hink you are exposed to too much blue light? Better give yourself a little break from your favorite gadgets now. A new study has found that the harmful effects of blue light is strongly age-dependent and the damages it causes will worsen as you age.
For a study, published in the Nature Partner Journals Aging, researchers used the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as they are considered a reliable model organism. They have similar cellular and developmental mechanisms seen in humans and other animals.
The team led by Jaga Giebultowicz, a scientist at the Oregon State University (OSU) College of Science, conducted experiments on flies kept in darkness and then exposed to continual blue light from light-emitting diodes (LEDs), at different ages.
The flies were exposed to light at two, 20, 40 and 60 days as researchers studied the impact on their mitochondria.
Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cells and is responsible for generating energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate or ATP.
“The novel aspect of this new study is showing that chronic exposure to blue light can impair energy-producing pathways even in cells that are not specialized in sensing light,” Giebultowicz said. “We determined that specific reactions in mitochondria were dramatically reduced by blue light, while other reactions were decreased by age independent of blue light. You can think of it as blue light exposure adding insult to injury in aging flies.”
Apart from LED bulbs, people can get exposed to blue light from everyday devices like television, computer and laptop. There are studies that point to the harmful effects of blue light on one’s eating and sleeping patterns.
“This technology, LED lighting, even in most developed countries, has not been used long enough to know its effects across the human lifespan,” Giebultowicz said.
“There are increasing concerns that extended exposure to artificial light, especially blue-enriched LED light, may be detrimental to human health. While the full effects of blue light exposure across the lifespan are not yet known in humans, accelerated aging observed in short-lived model organisms should alert us to the potential of cellular damage by this stressor,” she explained.
Their previous research showed long exposure to blue light had dire consequences on the brain, motor abilities and lifespan of the fruit fly.
“Now we’re reporting that the damaging effects of blue light on the flies are strongly age-dependent – the same length of exposure to the same intensity of light decreases lifespan and increases neurodegeneration more significantly in old flies than in young ones,” she said.
People can take some precautions to safeguard themselves from the harmful effects of blue light. Spectacles with blue-light filters can be used to protect the retina. Also, the display settings on your phones and laptops could be changed to stop blue-light emissions.