Even if it’s not shining in your eyes, researchers with Oregon State University warn that the blue light from modern gadgets may speed up your rate of aging, ultimately decreasing lifespan. In addition to causing damage to the retina in the eye, the study found that blue light may also damage brain cells, at least in a common fruit fly typically used for these types of studies.
The researchers found the negative effect on the common fruit fly, which they say is an important model for these studies due to the similarity of the developmental and cellular mechanisms it shares with humans. The flies were exposed to 12-hour cycles of blue light from LEDs, the same kind used in consumer tablets and smartphones.
In comparison to flies kept in light with blue light filters and flies kept in total darkness, the study found that fruit flies exposed to blue LED light for 12 hours had shorter lives. These same flies were found to not only have damage to the cells in their retinas but also to brain neurons. The flies experienced damage to their ability to climb the walls in their cage, as well.
Of note, the researchers found that the brain and locomotion issues were present even in fruit flies that didn’t develop eyes, meaning the light could cause health issues even if it isn’t visibly seen. The researchers note that exposure to blue light disrupts one’s circadian rhythm, potentially resulting in sleep disorders, issues with hormones, and more.
Though it’s impractical for humans to avoid all artificial blue light, the researchers note that until better alternatives are developed, people can reduce their exposure by wearing amber lenses that filter out the light, helping protect their eyes. As well, many phones, tablets, and laptops now have blue filter features that strip away the blue light.