Excessive time in front of a phone screen may affect hormone levels, leading to early puberty: study

A new study has revealed some interesting discoveries about smartphone use and its links toward children’s health. Results of the rat study, presented at the 60th annual meeting of the European Society of Pediatric Endocrinology, suggest that regular exposure to blue light from tablets and smartphones may affect hormone levels and increase the risk of precocious puberty.

The research suggests that longer exposure to blue light was associated with earlier onset of puberty in female mice, which also showed lower levels of melatonin, elevated levels of several reproductive hormones, and physical changes in the ovaries. This is important because the use of portable devices that emit blue light is already linked to children’s sleep patterns being disturbed, but current findings suggest there may be additional risks to future fetal development and fertility, according to the news agency. Ani Report.

How does blue light affect children:

It should be noted that the increased use of devices that generate blue light, such as tablets and smartphones, has been associated with lower sleep quality in children and adults. Blue light slows the rise in melatonin levels that occurs in the evening to prepare our bodies for sleep and rest, which is thought to interfere with our bodily clock. The report said prepubertal levels of melatonin are generally higher than in puberty, which may contribute to delaying the onset of puberty, and the complex process of puberty requires coordination of many body functions and hormones.

It should be noted that several studies in recent years have reported an increase in the onset of early puberty in girls, particularly during the Covid-19 epidemic and an increase in screen time, as occurred during pandemic restrictions, may contribute to this reported rise, as the report said that The relationship between exposure to blue light and low levels of melatonin suggests this.

However, assessing this in children is quite challenging, and researchers from Ankara, Turkey, Dr. Aylin Kilink Orlu and colleagues, used a rat model to examine the effects of blue light exposure on reproductive hormone levels and the timing of pubertal development. Three groups of six female rats each received a normal light cycle, six hours of blue light, or twelve hours of blue light.

Both groups were exposed to blue light, and the first signs of puberty for both groups started significantly earlier. The longer the exposure, the earlier the onset of puberty. In addition, the mice exposed to the blue light experienced morphological changes in ovarian tissue, lower levels of melatonin, and higher levels of two reproductive hormones (oestradiol and LH). All of these modifications are compatible with the onset of puberty. Mice exposed for 12 hours also showed some evidence of ovarian inflammation and cell damage.

Dr Aileen Kilink-Orlo said: “We have discovered that exposure to blue light, which is sufficient to alter melatonin levels, is also able to alter levels of reproductive hormones and cause the onset of early puberty in our mouse model. In addition, the earlier they start, the longer the exposure.

Despite the fact that Dr. Aileen Kilink-Orlo cautioned, “Since this was a study in mice, we cannot be certain that these findings will be replicated in children,” the data point to exposure to blue light as a possible risk factor for early onset of puberty. It is difficult to simulate the same levels of blue light exposure in rats as a child using a tablet, the age at which rats reach puberty is somewhat comparable to that of humans when taking into account the rats’ shorter lifespan.

Female mice experience hormonal and ovulatory changes similar to humans during the prepubertal and pubertal period. Therefore, despite the study’s limitations, these findings are in favor of future research into the potential effects of blue light exposure on hormone levels and the onset of puberty in young adults.

What the experts suggest:

Because cell damage and inflammatory consequences associated with prolonged exposure to blue light can have long-term repercussions on reproductive health and fertility, the team plans to look at these effects. In addition, they will examine whether using a mobile device’s “nightlight” capabilities that reduce blue light will reduce the effects seen in the rat model.

“We advise limiting the use of blue-light-emitting devices in pre-pubertal children, especially at night when exposure has the most hormonal-altering effects,” added Dr. Aileen Klink-Orlo.

(with input from ANI)

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