Why blue light contributes to weight gain

You may have already heard about the negative consequences of blue light on your health. In fact, blue light, which is emitted from screens like your television, tablet or smartphone has been proven to damage your sleep.

And it’s been connected to a 60 percent higher risk of colon cancer!

That blue light exposure could even be accelerating your aging.

Now a study is demonstrating that the type of light you are exposed to before bed can actually change how much energy your body expends at night, how much fat you burn, and how much weight stays glued to your body.

A new type of light that could be better for your health

The fact that light can affect the human body shouldn’t be any surprise. Our natural daily cycle or circadian rhythm is synchronized with the rising and setting of the sun. That’s why so many illnesses have been attributed to a disrupted circadian rhythm.

The research published in Scientific Reports compared traditional LED lights that emit a large amount of blue light to a new polychromatic light called an OLED. OLEDs give off significantly less blue light.

The scientists, from the University of Tsukuba, were specifically comparing the effects of these lights on energy metabolism during sleep.

“Energy metabolism is an important physiological process that is altered by light exposure,” says senior author of the study Professor Kumpei Tokuyama. “We hypothesized that compared with LEDs, OLED exposure would have a reduced effect on sleep architecture and energy metabolism, similar to that of dim light.”

The researchers recruited 10 participants to test their theory and exposed them to LED, OLED, or dim light for 4 hours before they slept in a metabolic chamber.

Then, they measured:

  • How much energy their body expended while they slept
  • Their core body temperature (a lower core body temperature is critical to sleep and the stimulating of your sleep hormone, melatonin)
  • Fat oxidation (or the coveted fat burn)
  • 6-sulfatoxymelatonin (which is a measure of melatonin levels during sleep)

And OLED lights were the clear winner when it came to all things sleep, as well as all things weight!

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Compared to blue light, the team found that white light from OLEDs reduced core body temperature to signal melatonin release and improve sleep. And it even increased fat oxidation, helping to convert fat to energy rather than leaving it stored potentially on your hips, thighs and belly.

White light also beat out blue light in 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels, showing that white light is much better than blue light for melatonin activity on energy metabolism.

“Thus, light exposure at night is related to fat oxidation and body temperature during sleep. Our findings suggest that specific types of light exposure may influence weight gain, along with other physiological changes,” says Professor Tokuyama.

Steps for a lighter life with less blue light

Though OLED lights may not be readily available for you to start switching out bulbs in your home, there are other changes you can make to impact the way light affects your body, sleep patterns and circadian rhythm:

  • The simplest way to cut down on blue light is to start with your smartphone. Consider setting a cut-off time, like maybe around 8 pm, when all devices that emit blue light are shut down, starting with your smartphone. But to truly benefit you’ll need to also include anything else with a digital screen — from TVs to computers, laptops, tablets and most all other electronic devices.
  • If you need to use any of these devices in the evening, get a pair of blue light-blocking eyeglasses to help filter out what you can. In a study at Indiana University, researchers found that simply wearing blue-light glasses just before you go to sleep can help you get a better night’s rest. That makes for a happier circadian rhythm.
  • Turning off any unnecessary lights will help as well. Your body depends on the natural dimming that occurs when the sun starts to set to begin producing melatonin. Any artificial light will interfere with that process and can disrupt your circadian rhythm.

I was able to come across one light bulb during my research that, though it was not clear if it used OLED technology, claimed to use a patented spectrum technology originally developed in collaboration with NASA to support the circadian rhythms of astronauts aboard the International Space Station. You can find more about it here.

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Turn off the blue light! – EurekAlert!


Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.