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Red Light Therapy For Weight Loss: A Solution To Shed Those Pounds?

Last Reviewed on May 1, 2024

Explore the fascinating world of red light therapy for weight loss. Learn about the science, research, and real-world results of this innovative treatment, uncovering its potential and limitations in your journey to a healthier, happier you.

So, you want to know if red light therapy can trim a few inches off your waistline. The answer? It’s a bit of a mixed bag.

Now, hold on! Before you click out to find a more “promising” answer, hear us out.

In a world flooded with miracle diets, weight loss devices, and all sorts of “get slim quick” schemes, it’s easy to be skeptical about yet another “magic” solution. In this case, red light therapy (RLT) for fat loss.

Red light therapy for weight loss is a hot topic in the world of health and wellness. Some swear by it, while others remain doubtful. We’re here to get to the bottom of this debate.

As experts in wellness through light therapy, we’re going to break down the science, share the facts, and give you the whole story.

Red Light Therapy For Weight Loss: How Does It Work?

Red light therapy, aka low-level laser therapy (LLLT), is a fast-growing treatment that boasts a pretty bold promise: melting away fat cells using the power of low-wavelength red light.

The therapy involves showering you with low-irradiance beams of red and near-infrared light, designed to target your body’s cells. Inside those cells, it stimulates the mitochondria, producing more adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

This ATP is basically the cell’s energy currency, and when you’ve got more of it, you have more fuel to power your workouts and burn more body fat.

This process also temporarily disrupts a part of the cell membrane, kind of like opening a door. This allows the fat inside the cells to slip out into the space between them. As a result, the cell shrinks, and your body then flushes out the released fat through its natural waste removal process.

Pretty neat, right?

While there isn’t yet an overwhelming amount of proof that red light therapy is a guaranteed way to shed those pounds, there are some promising studies!

Take, for example, a randomized controlled study in 2016. In this study, 28 overweight and obese adults underwent 30 minutes of low-level laser therapy, three times a week for four weeks. Of the 28 people, 20 lost 2.8 inches (7.2 cm) of stomach fat [1].

Similar results were found in a more recent pilot study in 2020. The study showed that 60 adults classified as overweight lost a modest 0.8 inches (2 cm) from their waist after undergoing low-level laser therapy treatments twice a week for six weeks [2].

Despite this, it’s worth pointing out that there were no control groups for comparison, so we can’t be too quick to jump to conclusions.

Red Light & Weight Loss

Now, let’s go over what the science has to say about red light therapy’s effects on losing weight.

Reduces The Size Of Fat Cells

The fact that red light can make fat-storing cells (also called adipocytes) “leak” is arguably one of the most exciting findings in red light research.

When you’re under red light therapy, the light penetrates your skin and creates small openings (or pores) in your fat cells that act like tiny doors. The cool part? These cells “leak” and shrink. Your body then naturally removes this freed fat.

Studies have even confirmed its effectiveness!

In a study assessing the efficacy of LLLT in spot fat reduction, people who had RLT experienced their fat-storing cells, the adipocytes, releasing something called triglycerides. In simple terms, this means that those cells got smaller, and people actually lost some real fat. They trimmed about 0.8 inches (2.15 cm) from their waistlines in just four weeks [3].

Another study suggests that low-level laser therapy has the potential to reduce fat layers and cellulite, and even make your blood lipid profile better [4]. All with no major side effects!

Diagram of fat cells

Suppresses Hunger

We all find comfort in food sometimes, but regularly overeating can lead to major health problems. A study in 2012 looked at how light affects two important hormones: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin controls appetite, body weight, and energy usage, while ghrelin increases appetite.

Researchers studied people with poor sleep habits. Not getting enough sleep makes ghrelin go up and leptin go down, leading to weight gain. When they were exposed to red light, the sleep-deprived people’s leptin levels increased, and their ghrelin levels decreased [5]. In simple terms, it made them feel full and less likely to snack.

You see, our bodies have a “must eat” signal (ghrelin) and a “must not eat” signal (leptin). When ghrelin is high, you’re hungry and eat more. When leptin is low, you’re not satisfied with food, so you eat more.

Red light therapy helps balance these signals, suppressing your hunger signal.

Man looking at hamburger and fries

Regulates Thyroid Metabolism

If you have a low metabolism because of hypothyroidism, red light therapy might be able to help! See, hypothyroidism, or a sluggish thyroid, can lead to weight gain.

A study by a group of researchers in Brazil found that red light therapy can actually help dial down the thyroid’s autoimmune activity [6]. It returns back to its normal job of regulating your metabolism. And when your thyroid is back in action, you’ve got more energy, which makes it easier to stick to a fitness routine.

Another study showed that RLT, along with supplements, helped some people with thyroid issues reduce or even stop their thyroid medication [7]. Pretty impressive!

Even in a separate trial using only red light therapy, half of the participants managed to keep their thyroid in good shape even nine months after they stopped their medication [8].

doctor checking man's thyroid health

Increases Muscle Mass & Speeds Up Post-Exercise Recovery

You might think it’s a bit off that we’re talking about building muscles when the goal is to burn body fat. But muscles are like little calorie-burning machines. Each pound of muscle can burn about 50 calories a day, even when they’re not active.

Now, we’re not talking about turning into a bodybuilder. The goal is to tone the body and get the metabolism running at full speed.

In a study co-authored by Michael Hamblin, a top researcher in photobiomodulation, they found that athletes exposed to red light before and after their workouts experienced faster muscle recovery and increased muscle mass.

The study used a combination of red and near-infrared light therapy, which not only helped with muscle growth but also reduced muscle inflammation and oxidative stress [9].

Another study saw similar results: an improvement in muscle performance and a faster recovery time. Using low-level laser therapy and light-emitting diode therapy, 13 out of 16 subjects saw the best results using red or infrared wavelengths before exercising [10].

Now, what does this mean for you? Well, red light therapy can help with your weight loss efforts by reducing that horrible soreness and achiness from your workouts. In other words, you can go harder for longer.

MMA fighter using red light therapy panel in gym

Reduces Pain

Red light therapy can also be a game-changer for relieving pain, especially if it’s keeping you from exercising. There are a bunch of studies that show how red light therapy can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.

This reduced inflammation can be a major relief, especially for folks with musculoskeletal pain [11]. Take, for example, a study done on people suffering from knee osteoarthritis. The research found that light therapy worked wonders for reducing pain and improving function when combined with exercise [12].

Red light therapy has also proven effective for easing chronic neck pain. In a study of 60 people with chronic neck pain, light therapy helped increase their range of motion and reduce pain [13].

And there’s one more study worth mentioning. Lower back pain is a common issue that most Americans face, but RLT can help in that regard too. In this study, people suffering from lower back pain experienced major improvement while wearing portable infrared therapy packs on their lower backs for seven weeks [14].

In a nutshell, this means that pain doesn’t have to stop you from exercising to lose weight. When you’re more comfortable, you can exercise without those aches and stiffness holding you back!

Man with lower back pain getting out of bed

How To Use Red Light Therapy For Weight Loss

Red light therapy is your daily dose of wellness, offering a safe and non-invasive path to weight loss. And the best part? You’re in complete control.

To help you make the most of red light therapy for weight loss, here are some key tips to keep in mind:

1. Consult A Healthcare Professional

While red light therapy is safe, it’s always best to have a chat with your trusted healthcare provider before diving in. This is especially important if you’re pregnant or on certain medications.

Your healthcare provider or doctor is your ally when it comes to your health. They can give you the green light and some extra tips.

2. Use A Device With Both Red & Near-Infrared Wavelengths

Investing in a good-quality red light therapy device or machine is crucial. You’ll want to choose a device that offers both red and near-infrared wavelengths. This combination is like a one-two punch for your weight loss goals.

The best devices will have red light strong enough to boost cellular activity and near-infrared light above 800 nm to enhance blood flow. Choosing wisely is key to getting the best results!

Woman doing red light therapy while sitting on a sofa

3. Be Consistent

With your trusty red light therapy device, you’re all set to create a consistent routine right in the comfort of your home. Of course, to see results, you’ll need to be consistent. Weight loss is a continuous journey, after all.

For the best results, use it for around 15-20 minutes for 3-5 days a week. You can target areas like your hips, thighs, and waist. As your body releases fat, you’ll see those measurements drop.

For most folks, 15 minutes a day, 3-4 days a week does the trick, but you can start slow and work your way up.

4. Combine With A Healthy Diet & Exercise Regimen

Red light therapy can be a fantastic addition to your weight loss journey, but it’s not transformational on its own. If you want to lose fat, regular exercise and a healthy diet are a must.

Combine it with light aerobic exercises, like a brisk walk, to help your body absorb all that lovely light. After your session, go all out with some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) experiences. Think sit-ups, squats, and pushups to speed up the fat-burning process.

You can also combine this with other weight loss treatments like body contouring, e.g. CoolSculpting.

Don’t forget to sip on 8-10 glasses of water daily, even on non-treatment days. It helps flush out toxins and fat, making red light therapy even more effective. Also, keep a balanced diet that’s low in fat and carbs to create a calorie deficit.

This combination creates the foundation for your healthy lifestyle and weight loss journey.

FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about red light therapy and fat loss.

Does Red Light Therapy Work For Cellulite?

Yes, red light therapy works for cellulite! It uses special LED lights that “send” therapeutic wavelengths into your skin and boost blood flow. This increased blood flow can break down the fat cells that contribute to cellulite and stimulate collagen production for firmer, smoother skin.

Can Red Light Therapy Reduce Stretch Marks?

Yes. In fact, red light therapy is incredibly effective for minimizing the appearance of stretch marks. It does this by boosting your skin’s natural regeneration process.

Red light therapy stimulates collagen production, increases blood circulation, and improves the metabolic functions of skin cells. These factors work together to make your skin healthier.

Can Red Light Therapy Help You Lose Weight?

Yes, it can help you lose weight. Randomized controlled trials have shown red light’s ability to reduce body fat, waist circumference, and more. That said, if you’re really looking to shed those pounds, combine this treatment with an exercise program and a nutritious diet.

(I know. You’ve heard this before. But, believe me, it’s really the little things that make a big difference.)

Final Thoughts

In a nutshell, red light therapy treatments might, indeed, help you sculpt your body and get rid of stubborn fat.

Although, it’s worth mentioning that red light therapy cannot reduce subcutaneous adipose tissue. In other words, it won’t completely banish those fat cells. Instead, it works by influencing the body’s systemic lipid metabolism, i.e. the way your body handles and processes fat.

Having a look at the studies and science, there are promising results! But this should always be followed by a healthy lifestyle.

If you find yourself intrigued by the benefits of red light therapy, we invite you to visit our other blog posts to learn more about wellness through light.

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27935737/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31473867/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20393809/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3769994/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22988459/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3534372/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32186976/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22718472/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5167494/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24249354/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28145397/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31662383/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26914684/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27207675/
Anne, Founder of Therapeutic Beams

Anne Linde

Since using it to clear up her acne in college, Anne has been an avid user and fan of all things light therapy. She now primarily uses red light therapy for its anti-aging benefits. Anne's mission is to make the science behind red light therapy easy to understand and accessible, so anyone can use it to take control of their health and wellbeing.

John Ni, BSc.

John, a graduate of the prestigious University of Pennsylvania, serves as a respected scientific reviewer at TherapeuticBeams.com. His expertise extends across various domains, including chemistry, pharmaceuticals, and dermatology. He contributes to publications like Royal Society of Chemistry, Drug Topics, and Practical Dermatology.

John Ni, Content Editor & Scientific Review

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