Yes, Red Light Therapy Works for Weight Loss : Here’s How and Why
If you’ve had disappointing results from diets, appetite suppressants, or other weight loss methods, it’s worth your while to consider red light therapy. Clinical research has shown that it can reduce excess fat, which ultimately leads to weight loss.
If you ask, "Does red light therapy work for weight loss?" The simple answer is if you eat an unhealthy diet and never exercise, red light is likely not going to be your best fat-loss strategy. However, if you have a moderately healthy lifestyle, and just have a few stubborn areas that could use a bit of help, red light may be able to give you just the boost you're looking for.
In this article, we’ll explore how red light therapy for weight loss works and how it can help you achieve your weight loss goals.
An Effective Fat Loss Strategy
As mentioned earlier, a healthy lifestyle is the best way to lose excess fat and maintain a healthy weight. However, it's not uncommon to reach plateaus during a weight loss journey where you just need a quick boost.
Red light therapy shows promise for doing just that. It has the potential to energize your body's cells and help your body's natural fat-burning mechanisms work more efficiently.
In our experience, these types of quick wins also contribute to a positive mindset that, in turn, can boost willpower and lead to forming good habits such as healthy eating, portion control, daily exercise, and stress management.
Red Light Therapy and Weight Loss: How It Works
Also known as photobiomodulation or low-level laser therapy, red light therapy supports weight loss in several ways. It uses LED bulbs to bathe the body in light waves in the red and near-infrared spectrum. Red light and near-infrared (NIR) reside in a narrow spectrum of visible sunlight that has therapeutic effects on the human body at the cellular level.
Increased Cellular Metabolism
Red and NIR light stimulates cellular energy. As red and NIR photons are absorbed by the chromophores in the mitochondria, this stimulates the production of energy in cells.
increased cellular energy leads to healthier cells and better cellular performance, which reduces inflammation and better regulates cellular reproduction. The result? Increased metabolism as well as improved overall functioning of the body’s organs.
Increased Muscle Mass
Low-level laser therapy can also support the growth of new muscle mass. And muscle requires more energy (each pound of muscle can burn 50 calories per day at rest) which means that you will be burning more calories even when you’re not exercising. One study found that athletes exposed to red light before and after exercise had faster muscle recovery and increased muscle growth.
Hypothyroidism, or low-functioning thyroid, has been linked to excess weight gain. Red light therapy can reduce the autoimmune activity in the thyroid, which helps restore its normal functions in regulating the metabolism.
Reduced Insulin Resistance
Red light potentially helps you lose weight by regulating thyroid function, increasing cellular metabolism, speeding up post-workout recovery, and more!
Red light therapy combined with exercise has proved to reduce insulin resistance and body fat. This was revealed during a study by researchers from Brazil, which involved 64 obese women.
The women participated in a 20-week program that combined exercise (three weekly aerobic and weight training sessions) with red light therapy. The researchers measured insulin as well as fat loss, and found that adding red light therapy to an exercise regimen reduced insulin resistance and reduced fat mass by 5.6%.
Fat Cell Reduction
Red light triggers the formation of small openings or pores in fat cells, which releases fatty acids known as lipids. One study found that just four minutes of exposure to 635nm red light caused 80% of lipids to be released from fat cells, and by six minutes, almost all of the fat had been released.
Scientists theorize that red light causes temporary pores to form in fat cells, which is what allows lipids to leak out. Red light also appears to stimulate adipocyte apoptosis, which is the natural death of cells, and this can also cause the release of lipids stored within the cells.
Red light can affect hunger levels by controlling appetite-regulating hormones known as leptin and ghrelin. One study focused on the effect of red light on these hormones in sleep-deprived adults and found a 19% reduction in their levels.
Sleep deprivation has been associated with many health issues, including weight gain. One cause of insomnia is chronic stress, which amplifies weight gain by stimulating cortisol production and disrupting how the nervous system regulates metabolism.
Red light can help you get a good night’s sleep, which will give you more energy the following day for your exercise program.
According to one study, chronic low-grade inflammation and cellular stress contribute to the type of metabolic dysfunction that is linked to obesity. Chronic inflammation is a symptom of an overactive immune system; therefore obesity can, in part, be seen as a symptom of low-grade systemic inflammation.
Red light therapy is known to reduce inflammation, which supports the body in regaining optimal metabolic functioning.
Benefits of Red Light for Weight Loss
Now that you’re familiar with some of the ways red light therapy can promote weight loss by reducing fat, you undoubtedly have some questions about specific applications. In this section, we’ve addressed some of the most common questions.
Does Red Light Get Rid of Cellulite?
Cellulite is excess subcutaneous fat—or fat that is just beneath the skin. It’s a stubborn, persistent problem that cannot necessarily be remedied with exercise and fat loss alone—but red light therapy has shown great promise in reducing it.
One study divided 20 female participants into two groups: one that was treated with 850nm near-infrared light along with high-intensity treadmill training, and one that only used the treadmill. The group that used both forms of treatment achieved reduced cellulite in the buttocks and hip areas, whereas the treadmill-only group did not.
Is Targeted Weight Loss Possible with Red Light Therapy?
Targeted weight loss is on the wish list of almost everyone who wants to lose weight. It is the process of removing fat from certain areas of the body while keeping fat stores in desirable areas. For example, many women want to lose belly fat and “saddlebags,” — which refers to fat stored on the outside of the thighs near the buttocks — while keeping breast size and shape intact.
This desire for targeted fat removal has resulted in the popularity of body contouring, which is a cosmetic approach that focuses on areas of the body where fat tends to settle: the waist, hips, thighs, and upper arms.
Note that completely targeted fat removal is impossible using any fat-reduction method besides surgery. Each person will lose fat a bit differently — someone might store more fat in their stomach, while another struggles with their thighs or arms. Red light therapy can not magically help you lose fat ONLY in target areas.
However, studies show potential when using red light therapy to target areas typically labeled "problem areas." Think waist, hips, and thighs.
For example, in one study 40 healthy men and women experienced measurable (about 1”) reductions in waist measurements after undergoing 30-minute red light therapy treatments twice per week for four weeks (eight total treatments)—and they achieved these results without altering diet or exercise habits.
Another study used 635nm red light to spot-reduce excess fat stored around the waist, hips, and thighs of 65 male and female participants. When the targeted areas were measured, the combined loss was an average of 3.51 inches, again with no changes to diet or exercise.
These studies are small, and the results are officially inconclusive. But they show why red light is gaining a reputation as a non-invasive "body contouring therapy" or "body fat burner."
Can Infrared and Near-Infrared Light Help Me Lose Weight?
The fat-loss benefits of red light (620-660nm) are profound, but they are limited to fat stored directly under the skin. Red light can only penetrate the dermal layer where it activates cellular metabolism at and just below the surface of the skin. This is where most excess fat is stored, so it is possible to have great results with a red-light-only approach.
Near-infrared (NIR) and infrared (IR) light penetrate deeper into the body than red light. To promote weight loss and improve body composition (the ratio of muscle to fat), it’s necessary to stimulate the metabolism at a deeper level.
Infrared light has been used to reduce cellulite and to improve body composition and reduce inflammation. Researchers added NIR light therapy to an exercise regimen and found that, along with exercise, it showed significantly increased fat loss over exercise alone.
NIR light is especially powerful at reducing inflammation and accelerating deep-tissue muscle healing and growth. Increased muscle mass is directly tied to an increase in baseline metabolism, meaning the number of calories burned while the body is at rest. The more muscle mass you have, the “hotter” the body burns at rest, which contributes to fat loss.
Can I Use Red Light Therapy for Fat Loss at Home?
Yes, you can. Red light therapy can be self-administered in the comfort and convenience of your own home. In fact, because of its many benefits, you may opt to make it part of your regular self-care routine.
We recommend investing in a quality high-output LED device that is capable of delivering the intensity of light needed for optimal results. It should provide a combination of the most therapeutic wavelengths: 630nm and 660nm (red light); along with 810nm, 830nm, and 850nm (NIR light), in order to receive the comprehensive benefits of each wavelength.
Treat your abdomen, arms, hips, and thighs with red light for 20 minutes several times a week until you’ve achieved the desired results. As your body metabolizes and expels the released fat, you will notice a reduction in fat deposits and a corresponding reduction in waist, upper arm, thigh, and hip measurements. For the fastest possible results, combine red light treatments with a healthy diet and exercise program.
Do not use red light therapy if you are pregnant. Also, be careful when purchasing red light devices; cheap LED red light wands and masks do not have the reliability or the light intensity to offer any measurable therapeutic effects.
Will My Weight Loss Be Permanent?
In the short term, red light for fat loss is effective at reducing fat, which in turn results in weight loss. But keep in mind that no procedure or treatment will result in a permanent loss of excess fat. That can only be accomplished through a consistent commitment to healthy eating and frequent exercise. Continuing with red light therapy in conjunction with a healthier lifestyle can help you maintain a desirable weight, while you spot-treat stubborn problem areas.
Maintain a “Summer Body” All Year Long with Red Light Therapy
PlatinumLED offers two types of panels: the BIO series, which gives you the option of targeting specific conditions with red or NIR light; and the BIOMAX series, which offers a spectral configuration of the most therapeutic red and NIR wavelengths.