Staying more under artificial light takes heavy toll on health: Says research at AU

ALLAHABAD: At a time when modern lifestyle of long office hours and partying under flashing lights have become an integral part of routine life and people are spending more and more hours of the day under artificial lights, scientists have proved that it is taking a heavy toll on people’s health.

Scientists of the Biochemistry department of Allahabad University (AU), led by Prof SI Rizvi have established that spending increased hours under artificial lights adversely affects secretion of all-important hormone called ‘melatonin’ which plays a very important role in maintaining normal human physiology required for healthy life.

The research findings has been published in the prestigious international journal ‘General and Comparative Endocrinology’ of Elsevier

Humans and all animals follow a biological rhythm which is approximately of 24 hours. “The light/dark period of the 24 hour cycle plays a crucial role in our health as deep inside the brain a gland known as pineal gland secretes a hormone called melatonin, which is released only during dark periods of the night”, said Prof Rizvi.

“Working on the concept of ‘artificial light at night’ (ALAN), we found that when the eyes are exposed to artificial lights, be it laptop, LED and even light emitted from mobile screen, the brain stops producing melatonin, known to help us confront oxidative stress”, explains Prof Rizvi.

Present day lifestyle has blurred the distinction between day and night and most of us spend increasing hours under artificial light which has disturbed the circadian secretion of melatonin which has increased our predisposition to many lifestyle diseases, he added.

He added that an increased oxidative stress is the causative trigger for a host of degenerative conditions including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer and even aging.

The findings assume huge relevance in present times when our living conditions continuously expose us to artificial light. “While the short term effects of lack of melatonin may not be instantly visible, its long term effect on health may be highly detrimental”, said Prof Rizvi.

The scientists used rats to assess the effect of continuous light and continuous darkness on several biomarkers of health. The findings revealed a startling result. Rats exposed to continuous light had compromised ability to cope up with oxidative stress. Scientists observed that group of rats who received melatonin were protected from the adverse effects of continuous light.

“Most of us, who are now habitual of working late night stands more vulnerable to oxidative stress more so because the body would not secrete melatonin, thus adversely affecting our overall health, sooner or later”, said Prof Rizvi.

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