Beware, blue light can speed up your aging, even if you aren't looking at it

If you are in the midst of blue light that is being emitted by your phone, computer and other items in your house, it could be speeding up your age. The blue light might be harming your retinas as well as your brain cells.

Human eye
Human eye Pixabay

Currently, there is a true blue danger and it comes from the blue light that is emitted from your phone, computer or even your microwave oven. Blue wavelengths that are let our by light-emitting diodes can actually harm your retinas and even your brain cells, according to new research by scientists at Oregon State University.

The research was published in Aging and Mechanisms of Disease. Scientists experimented with an organism, Drosophila melanogaster, also a common fruit fly. This is the model organism for the researchers who took it as a model due to the cellular and developmental mechanisms it shares with other living species.

Jaga Giebultowicz, a researcher in the OSU College of Science, headed the research team. The members explored the manner in which flies responded to 12-hour exposures to blue LED light. It is just like the blue wavelength in various devices like phones and tablets. It was found that the blue light enhanced aging in the subjects.

Whenever flies underwent everyday cycles of 12 hours in light and 12 hours in darkness, they were found to have shorter lives than species kept in complete darkness, or others that were in light without the blue wavelengths.

Researchers found that those flies who had been exposed to blue light, seemed to exhibit damage to their retinal cells and brain neurons. They also showed disturbed locomotion. Their ability to climb the walls in their prison enclosures, which is quite a common phenomenon in that species, was much reduced.

Many of the flies were mutants that do not develop eyes. Some of the eyeless flies even seemed to show brain damage and disturbed locomotion, which indicated that there even if they did not see the light, they could suffer damage.

Blue light
Blue light emanating from your phone or laptop may be damaging your retinas. Wikipedia

"The fact that the light was accelerating aging in the flies was very surprising to us at first," said Giebultowicz, a professor of integrative biology. "We'd measured expression of some genes in old flies, and found that stress-response, protective genes were expressed if flies were kept in 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. It was very clear cut that although light without blue slightly shortened their lifespan, just blue light alone shortened their lifespan very dramatically."

It is very important that living beings be exposed to natural light, said Giebultowicz. It is important to regulate the body's circadian rhythm, or the 24-hour cycle of physiological processes including brain wave activity, hormone production and cell regeneration. These are crucial factors that help in feeding and sleeping.

"But there is evidence suggesting that increased exposure to artificial light is a risk factor for sleep and circadian disorders," she said. "And with the prevalent use of LED lighting and device displays, humans are subjected to increasing amounts of light in the blue spectrum since commonly used LEDs emit a high fraction 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."

If faced with an option, the flies would keep away from blue light. "We're going to test if the same signaling that causes them to escape blue light is involved in longevity," she said.

What really can help you to avoid blue light? You can buy eyeglasses with amber lenses that will filter out the blue light and shield your retinas. Even your phones, laptops and other devices can be reset so that they block out blue emissions.