|Researchers found out that excessive blue light can shorten a lifespan / Photo Credit: 123RF|
If you're a frequent user of computers and cellphones, the chances of your body aging faster are high. A recent study from Oregon State University on fruit flies found that great exposure to the blue light emitted by these devices accelerates the aging process—even if the light doesn't reach your eyes. Researchers said the absorption of the LED wavelengths damages brain cells and the retinas.
The results of the study were discussed in the journal Aging and Mechanisms of Disease. Fruit files were used since they have the same cellular and developmental traits of other animals and humans.
Exposing flies to blue light
The study determined the effect of exposing flies to blue LED light for 12 hours every day as well as subjecting them to 12 hours in darkness. They found that these flies had shorter lives compared to those who were submerged in total darkness or the group kept in light with the blue light filtered out.
The lifespans of flies exposed to 12 hours each of darkness and LED lights were reduced by 5 to 15 percent of their life expectancy, reported the Daily Mail, a British daily middle-market newspaper published in London in a tabloid format.
"The fact that the light was accelerating aging in the flies was very surprising to us at first," Jaga Giebultowicz, lead researcher from OSU College of Science who studies biological clocks, said in a statement.
"We’d measured [the] expression of some genes in old flies and found that stress-response, protective genes were expressed if flies were kept in [the] light. We hypothesized that light was regulating those genes. Then we started asking, what is it in the light that is harmful to them, and we looked at the spectrum of light."
The researchers also found damages in the retina cells and brain neurons of flies exposed to blue LED light, which also impaired their locomotion—evident in their reduced ability to climb the walls of their enclosures (a common behavior for the insects).
Mutant flies that did not develop eyes also showed brain damage and locomotion impairments, indicating blue light doesn't need to be seen to affect the flies.
Meanwhile, those subjected to total darkness significantly extended their lifespan by up to 42 percent.
A risk factor for disorders
Natural light is essential for the body's circadian rhythm or 24-hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings (e.g. brain wave activity, hormone production, and cell regeneration) that are crucial factors in feeding and sleeping.
However, increased exposure to artificial light was seen as a risk factor for sleep and circadian disorders, Giebultowicz said, citing previous studies. She added that the prevalent use of LED lighting and devices puts humans at the risk of increased amounts of blue light.
"But this technology, LED lighting, even in most developed countries, has not been used long enough to know its effects across the human lifespan," the lead researcher noted, adding that flies normally avoid blue light if given a choice. "We’re going to test if the same signaling that causes them to escape blue light is involved in longevity," she said.
|Lowering the amount of exposure to blue light could bring great benefits to us / Photo Credit: 123RF|
Co-author Eileen Chow said eliminating blue light will bring great benefits to humans, but not many people have the option of giving up their phones and laptops. "Human lifespan has increased dramatically over the past century as we’ve found ways to treat diseases, and at the same time we have been spending more and more time with artificial light," Chow said. She added that advances in technology and medicine can help in addressing the damages of blue light if their study proves applicable to humans.
"As science looks for ways to help people be healthier as they live longer, designing a healthier spectrum of light might be a possibility not just in terms of sleeping better but in terms of overall health."
Until then, the researchers recommend using eyeglasses with amber lenses to filter out blue light and protect the retinas. They also suggest blocking blue emissions from phones, laptops, and other devices.
Other risks of blue light
Blue light does more than accelerate aging in flies and be a risk factor for sleep disorders. A 2018 international study found that exposure to high levels of blue light at night doubles the risk of developing prostate cancer. It also increases the risk of breast cancer by one-and-a-half times.
Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel, a co-author of the study from the University of Exeter, said being exposed to higher levels of blue light can disrupt the biological clocks of humans. This disruption comes as people need light even during the day and darkness at night, and as municipalities replace older lighting infrastructure.
"It's imperative that we know for sure whether this increases our risk of cancer. Scientists have long suspected this may be the case. Now, our innovative findings indicate a strong link."
Another study of over 4,000 people also found that people exposed to outdoor and indoor blue light have an increased risk of cancer.