How using your mobile phone could be ageing you: Study

Oct 20, 2019
Researchers studied the effects of blue light exposure on fruit flies, finding it impacts longevity. Source: Getty.

Nowadays you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t regularly use a mobile phone, even more so to find someone who doesn’t own their own smart phone. However new research has revealed that our reliance on staying connected could be prematurely ageing us.

A study conducted by Oregon State University researchers found that daily exposure to blue light, such as that emitted by smartphones and other screens, could negatively impact your longevity. The study, which observed the effects on fruit flies, found that the blue wavelengths  damage cells in the brain as well as retinas.

The research, published in Aging and Mechanisms of Disease [sic], looked at the effects on fruit flies because of commonalities with humans and other animals.

Researchers looked at how flies responded to being subjected to 12-hours of blue LED light exposure, discovering that it accelerated the ageing process. Flies that were subjected to 12-hours in light and 12 in darkness lived shorter lives, compared to those kept in total darkness, or those exposed to light with the blue wavelengths filtered out.

The study revealed that those who had been subjected to blue light had suffered damage to their retinal cells and brain neurons, as well as no longer being able to climb the walls of their enclosures. Interestingly though, some of the flies were mutants that did not develop eyes, however they displayed the same responses to blue light exposure, despite not actually seeing it.

“The fact that the light was accelerating ageing in the flies was very surprising to us at first,” lead researcher Jaga Giebultowicz said. “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 [sic] 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.”

While co-author of the study Eileen Chow said efforts could be made in medicine to combat the effects of blue light exposure, should the same outcomes be found to apply to humans. She said: “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.

“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.”

If you are worried about blue light exposure, there are several things you can do to reduce it, such as wearing glasses with amber lenses as this will filter out the blue wavelengths and protect your retinas. You can also make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of time you spend looking directly at screens or set your devices to block blue emissions.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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