Digital aging: Too much blue light from screens makes you grow old faster

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Too much blue light from gadgets like televisions, laptops, and smartphones can accelerate the aging process, a new study warns. Researchers found that the light could also lead to the onset of obesity and psychological problems.

“Excessive exposure to blue light from everyday devices, such as TVs, laptops, and phones, may have detrimental effects on a wide range of cells in our body, from skin and fat cells, to sensory neurons,” says Dr. Jadwiga Giebultowicz, a professor at the Department of Integrative Biology at Oregon State University, in a media release. “We are the first to show that the levels of specific metabolites – chemicals that are essential for cells to function correctly – are altered in fruit flies exposed to blue light.”

The research team experimented with fruit flies and discovered that the light from screens affected them as well. This is significant, since humans and flies have similarities on a cellular level.

“The signaling chemicals in the cells of flies and humans are the same, so the 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 to those kept in complete darkness.”

Brain chemicals changed

The team found that the cells in fruit flies don’t function at an optimal level after exposure to blue light, which they suggest could lead to premature death. Through an examination of the cells in the flies’ brains, they discovered that the levels of one metabolite, succinate, increased, while glutamate levels dropped.

“Succinate is essential for producing the fuel for the function and growth of each cell. High levels of succinate after exposure to blue light can be compared to gas being in the pump but not getting into the car,” Giebultowicz says. “Another troubling discovery was that molecules responsible for communication between neurons, such as glutamate, are at the lower level after blue light exposure.”

Low levels of glutamate could result in a decrease in brain function, possibly causing premature aging, according to the study authors. In the world we live in now, blue light seems to be everywhere, and active at all hours of the day.

“LEDs have become the main illumination in display screens such as phones, desktops and TVs, as well as ambient lighting, so humans in advanced societies are exposed to blue light through LED lighting during most of their waking hours,” the study author explains.

Avoid blue light is an ‘anti-aging strategy’

The next step in the research is to study blue light’s effects 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 from this study suggests that future research involving 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 excessive exposure to blue light,” Giebultowicz concludes. “Our study suggests that avoidance of excessive blue light exposure may be a good anti-aging strategy.”

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Aging, develops on previous research the team has conducted which shows that fruit flies living in constant darkness live longer than those with exposure to light.

South West News Service writer Alice Clifford contributed to this report.

Comments

  1. Killed the study right off the bat, for me. ” we compared the levels of metabolites in flies exposed to blue light for two weeks to those kept in complete darkness.” Complete darkness compared to blue light is not a complete study on blue light. Unless I read this incorrectly, this statement carries the same weight as if the word ‘blue’ was removed.

    Or has the blue light obscured my perception? I hope this study matures. I am curious on the effects of blue light. It would explain a LOT of the dumb stuff we see daily.

    1. Very good point! In a true experiment, you change only one variable. In this experiment, it seems they changed two…exposure to light and exposure to blue light. They needed to compare flies exposed to light with no “blue” and then to blue light.

  2. I file this under ” irrelevant “.
    Just spending Federal dollars, taxpayer’s dollars, on an irrelevant study.

  3. “The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Aging, develops on previous research the team has conducted which shows that fruit flies living in constant darkness live longer than those with exposure to light.”

    So I guess were supposed to become Morlocks?

  4. Oh brother. Everything causes death. How much $$ did they get to fund this pointless study? We have made huge improvements like no longer using crt tv’s that actually give off xrays to much safer TV’s now. It’s almost like they want everyone stressed which stress is a much bigger killer than bluelight.

  5. Stunning finds! What are the chances that this nascent “blue light disease” could be remedied by moderate daily exercise and a regime of intermittent exposure to natural light?

  6. Government background here. What I experience following extensive time online is that the general populace still has no idea as to the extent that their supposed privacy has been criminally stolen from them, how their entertainment has been co-opted by the intelligence community for decades, and the very real existence of other life forms with whom the Government has been involved, again for decades. I could say more, but you notice I am still alive.

  7. This study has very relevant aspects, especially given Federally mandated elimination of incandescent lighting in favor of LED and other blue-light spectrum light sources. If there is any truth to this study and others like it, then Congress has again pushed far-reaching industry-killing legislation ahead of scientific research.

  8. How can blue light be detrimental?

    The sky is blue. The white light of the sun bathes us in blue light from birth to death.

    Maybe blue light keeps people awake at night?

    Nothing in this solar system is more natural and more abundant than blue light!

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