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December 12, 2019

How Blue Light Harms Your Health

blue light
Photo by Tim de Groot on Unsplash

When was the last time you went an entire day and did not use a computer, tablet, smartphone, or television? It probably has been a long time. Did you know that some use these devices up to 9 hours a day?

Did you know that using these devices can cause eye strain and possibly damage the retina of your eyes? Too much blue light also affects sleep.

Blue Light and Eyes

Many of these devices emit blue light. This blue light is not so special (sorry K-Mart). Blue light can damage the retina. The retina sits in back of the eye and captures light sending signals to the brain which enables us to see.

Damage to the retina can lead to macular degeneration. The macula is a small area in the retina responsible for central vision. In macula degeneration the center of vision becomes fuzzy and wavy and it becomes harder to see in poorly lit places.

Here is a review article from Forbes that discusses damage blue light can cause.

Blue Light and Sleep

Many know the light exposure governs our circadian rhythms and our sleep-wake cycles. When the sun goes down less light is transmitted to our brain signaling our bodies that it is time to go to sleep. This is done through the production of melatonin

This signally is interrupted when we exposed to prolong bright light especially at night. Melatonin production is reduced when we are exposed to bright lights at night.

This leads to poor sleep and poor sleep disrupts our hormonal rhythms or fluctuations. Growth hormone is produced at night and is a repair hormone. Less growth hormone is produced when our sleep is interrupted. But production of our other hormones like sex hormones and thyroid can be disrupted.

Poor sleep is linked to obesity and increased heart disease and strokes. So you don’t want to do anything that might interrupt sleep.

Dealing with Blue Light

Now let’s get real. None of us are probably going to stop using smartphones, computers, tablets, or televisions. Basically, we probably are not going to totally disconnect from the world electronically speaking. So what can you do?

Well, one you can try to minimize use of such devices, especially your smartphone by not checking social media and email several times a day. Some studies show people look at their smartphones more than 52 times an day.

Nutrients that Protect Against Blue Light

Another option to deal with blue light is to consume food that contain (or take nutritional supplements) two nutrients that filter out blue light. These two nutrients are lutein and zeaxanthin. These two nutrients are known as carotenoids.

You can think of them as being natural sunglasses. These nutrients are frequently recommended or prescribed for people suffering from age-related eye diseases. Lutein and zeaxanthin are pigments that capture and absorb the energy from blue light.

Here’s a problem, though. The body does not produce these nutrients. They can only be obtained by consuming plants.

Here is a two-decade study on these lutein, zeaxanthin, and other carotenoids on age related macular degeneration. This study found that those individuals with the highest intake of lutein and zeaxanthin had a 41% lower risk of developing advanced macular degeneration.

How much lutein and zeaxanthin do you need? One study showed that consuming 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin daily improved macular pigment optical density.

Macular pigment optimal density above 0.5 is considered optimal. Many in the United States have a macular pigment optimal density of just 0.3. In the study referred to above macular pigment optimal density was 0.654 after supplementing with lutein and zeaxanthin.

Protect your health. Unplug from technology, eat more plant based foods, and consider taking lutein and zeaxanthin.

 

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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