Losing weight and extra fat is a common goal for almost everyone. For some, all it takes is a clean diet and exercise. But for others, it's not that simple. Often times, there are deeper health issues that prevent the body’s metabolic rate from working properly. Stress, for example, has a proven negative effect on metabolism.1 That’s why for so many people, working out and dieting becomes a frustrating, never-ending cycle. And in most cases, people often blame themselves for the lack of results. Well, if you’re nodding your head "yes" while reading this, then listen up, because there's a new tool that may help your body begin to process fat the way it should.
Just as red and near infrared light is showing promise for a host of health issues, this type of therapy has shown surprisingly effective results for fat loss as well. Unlike many solutions promoted for weight-loss such as medications and surgery, red and near infrared light therapy provide a safe, natural and non-invasive option to becoming healthy and more fit.
How Does it Work to Reduce Fat?
In a previous article, we discussed how red and near infrared light impacts the human body in a unique way. Our bodies absorb light energy - especially at certain wavelengths - and our cells respond by carrying out their day-to-day functions at an improved level. Not only does this help with things like skin health and muscle recovery, but it also plays a role in the body’s ability to process fat.
It has been well documented that red light at certain wavelengths stimulates mitochondrial and ATP production. This happens as part of the cellular respiration process in which cells break down and convert stored energy - releasing waste products as part of this process.
And there’s clinical data to back this up. A 2013 review in the academic journal Lasers in Surgery and Medicine states, “the mechanism is based on absorption of red and near infrared photons by chromophores in the mitochondria (particularly cytochrome c oxidase), leading to increases of mitochondrial membrane potential, oxygen consumption, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and a transient increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS)." The researchers in this study went on to say that light therapy provides numerous ways of reducing weight, decreasing fat & cellulite, and improving the blood lipid profile.2
Even though the mechanism of action for light therapy-related weight loss has not been completely defined, one theory is that light therapy affects adipocytes, which are cells that store fat, causing the lipids to disperse.1 In simpler terms, light therapy helps the body wash away fat cells. Light therapy may create other actions that affect fat and weight loss as well. For instance, a 2012 study in the International Journal of Endocrinology showed that light can affect hunger, which could have benefits for helping to prevent the buildup of extra fat before it even begins. This study found that red light helped control levels of the hunger-related hormones leptin and ghrelin in sleep-deprived participants.3
What Does Other Research Say?
Besides the obvious health issues that come from obesity and excess fat, one of the primary motivating factors for people to attempt to lose weight has more to do with how they look in the mirror than what the scale actually reads. Body contouring has become a commonly marketed term for all sorts of therapies and treatments. Unfortunately, a lot of these either don’t work – or worse – produce undesirable side effects. Red light therapy, on the other hand, simply helps our cells function better by providing an energy boost from a specific range of natural light.
A study in the Journal of Obesity Surgery researched red light therapy for body contouring. This 2011 double-blind, randomized study performed this therapy at 635-680 nanometers (nm) on participants for four weeks and looked at effects on the waistline. Subjects were asked not to change their diet or exercise habits. At the end of study, the researchers concluded that in just 4 weeks, participants achieved both cosmetic and a statistically significant reduction in waistline girth.4 Another similar study published in Lasers in Surgery Medicine concluded that participants showed a significant reduction in overall circumference, including each part of the body. Researchers concluded that this type of therapy can cut down on the circumference of the specific areas that are treated.5
A later study in the same journal – Lasers in Surgery and Medicine – also found benefits from red light therapy for contouring the hips, thighs, and waist. This 2013 study demonstrated positive results from red light at 635 nm. Researchers used the therapy on 86 participants for 20 minutes per session on alternating days during a two-week period. After the treatment window, they found a mean loss of 2.99 inches overall compared to the starting point. Separately, the thigh, waist and hip areas all showed a reduction too. Researchers concluded that red light therapy at this level and wavelength was safe and clinically effective for the specified purpose (Figure A).6
Figure A: Comparison of inches lost between Test Group and Placebo Group
Benefits of In-Home Red Light Therapy for Weight Loss
A major benefit of red light therapy is that it can be performed at home. Instead of going to a spa or medical clinic for expensive contouring and fat loss procedures that can lead to unwanted side effects, it's possible to purchase a red light device for use in the convenience of your own home. Consistency is critical when it comes to red light therapy. That’s why it's so beneficial to have a red light device available at home versus the expense and inconvenience of multiple sessions at a health facility.
But as noted before, wavelength and intensity are incredibly important when it comes to light therapy. Make sure you choose a device that delivers red light with the correct wavelength with an optimal amount of power.
Conclusion: The Data is Hard to Ignore - Red Light Therapy Truly Does Enhance Weight and Fat Loss
Overall, red light therapy has shown positive results for fat loss and body contouring across several different clinical studies. This type of therapy offers a safe, non-invasive alternative for helping people improve their looks and their health. It's safe to say you can add weight loss to the long list of benefits for the use of red light therapy!
(1) Peterson P.S., Lei X, Wolf RM. CTRP7 deletion attenuates obesity-linked glucose intolerance, adipose tissue inflammation, and hepatic stress. American Journal of Physiology. Feb 2017; 10:1152.
(2) Avci P, Nyame TT, Gupta GK, et al. Low-Level Laser Therapy for Fat Layer Reduction: A Comprehensive Review. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. Aug 2013; 45(6): 349-357.
(3) Figueiro MG, Plitnick B, and Rea MS. Light Modulates Leptin and Ghrelin in Sleep-Restricted Adults. International Journal of Endocrinology. 2012.
(4) Caruso-Davis MK, Guillot TS, Podichetty VK, Mashtalir N, Dhurandhar NV, Dubuisson O, Yu Y. Efficacy of low-level laser therapy for body contouring and spot fat reduction. Obes Surg. 2011 Jun; 21(6):722-9.
(5) Jackson RF, Dedo DD, Roche GC, et al. Low-level laser therapy as a non-invasive approach for body contouring: a randomized, controlled study. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. Dec 2009; 41(10): 799-809.
(6) McRae E and Boris J. Independent evaluation of low-level laser therapy at 635 nm for non-invasive body contouring of the waist, hips, and thighs. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. Jan 2013; 45(1): 1-7.