While your phones and laptops might be a great tool for keeping you connected to the rest of the world (and the Internet that’s filled with wild theories about Queen Elizabeth reincarnating as YouTuber Trisha Paytas’ baby), they’re also a big source of blue light exposure.
Prolonged exposure to the light that emits from these devices has been proven to cause harm to our bodies in several ways, like degeneration of eye muscles and sleep disruption.
Turns out, there’s another possible downside to being glued on to your mobile screens for a long time. Blue light exposure can lead to accelerated ageing, according to a new study by researchers at the Oregon State University, USA.
“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 the skin and fat cells to sensory neurons,” writes professor Jadwiga Giebultowicz, the senior author of the study, “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.”
Why fruit flies, you ask? It’s probably because we share the same signalling chemicals in our cells, according to the researchers. They claim that the fruit flies ‘turn on’ their stress protective genes when exposed to the blue light and discovered that the ones kept in darkness lived longer than the former.
The researchers also found out that blue light was causing a change on a cellular level in the flies’ heads, causing them to age prematurely.
“To understand why high-energy blue light is responsible for accelerating ageing in fruit flies, we compared the levels of metabolites in flies exposed to blue light for two weeks to those kept in complete darkness,” explained Prof Giebultowicz.
They discovered that the flies that were exposed to blue light had high levels of succinate and low levels of glutamate. For those of us not adept at understanding medical terms on the fly, succinate is essential for producing the fuel for the function and growth of each cell and glutamate is the molecule responsible for communication between neurons (brain cells). The difference in the growth rates of the two molecules is what is primarily causing the premature ageing of cells and their eventual death.
While the researchers have not yet tested out their theory on human volunteers yet, it’s highly likely that the results would be largely similar to that discovered in the fruit flies.
So, the next time you’re working through the day and then binge-watching shows on your laptop through the night, you might want to remember this.