Want to slim down? We all know the drill. Avoid carbs. Watch your fat intake. Stay away from processed sugar/flour/what have you. Now maybe we need to add “unplug in the evenings” to the list.
According Vanessa Chalmers in the Daily Mail, scientists have discovered that lab rats exposed to just one hour of blue light – the artificial light that comes from our electronic devices like phones, laptops and TVs – were more likely to consume higher amounts of sugar water that night, and make unhealthy food choices the next day.
“The rats were given the option to choose from four food sources: a nutritionally balanced meal, lard, sugar water and water. The evidence suggests the screen use at night leads the rats to snack on sugary foods, which their bodies are unable to process properly,” Chalmers explains, noting that blue light also altered glucose tolerance in the rats, which is a precursor to diabetic symptoms.
It’s no secret that too much screen time can lead to health problems.
“By chronically raising levels of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone, our phones may be threatening our health and shortening our lives,” wrote Catherine Price in The New York Times earlier this year.
This goes beyond the dopamine addiction often cited as a reason for our addictive behavior toward those little chunks of technology in our hands. Price is talking about a primal biochemical reaction relating to cortisol, which leads to inflammation, a key ingredient in many of our most challenging physical problems.
And now they’re worsening our collective sweet tooth.
“The biological mechanisms which lead to a higher appetite or glucose intolerance are not explained, but are believed to be due to an alteration in hormones,” Chalmers writes. “Retinal cells of the eye are sensitive to blue light and directly convey information to areas of the brain that regulate appetite, as well as sleep.”
This study has some interesting parallels to previous research that found women who fall asleep with the TV on weigh more than those who don’t.
What I find fascinating is the lingering effect. I’ve been known to snack more than I should if I’m watching TV at night. But the idea that this might influence my food choices the next day? That’s beyond what I would have expected.
I’ve long advocated for putting down the phone and unplugging as a way to be healthier and happier. Now, evidently, it’s the path to being thinner too.
The bottom line is this – if you want to be healthier, smarter and better looking, grab a print book and take it to bed. You’ll sleep better, recall what you read better, make more natural connections in your brain, and probably crave a much healthier breakfast in the morning.