Correlation Between Screen Time And Health Problems: New Research Reveals Astonishing Results
Longer screen time has been associated with health problems such as obesity for quite some time. Children and pre-teens are often more susceptible to this as they tend to spend the maximum amount of time with screens. Obesity has been proven to be one of the most common outcomes of prolonged screen time. However, a recent study has revealed that overuse of screens can not only cause obesity but can cause psychological issues as well as result in faster ageing.
Relationship between obesity and screen time
Obesity is one of the main concerns that come with the use of screens for a longer period. The major reasons this happens are listed below:
- Increased eating while viewing: People tend to intake more amount of food while using screens, as sitting or lying idle while using screens tends to make people feel lethargic. To battle this, people tend to eat so that their energy intake increases. It has been speculated that people, especially children consume a large portion of their meals and required calories while using a screen.
- Exposure to higher amounts of calories: Apart from the increased intake of high-energy foods and beverages that are consumed while viewing, screen time also extends the duration of eating since it distracts from feelings of fullness or satiety. This results in more calories being consumed.
- Low-nutrient food and beverage marketing that influences people’s preferences: Advertising is an important link between increased screen time and excess energy consumption. People are now exposed to marketing in media, including websites sponsored by food companies, apps and games as well as in advertising on third-party websites. Marketing via mobile devices and social media has also become rather common.
- Reduced sleep duration: Sleep deprivation has been associated with increased obesity and weight gain among children, especially between ages 3 and 7 years. Sleep deprivation causes changes in appetite-regulating hormones such as ghrelin and leptin, which leads to increased hunger and decreased satiety. Shorter sleep duration affects people’s choices to consume more calories and neglect nutritionally-dense foods. It also leads to increased snacking and eating outside of normal mealtimes, including during the night.
It has also been noted that excessive television viewing during childhood often causes overweight issues and obesity in adulthood. Up to 17 per cent of the obesity observed at 26 years of age was estimated to be because of viewing over hours of television per day on weekdays during childhood and adolescence.
Research Suggesting Correlation Between Screen Time And Major Health Issues
In a study conducted by Department of Integrative Biology at Oregon State University on fruit flies, it has been found that the blue light emitted by screens can have an effect on basic biological functions of human beings. The findings of the study were published in ‘Frontiers of Aging’. Dr Jadwiga Giebultowicz, a professor in the university and the senior author of this study noted that excessive exposure to blue light from everyday devices, such as TVs, laptops, and phones, may have detrimental effects on a wide range of cells in the body, from skin and fat cells to sensory neurons.
Previous research done at the university has shown that fruit flies exposed to light turn on stress-protective genes. On the other hand, the ones kept in constant darkness lived longer. To understand why high-energy blue light is responsible for accelerating ageing in fruit flies, the levels of metabolites in flies exposed to blue light for two weeks were compared to those kept in complete darkness.
Blue light exposure caused significant differences in the levels of metabolites measured by the researchers in the cells of fly heads. Specifically, the levels of the metabolite succinate were increased, but glutamate levels were lowered.
The study stated that succinate, which is essential for producing the fuel for the function and growth of each cell is produced in high levels after exposure to blue light. However, this cannot be used by the body. It was compared to “gas being in the pump but not getting into the car”.
“Excessive exposure to blue light from everyday devices, such as TVs, laptops, and phones, may have detrimental effects on a wide range of cells in our body, from skin and fat cells to sensory neuronsWe are the first to show that the levels of specific metabolites – chemicals that are essential for cells to function correctly – are altered in fruit flies exposed to blue light. Our study suggests that avoidance of excessive blue light exposure may be a good anti-ageing strategy”, said Dr Giebultowicz.
The report also mentioned another major problem. The molecules responsible for communication between neurons, such as glutamate, are at a lower level after blue light exposure.
Does blue light exposure accelerate aging and premature death?
The research suggests that exposure to blue light may cause the cells to operate at a sub-optimal level. This may result in premature death. This also boosts the finding of the previous studies they have done regarding the correlation of exposure to blue light to accelerated ageing.
Giebultowicz explained that LEDs have become the main illumination in display screens such as phones, desktops and TVs and are used in ambient lighting as well. The direct effect of this in modern society is prolonged experience of blue light through LED lighting during the majority of their waking hours. He added, “The signalling chemicals in the cells of flies and humans are the same, so there is potential for negative effects of blue light on humans”.
The future aim of the research is to study the effects of blue light directly on human cells. Giebultowicz noted, “We used a fairly strong blue light on the flies – humans are exposed to less intense light, so cellular damage may be less dramatic”. He added that the results obtained from the study suggest a need for future research involving human cells to find conclusive evidence regarding the extent to which human cells may show similar changes in metabolites involved in energy production in response to excessive exposure to blue light.