Corvallis, Oregon. Too much blue light from gadgets like televisions, laptops and smartphones can speed up the aging process, a new study warns. Researchers found that the light can also lead to the onset of obesity and psychological problems.
“Overexposure to blue light from everyday devices, such as TVs, laptops, and phones, can have harmful effects on a wide variety of cells in our bodies, from skin and fat cells to sensory neurons,” says Dr. Jadwiga Giebultowicz, a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at Oregon State University, said in a press release. “We are the first to show that the levels of specific metabolites — chemicals essential for cells to function properly — are changed in fruit flies exposed to blue light.”
The research team experimented with fruit flies and found that the light from screens affected them too. This is important because humans and flies have similarities on a cellular level.
“The signaling substances in the cells of flies and humans are the same, so there is potential for negative effects of blue light on humans,” explains Giebultowicz. “To understand why high-energy blue light is responsible for accelerating aging in fruit flies, we compared the levels of metabolites in flies exposed to blue light for two weeks with those in complete darkness.”
Brain chemicals changed
The team found that the cells in fruit flies do not function optimally after exposure to blue light, which they believe could lead to premature death. By examining the cells in the flies’ brains, they found that levels of one metabolite, succinate, increased, while glutamate levels decreased.
“Succinate is essential for producing the fuel for the function and growth of any cell. High levels of succinate after exposure to blue light can be compared to gas that is in the pump but does not enter the car,” says Giebultowicz.” Another disturbing discovery was that molecules responsible for communication between neurons, such as glutamate, are at a lower level after exposure to blue light.”
Low levels of glutamate can lead to a decline in brain function, possibly leading to premature aging, the study authors said. In the world we live in now, blue light seems to be active everywhere and at all hours of the day.
“LEDs have become the primary illumination in displays such as phones, desktops and TVs, as well as ambient lighting, so people in advanced societies are exposed to blue light from LED lighting for most of their waking hours,” explains the study’s author. .
Avoiding blue light is an ‘anti-aging strategy’
The next step in the research is to study the effects of blue light on human cells.
“We used a fairly strong blue light on the flies – humans are exposed to less intense light, so cellular damage may be less dramatic. The results of this study suggest that future research using human cells is needed to establish the extent to which human cells may show similar changes in metabolites involved in energy production in response to overexposure to blue light,” concludes Giebultowicz. “Our study suggests that avoiding overexposure to blue light may be a good anti-aging strategy.”
The study, published in the journal Limits of agingdevelops on previous research the team has conducted showing that fruit flies that live in constant darkness live longer than those exposed to light.
South West News Service writer Alice Clifford contributed to this report.