Science & Spirit: Good Light, Bad Light, and a Few Cups of Coffee

Science & Spirit: Good Light, Bad Light, and a Few Cups of Coffee


Turn lights on to destroy viruses. Turn off to prevent heart disease. And through it all, just keep drinking coffee.

Virus-Killing Lights

Think of all the safety measures you take to prevent the spread of viruses indoors. You might wash your hands when you leave a store, wear a mask, move events outdoors, meet friends online, or distance yourself when together.

But what if you could just turn on the lights?

A new type of ultraviolet light, called far-UVC light, may effectively prevent the spread of airborne viruses in indoor spaces. In fact, far-UVC light can reduce the level of indoor airborne microbes by more than 98 percent in less than five minutes. David Brenner, lead research director from Columbia University, explains how exciting this new technology is: “It is simple to install, it’s inexpensive, it doesn’t need people to change their behavior, and, above all, it’s a safe way to prevent the transmission of any virus, including the COVID virus and its variants.”

[Read: “Practices for How COVID-19 Can Create Lasting, Positive Change.”]

These lights could be life-changing in the midst of social isolation and pandemic-driven lifestyles. This research may also change the way we respond to current and future viruses and potential pandemics.

Lights at Night, Are They Right?

Sleeping in a completely dark room has its downfalls, such as getting up to use the bathroom and tripping over your cat. The pros outweigh the cons, however.

New research from Northwestern University finds that sleeping with a light on can increase health issues. The lead author of the study, Dr. Phyllis Zee, explains that “just a single night of exposure to moderate room lighting during sleep can impair glucose and cardiovascular regulation.”

How so? First, light exposure naturally increases heart rate and awakens the body. This makes it difficult for the body to fully calm and restore itself during sleep. Second, researchers found increased insulin resistance for those who slept in light rooms. Over time, this can lead to increased blood sugar, obesity, and diabetes.

If keeping a light on is necessary for safety reasons, red/orange light is less stimulating and has fewer negative effects than white/blue light. So, turn off your TV, close the blinds, and switch out that white nightlight or lamp. Your heart will thank you!

Coffee for the Heart

Can’t go a day without your morning cup of joe? Caffeine addiction aside, it’s known that coffee can help reduce the risk of certain cancers and help with other medical conditions. Now, there’s more good news: Drinking coffee every day may improve your heart health.

Research from the American College of Cardiology suggests that drinking coffee may lower the risk of heart disease, prevent dangerous heart rhythms, and decrease overall mortality. This is true for people with and without cardiovascular disease. The data recommends drinking 2-3 cups of caffeinated coffee a day to receive maximum benefits.

Study author Peter M. Kistler recognizes how this research may contradict general health recommendations. “Because coffee can quicken heart rate, some people worry that drinking it could trigger or worsen certain heart issues,” he notes. “This is where medical advice to stop drinking coffee may come from. But our data suggests that daily coffee intake shouldn’t be discouraged but rather included as a part of a healthy diet for people with and without heart disease.”

Although coffee is typically equated with caffeine, other elements of the coffee bean are the essence of why your brew can be so beneficial. Coffee can reduce inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, boost metabolism, inhibit the gut’s absorption of fat, and reduce abnormal heart rhythms.

Whether you like it iced, hot, instant, or ground—keep enjoying that joe!

In case you missed it, read Abbie's Science & Spirit column about aging.

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