young women using the smart phone on bed before sleep

Thanks to the constant use of digital technology and LED lights, we’re being barraged by blue light from every angle. According to a new study on fruit fly, long-term exposure to blue light might seriously affect our health and longevity.

The Blue Light Study Design

Led by biological clocks (i.e. circadian rhythm) expert and professor Jadwiga Giebultowicz Ph.D. and researchers at Oregon State University investigated how blue light exposure affects neurological (brain) health, mitochondrial health, and overall longevity by exposing the common fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) to blue light as they age.

In general, ageing reduced the organisms’ tolerance for environmental stressors (such as blue light), partly due to decreased mitochondrial reactions. The flies’ mitochondrial health was evaluated at different points of their life span (i.e. 2, 20, 40, and 60 days) to see how exactly blue light affected their cellular health as they aged.

“At the crux of mitochondrial health is bioenergetics, aka cellular energy production (you know, ATP from the foods we eat), for every function in our cells, tissues, organs, and whole-body systems,” shares nutrition scientist Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN.

How Blue Light Affects Longevity

Although we often think of blue light affecting our eye health – and it certainly does – it seems there may be more than meets the eye with blue light longevity concerns.

Case in point: A previous Nature Partner Journals Aging 2019study also led by Giebultowicz revealed that long-term exposure to blue light affected both retinal and non-retinal cell longevity in common fruit flies, affecting everything from vision health to neurocognitive factors and locomotor function.

In this newer study, the effects of blue light exposure increased significantly later in the life span i.e. older flies were far more susceptible to the same intensity and duration of blue light than younger flies.

Again, this is partially due to the natural decrease in mitochondrial efficiency and partially due to the impact of blue light as a stressor.

Though these study results are from a preclinical insect model (albeit a “stellar organism specifically for circadian rhythm research,” explains Ferira), they demonstrate that blue light can have a profound impact on the eye health, cognitive function, movement, and overall longevity of organisms – especially later in life.