What Years of Being Obsessed With Mitochondrial Health Taught Me About Blue Light: A Q+A With Matt Maruca

What Years of Being Obsessed With Mitochondrial Health Taught Me About Blue Light: A Q+A With Matt Maruca

In today’s digital world we are exposed to artificial light constantly. From the screens we stare at, to the lights we live under, blue light is wreaking havoc on our health.

Enter Matt Maruca, CEO of Ra Optics, a company known for producing the world's finest blue light blocking glasses. As a young kid, Matt struggled constantly with debilitating headaches, allergies, and gut issues and spent years trying to mask these symptoms with Western medical drugs, Eastern diets and herbs, and modern diets and supplements, all to no avail.

But a few years ago things changed for Matt. That’s when Matt began to learn that our mitochondria, the little engines in our cells that keep us alive by burning our food and oxygen to make water and energy, are “electromagnetic” in nature. This means that how the mitochondria process food and energy is controlled by light. Matt set out to regain his health, but didn’t expect his deep dive into mitochondrial health to launch him into a life-changing relationship with blue light.

Today Matt shares with us how light drives mitochondrial functions, the science behind blue light blocking glasses triggering melatonin production, a high-level overview of the eye/brain connection, and gives us the 411 on blue light blocking glasses (spoiler alert: they’re not all created equal).

How Light Drives Mitochondrial Function

Can you give us a brief overview of how light drives mitochondrial functions?

Mitochondria, like all life, evolved under the influence of sunlight. They are affected by light in many ways, especially when it comes to timing and energy production.

For timing, mitochondria are influenced by circadian rhythms, just like the rest of the body. This means that they are more active when the sun is present and designed to be in a state of repair while in darkness.

For energy production, studies show that red and infrared light impact a part of the mitochondria called cytochrome c oxidase. This interaction allows the mitochondria to produce ATP, the basic energy currency in cells, with no electrons from food needed! What does this mean? We are able to "photosynthesize" in a sense.

Knowing this fact, it is vital to our health to be exposed to natural, full-spectrum sunlight when available and for those who are not able to get outdoors regularly to supplement with red light therapy. Ra Optics is working to develop one of the best red light therapy panels available on the market today.

The Science Behind Blue Light Blocking Glasses Triggering Melatonin Secretion

Tell us a bit about the science linking blue light blocking glasses to melatonin production.

Not all wavelengths of light (also called colors when found in the visual spectrum) affect the body in the same way. The wavelengths the body uses to regulate our body’s clock, known as a circadian rhythm, are in the blue range.

The invention of the lightbulb was the first time man created a source of light that could affect our body’s rhythms. Over time, artificial light sources have been developed to include a higher volume of blue light wavelengths to stimulate greater wakefulness and productivity. But, at a cost.

The issue with man-made light sources, especially LEDs, fluorescents, and light emitted from screens, is that they do not contain the full spectrum of colors, which are naturally balanced and have a calculated effect on the systems of the body as a whole. When one wavelength is significantly elevated in an artificial light source, relative to its proportion in the sun, it causes an imbalance in the body's circadian rhythm, hormonal systems, and in organ systems and biochemical reactions affected by light.

At night, blue light "tricks'' the brain into thinking that it is daytime, drastically reducing the natural production of melatonin. When blue light hits our retinas, it’s like flipping a switch that signals the brain to activate a host of systems for daytime activity. When it is dark and blue light is not present, the switch flips to allow for the natural production of melatonin - putting the body into rest and recovery mode.

The Eye/Brain Connection

Establish for us the eye/brain connection.

Our eyes are an extension of our brain. The retina is physiologically considered part of the brain. The eyes are external sensors that sense our environment and convey this valuable information to the brain. The most commonly known aspect of this relationship is the sense of vision, because we experience it profoundly on a daily basis.

The cells in our eyes called "intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells," speak directly to the master regulator of the brain, the hypothalamus, via the optic nerve. These are non-visual cells, meaning that they convey tremendous amounts of information about our environment to the brain that we cannot consciously see or perceive. These cells are essential in regulating our circadian rhythm.

Blue Light Blocking Glasses: Are They All Created Equal?

Are all blue light blocking lenses created equal? If not, how can folks tell if their glasses are actually working?

They are not. In order for a blue light blocking lens to work, it must contain pigments specifically designed to absorb the damaging wavelengths of light emitted by modern lighting sources and screen devices.

Most lenses on the market today are completely clear because of consumer demand. In order for a lens to be clear, it means the lens is allowing all visible light on one side to pass through to the other side, unchanged.

When blue light is removed, the remaining colors, red, orange, yellow, and green, combine to make yellow. If 100% of blue light is removed, the lens will appear a deep yellow, almost orange. If a significant portion of green light is removed, the remaining colors, red, orange and yellow, will combine to make a more deep orange or red lens. For this reason, Ra Optics Day Lenses appear yellow, and Ra Optics Night Lenses appear red.

The most effective way to know if blue light blocking lenses are effective is to purchase a digital spectrometer and test the lenses. Otherwise, the discerning customer should purchase from a company that provides this testing on their lenses, like Ra Optics.

Three Tips to Prevent Digital Eye Strain

If you could offer three tips to those stuck at a desk, staring at a screen all day, what would they be?

  1. Watch the sunrise each morning.
  2. Take sun breaks throughout the day for 5-15 minutes without any glasses or contact lenses on.
  3. Wear Ra Optics Day Lenses to protect from the damaging blue light wavelengths in an office. (Additionally, people can download a software called "Iris" onto their computer to reduce or eliminate harmful blue light from devices).

Final Thoughts

Our modern lifestyle exposes us to artificial light day and night, from screens we stare at, to lights we live under. If we want to optimize our health, we need to protect ourselves, day and night, from this harmful light.

Connect With Matt

Matt Maruca is a researcher, entrepreneur and educator in the fields of photobiology, mitochondria and optimal human health and the founder of Ra Optics, a company known for producing the world's finest blue light blocking glasses.

Matt also created The Light Diet Course, an 8-step comprehensive video course, that directly addresses the root of the modern, chronic disease epidemic and mitochondrial dysfunction. Matt now spends his time traveling the world, studying and teaching about the relevance of light in human health cycles with a focus on reversing this situation, as well as integrating science with ancient Eastern wisdom.

If you’d like to learn more about blue light and its impact on mitochondrial functions and sleep performance check out the Ra Optics blog or connect with Matt on Instagram.

Want to try Ra Optics glasses? Use code neurohacker at checkout for 10% off.

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