Losing weight and extra fat is a common health goal for almost everyone. For some, all it takes is a clean diet and adequate 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.
That’s why working out and dieting becomes a frustrating, never-ending cycle for lots of people. It’s easy to blame yourself when you’re not seeing the results you’d like. Does that sound familiar? If so, don’t lose hope! 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 demonstrating promise for a host of health issues, it 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 healthier and more fit.
How Does Light Therapy 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 performing 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 cellular energy (called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP) production. This happens as part of the cellular respiration process in which cells break down and convert stored energy—releasing waste products along the way.
The full story of exactly how red light therapy provides so many amazing benefits is a little complicated, and deserves its own post—which you’ll find right here. But in short, most researchers agree that light therapy affects adipocytes, which are cells that store fat, causing the lipids to disperse. In other words, light therapy helps the body wash away fat cells.
Light therapy may work in other ways that affect fat and weight loss. For instance, a 2012 study in the International Journal of Endocrinology showed that light can affect hunger, which could help 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.
What Does Other Research Say About Light Therapy and Fat Loss?
Besides the obvious health concerns related to obesity and excess fat, one of the primary motivating factors for people trying to lose weight has more to do with what they see in the mirror, not what they read on the scale. The concept of “body contouring” has become a commonly used term to market all sorts of therapies and treatments. Unfortunately, a lot of these either don’t work, or they produce undesirable side effects. Red light therapy, on the other hand, has proven itself be extremely effective when it comes to physically changing the way your body looks.
Take a look at the highlights of these clinical studies:
- 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 waistline. At the end of study, participants had achieved a statistically significant reduction in waistline girth.
- In a similar study published in Lasers in Surgery Medicine, participants who received light therapy showed a significant reduction in overall circumference, including each part of the body. Researchers concluded that light therapy can cut down on the circumference of the specific areas that are treated.
- 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 level and wavelength was safe and clinically effective (Figure A).
Figure A: Comparison of inches lost between Test Group and Placebo Group.
Benefits of In-Home Light Therapy for Weight Loss
A major benefit of red and near infrared 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. Because consistency is critical when it comes to light therapy, it’s extremely beneficial to have a device available at home versus the expense and inconvenience of undergoing 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 Shows That 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 overall health. It’s time to add weight and fat loss to the long list of light therapy benefits!
 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.
 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.
 Figueiro MG, Plitnick B, and Rea MS. Light Modulates Leptin and Ghrelin in Sleep-Restricted Adults. International Journal of Endocrinology. 2012.
 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.
 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.
 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.