chapprg1
not rated yet Oct 15, 2015
Tulsa Mike; "Politics interfering with science is just as bad as religion doing it."
I like the brevity of your comment.
It is now copied to my collection of famous quotes.
SteveGinGTO
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 15, 2015
First of all, 72°F is not summer. It is springtime highs.

Air conditioning has existed now for roughly 100 years (1902). In that time, life expectancy has increased SUBSTANTIALLY worldwide, in all countries. People in hot climates are living longer, just like people in cooler climates. But people in cooler climates have increased as much as those in warm climates, suggesting that heating UP to 72 is GOOD. Drafty, cold houses caused many deaths, from pneumonia, etc. In 1902 (when most of the population in the USA was in the cool NORTHEAST) life expectancy in the USA was 51. Now, the average is 79 (55% increase), and the demographics has shifted more people to warm climates. Norway, cold, went from 55 to 81 (up 47%). Australia, hot, went from 51 to 82 (up 61%).

All have gone up, a lot, so this article is STUPID. People live longer. Period. 72°F has nothing to do with it. People in hot OR cold climates live longer. If anything, 72°F has helped.
jsdarkdestruction
5 / 5 (5) Oct 16, 2015
Steve, I'm not arguing this article isn't kind of stupid but
1. Medical advances had a lot more to do with it I'm betting.
2. Cold has very little to do with pneumonia.
3. A lot more babies and children and young adults died back then. They tend to bring the life expectancy average down.
Wiki-
"The combination of high infant mortality and deaths in young adulthood from accidents, epidemics, plagues, wars, and childbirth, particularly before modern medicine was widely available, significantly lowers LEB. But for those who survive early hazards, a life expectancy of sixty or seventy would not be uncommon."
antigoracle
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 16, 2015
So, did those clammy caves make humans healthier or just weed out the unhealthy?
This "study" is just another piece of gloBull warming trash disguised as science.
antonima
5 / 5 (1) Oct 17, 2015
Air conditioning has existed now for roughly 100 years (1902). In that time, life expectancy has increased SUBSTANTIALLY worldwide, in all countries.


This is called progress, and it doesn't happen without fundamental research. Perhaps our society has advanced to the stage where we can't extend our lifespan without fundamental changes to our lifestyles, for instance putting our bodies in MORE stress such as exercise and temperature extremes. Simply sitting around in the cold burns A LOT of energy. This is why we instinctively try to keep warm. But what is good in the short run isn't always good in the long haul.

There is tons of research on exercise, why not temperature extremes? There is not one environment on earth that does not put the body in stress in one season or another. This is something our bodies have had to adapt to, without a doubt.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Oct 17, 2015
There is tons of research on exercise, why not temperature extremes? There is not one environment on earth that does not put the body in stress in one season or another. This is something our bodies have had to adapt to, without a doubt
Inuit and pygmies get lots of exercise. What makes you think its stress? And they dont experience 'seasons'.

Evidence suggests that our bones, our circulation, our immune and digestive systems dont work properly without movement and 'exercise' as you call it.

I would think that imposing seasonal changes on Inuit and pygmies would indeed be a form of unnatural stress.
antonima
4.5 / 5 (2) Oct 17, 2015
Inuit and pygmies get lots of exercise. What makes you think its stress?


Pygmies have to deal with seasonal changes also. There are seasonal changes even in the rain forest. Fruiting trees typically do not produce fruit year-round, only in the fruiting season. So, they do have seasonal changes that they must cope with, even if they are not temperature related. The winters in Greenland are also much harsher than the summers, it is not a constant temperature environment.

Likewise, our proto-ancestors in Africa had to deal with wet and dry seasons. So, there may be a primordial basis for one-year cycle ingrained in our organisms. If there is some kind of internal seasonal clock, then it may have transformed or been adapted to other uses upon migration from Africa.
antonima
4.7 / 5 (3) Oct 17, 2015
The question is, whether distancing ourselves from environmental cues for seasonal changes is going to put our bodies in a funk. Who knows? This is the case with exercise, and it also appears to be the case with our immune system. It is a popular theory right now that children raised in a aseptic environment tend to develop more allergies and other ailments. Similarly, without a seasonal variation in environment some systems in our bodies may become de-tuned. Without researching it we cannot know for sure.
jackjump
2.5 / 5 (2) Oct 18, 2015
If you follow the logic of this article to its natural conclusion we should all be naked living outdoors and so enjoy the benefits of the evolution of our bodies. But then maybe we evolved big brains to relieve our bodies of some of the responsibility for staying alive in adverse environments. So what should we go for, bigger brains and more control over the environment or fewer brains but stronger bodies? Actually primates split on this question a long time ago. We humans ended up living in a technical civilization and our ape counterparts still live naked in the jungle but their bodies are really adapted to that. Apparently there is still some question over whether we humans took the right path. It all depends on whether you think human civilization is a good thing or that we're just wrecking the planet for all the other life. Personally I think civilization has potential while an ape planet is just going to spin off into oblivion . . . a story with no plot.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Oct 18, 2015
Pygmies have to deal with seasonal changes also
-But theyre not the same conditions temperate species have to deal with. And The article seems to deal with temperature and light. I didnt search out the paper.

Per the article;

"Yet we continue to live our lives in heated homes filled with light, long into short winter days that simulate summer conditions..."

-From the net;

"In the tropics, where seasonal dates also vary, it is more common to speak of the rainy (or wet, or monsoon) season versus the dry season... There is no noticeable change in the amount of sunlight at different times of the year...

"A few things continuously fruit like bananas and coconuts. Most tree fruits in the tropics are seasonal although the seasons can vary and there can be two or more fruiting periods during the year... Papaya "trees" will produce almost continuously throughout the year..."

-Also consider seasonal migrants like amerinds who followed the buffalo north and south.

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