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A weekly dose of red light may improve aging eyesight, study finds

A red traffic light in Moscow, Russia.

A red traffic light in Moscow, Russia.
Photo: Alexander Nemenov / AFP (Getty Images)

Three minutes of staring at a red light once a week may help our eyesight as we get older, new research this week suggests. Researchers in the UK found that volunteers given a weekly session with red light in the morning performed better on tests of their color vision. These findings are the latest to indicate that red light may be an inexpensive and easily accessible treatment for age-related declines in color vision.

Last year, researchers from University College London Published The results of a small man trial with red light therapy. Health volunteers are asked to stare at a red light “stitch” using their dominant eye for three minutes every day for two weeks. Tests subsequently found that people over the age of 40 improved on tests meant to measure how well they could see contrast between colors – a function of the retina’s cones. Lead author Glen Jeffery then told Gizmodo that the findings provided a proof-of-concept for their theory.

Mitochondria are the part of the cell that produces most of its energy. But as we age, the retina’s mitochondria begin to break down faster than elsewhere, which is thought to contribute to the decline of our retina, especially our cones, and the gradual loss of our ability to see color. “However, mitochondria involve several forms of light, including deep red, and this recharges the battery, improving cell function – this works well in the retina because they have so much mitochondria. That’s why we use it to improve vision,” Jeffrey explained.

The new research of theirs wanted to test the possible limitations of their therapy. Instead of using the candle every day, they scaled it back to once a week. And they opted for a low-energy light too. The same wavelength of deep red light (670 nanometers) was used. The study involved 24 people between the ages of 34 and 70, all with healthy vision. Most of those who received the therapy were given in the morning. Some have it also received afternoon as part of a later experiment, and others acted as a control group. They are then evaluated on their color vision, based on tests of distinguishing color contrast, up to a week later.

In general, those who received the treatment in the morning showed a 17% improvement in their color vision on average, even a week later. Those who received the treatment in the afternoon did not have any improvement, likely due to changes in how mitochondria react to light in the course of the day that the team’s past research showed Documented. The findings of the new study are Published In scientific reports.

“We demonstrate that one exposure to long wave deep red light in the morning can significantly improve declining vision, which is a major health and wellbeing issue that affects millions of people globally,” Jeffrey said. Statement From the University College London.

These findings do support their earlier work, and they may improve the practicality of the treatment, because a one-week stirring session is easier to hold than a daily regimen. But the team’s promising results are still based on their small sample sizes of health volunteers. Larger trials would be needed to confirm any benefits of red light therapy.

Even the authors acknowledge that there are still many questions to answer. Some of their volunteers, for example, have a significantly greater response to treatment than others, even among the similarly aged, suggesting that there may be unique factors that predict how well the therapy works for each person.

In the near future, a three-minute exposure to deep red light once a week could be done while making a coffee, or on the commute listening to a podcast, and such a simple addition could transform eye care and vision around the world, “Jeffrey said in the report from University College London.

Given its low cost (that little as $ 15 per device, Jeffrey previously told Gizmodo) and simplicity though, the team is excited about the potential of their therapy if the research continues to rule out.

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