Scott Nelson

Red Light Therapy for Weight Loss, Fat Reduction, & Body Contouring





Losing weight and fat is one of the most common health goals, both for medical and cosmetic reasons. Few of us would turn down losing a few pounds or cutting back on some fat here or there. This article gives an overview of clinical research showing how natural red light therapy can help people lose weight, tone their body, cut back on fat & cellulite, and control obesity.

How Does Light Therapy Work? 

If you’re not familiar with red light therapy, this article gives a good overview of what it is and how it works. A Quality red light therapy device delivers safe, concentrated wavelengths of natural light to your skin and cells. This  reduces oxidative stress and stimulates cellular energy production (adenosine triphosphate or ATP). For an in-depth explanation of the science behind red light therapy, check out this article. This post breaks down the  health benefits of red light therapy.

Red Light Therapy and Fat Loss

Researchers believe red light therapy affects the fat-story adipocytes, and essentially helps the body wash away lipids and fat cells. [1]

Light therapy may work in other ways that affect fat and weight loss as well. A 2012 study in the International Journal of Endocrinology showed that light can affect hunger levels. This study found that red light helped control levels of the hunger-related hormones leptin and ghrelin in sleep-deprived participants. [2]

Joovv’s light therapy products are registered with FDA as class II medical devices for the treatment of pain, strain, and inflammation. Other health benefits mentioned in this article are for educational purposes only. See all applicable disclaimers at the end of this article.

Clinical Research Shows Red Light Therapy Reduces Fat and Helps with Weight Management

This is a brief overview of the clinical research on fat loss, body image, and red light therapy:

Less Cellulite with Red Light Therapy: In a 2011 study on red light therapy and cellulite reduction, women ages 25-55 were divided into two groups: some did treadmill exercise + red light therapy twice a week, while the other group just did treadmill exercise. The researchers presented thermographic photographs of the changes in thigh circumference and cellulite to demonstrate that red light therapy and exercise was more effective than just exercise alone. The study concluded that treadmill exercise and red light therapy in conjunction can improve body aesthetics. [3]

Cosmetic Body Contouring with Red Light Therapy: Many people trying to lose weight just want to look better in the mirror, or at the beach. A wide variety of therapies to target fat and improve appearance are called “body contouring” or “body sculpting”, some surgical, others noninvasive. But many of them don’t work, and/or produce troublesome side effects. Red light therapy is completely natural & noninvasive and has proven to be an effective option for changing the way your body looks.

Smaller Waistline, Less Girth with Red Light: A study in the Journal of Obesity Surgery researched red light therapy for body contouring. This 2011 double-blind, randomized study performed light therapy at 635-680 nanometers (nm) on participants for four weeks and recorded effects on the size of their waistline. At the end of the study, participants had achieved a statistically significant reduction in waistline girth. [4]  

Red Light Therapy for Targeted Fat Loss: In a similar study published in Lasers in Surgery Medicine, participants who received light therapy showed a significant reduction in overall circumference, including numerous parts of the body. Researchers concluded that light therapy can reduce the circumference of the specific areas of the body that are treated with natural light. [5]

Tighter Hips & Thighs: A 2013 study in the same journal also found benefits from red light therapy at 635 nm for contouring the hips, thighs, and waist. At the end of the trial, researchers found a mean loss of 2.99 inches in overall body size 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 wavelength was safe and clinically effective (Figure A). [6]

Red light therapy has been found to help everyone from professional athletes to senior citizens get more out of their workouts. To learn more about red light therapy for fitness and training, check out this article.

    Red Light Therapy for Weight Loss, Fat Reduction, and Body Contouring

    Figure A: Comparison of inches lost between Test Group and Placebo Group.

    Less Body Fat: A 2018 triple-blind, placebo-controlled trial assessed red light therapy’s effects on people doing endurance training. Researchers found pre-exercise treatment can “decrease the body fat in healthy volunteers when compared to placebo.” [7]

    Curious about red light therapy and inflammation? Joovv’s light therapy products are registered with FDA as class II medical devices for the treatment of pain, strain, and inflammation. Learn more about red light therapy and inflammation here.

    Red Light Therapy Weight and Obesity Control: A study conducted by Brazilian researchers in 2015 assessed the effects of light therapy and exercise on 64 obese women, ages 20 to 40. One group exercised and received red light therapy treatments, while the control group just exercised. They concluded that red light therapy and exercise together were more effective than just exercise in reducing fat mass. Researchers also observed an increase in skeletal muscle mass. They wrote:

    “Our results demonstrated for the first time that light therapy enhances the physical exercise effects in obese women undergoing weight loss treatment promoting significant changes in inflexibility metabolic profile.” [8]

    A recent study published in 2018 also evaluated obese young women and found similar results. Some followed an exercise regimen + red light therapy, while the control group just did the exercise. The women who did exercise and red light therapy saw more significant changes in fat mass and insulin variables.

    Researchers concluded:

    It was demonstrated that exercise training associated with light therapy promotes an improvement in body composition and inflammatory processes. The light therapy group especially presented positive modifications of WNT5 signaling, FGF-21, and ANP, possible biomarkers associated with browning adiposity processes. This suggests light therapy is applicable in clinical practice to control obesity.” [9]

    A placebo-controlled clinical trial in 2015 noted similar improvements with obese women who exercised and were treated with red light therapy. Researchers also concluded red light therapy could control cardiometabolic risk factors in obese populations. [10]

    Other Health Benefits of Red Light Therapy

    Emerging clinical research is also showing the potential for other red light therapy benefits, like improved skin health, and better sleep and circadian rhythm. The initial research is also encouraging for brain and cognitive health, and mental health treatment, as well as for red light therapy and hormone health

    Health and Fitness Leaders Trust Joovv Red Light Therapy

    In addition to the clinical research, there’s no shortage of health & fitness leaders who use red light therapy for weight loss, skin health, and muscle recovery—and advise their clients and patients to do the same.

    Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, aka Paleo Mom, has analyzed the scientific literature and written about how she sees weight loss benefits from her daily Joovv use, in addition to major joint pain relief. You can see more natural health experts & world-class fitness trainers who use Joovv here. And check out the elite pro athletes who train with Joovv.

    Conclusion: Red Light Therapy, Weight Management, and Fat Loss

    Clinical research and leading professionals are showing how  red light therapy can be part of an effective, natural weight management or fat loss strategy. If you want to learn more about the wide-ranging benefits of red light therapy, check out our learn library, where we have collected articles about the science and benefits of red light therapy.

    Scientific Sources and Medical References:

    [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] Figueiro MG, Plitnick B, and Rea MS. Light Modulates Leptin and Ghrelin in Sleep-Restricted Adults. International Journal of Endocrinology. 2012.

    [3] Paolillo FR, Borghi-Silva A, et al. New treatment of cellulite with infrared-LED illumination applied during high-intensity treadmill training. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2011 Aug;13(4):166-71.

    [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):99-809.

    [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.

    [7] Miranda EF, Tomazoni SS, et al. When is the best moment to apply photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) when associated to a treadmill endurance-training program? A randomized, triple-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Lasers in Med Science. 2018 May;33(4):719-727.

    [8] Sene-Fiorese M, Duarte FO, et al. The potential of phototherapy to reduce body fat, insulin resistance and "metabolic inflexibility" related to obesity in women undergoing weight loss treatment. Lasers Surg Med. 2015 Oct;47(8):634-42.

    [9] da Silveira Campos RM, Dâmaso AR, et al. The effects of exercise training associated with low-level laser therapy on biomarkers of adipose tissue transdifferentiation in obese women. Lasers in Medical Science. 2018 Aug;33(6):1245-1254.

    [10] Duarte FO, et al. Can low-level laser therapy (LLLT) associated with an aerobic plus resistance training change the cardiometabolic risk in obese women? A placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Photochem Photobiol B. 2015 Dec;153:103-10.

    Joovv light therapy products are indicated for use in the relief of muscle and joint pain, including arthritis and muscle spasm pain, and increasing of blood circulation, and relaxation of muscles. The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to support the safety or effectiveness of Joovv devices, or diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. It's not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with your healthcare provider, and should not be construed as medical advice.

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