Healthy Living

Red Light Therapy for Weight Loss: Benefits, Side Effects and Review

Red Light Therapy for Weight Loss: Benefits, Side Effects and Review

Introduction to Red Light Therapy

People are always looking for a quick fix to weight loss. Some are like the proverbial guinea pigs and have tried pills, injections, berries, beans and herbs to shed pounds. Generally, these do not work. 

Occasionally there are health issues that can prevent someone from losing weight such as a faulty functioning metabolism. Conditions such as hypertension, asthma, arthritis, diabetes and backache are associated with being overweight. 

Though it is important to lose extra weight to enjoy good health, the method adopted should be safe and effective with no side effects. One such method is red light therapy. Infrared light therapy, also known as red light therapy is used for pain management, to fasten healing of wounds, burns, wrinkles, jaundice, eczema and to improve blood circulation.

What is Red Light Therapy?

Red Light Therapy is known to be an effective and doesn't use needles, surgeries or incisions. In this therapy, the mitochondria of the fat cells are stimulated. This causes the release of fatty acids into the interstitial space. During excretion and urination, the extra fatty acid is eliminated. 

This treatment is non-invasive and uses infrared light beams from lasers, tanning bed-like devices or lamps. These beams penetrate about 8-10 millimetres deep in the skin. Red light therapy helps in the signs of skin inflammation, aging, eczema, hyperpigmentation, psoriasis, scarring, sun damage, acne, dryness, wrinkles, joint pain and stretch marks. It also improves the tone and firmness of the skin.

Generally, one to four sessions in a week is needed and each session lasts for 15 -20 minutes. This therapy is approved and regulated by FDA. It is generally found in salons and spas. 

An infrared body wrap consists of pads or bandages made of silicone that emits infrared light around the legs, arms and torso. and helps improve the shape of the body and cellulite appearance.

An undercover video reporter tried this body wrap device and claimed that up to 1,400 calories can be burned using the device. In 2010, the FDA approved Zerona which was a laser manufactured by Erchonia Medical Inc. It would remove unwanted fat from the body using the red light therapy without surgery.  In the clinical trials people lost approximately an inch from each thigh. Within 2 weeks time, however, the lost inches return and no significant weight loss occurred. 

Working of Red Light Therapy

At certain wavelengths, light energy is absorbed by our body. Our cells carry out the daily functions at improved levels in response to this energy. This helps in recovery of muscles, maintaining health of the skin and increase in the ability of the body to process fat.

Red light therapy works on two mechanics, namely bioenergetics and blood flow.

  • Bioenergetics - Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. It causes oxidation of glucose when stimulated. The mitochondria of the fat cells are stimulated by the red light therapy. This process happens during the cellular respiration. In cellular respiration, the stored energy is broken down and converted. This causes certain waste products to be released.

    The wavelength of red light is between 600nm to 1000nm. A key copper enzyme in our cell is stimulated by the red light wavelength, which produces more cellular energy. This causes efficient burning of glucose which increases the healthier cells and reduces stress. The increased metabolic rate then causes the weight loss, through a similar ATP enhancing effect is also shown by other agents such as thyroid hormone.
    The main principle of red light therapy is to keep the metabolic rate high. It has been shown that dieting and exercise for a longer period of time decreases the metabolic rate. People on low-carb diets or who have been under long periods of stress or been on low calories repeatedly have a metabolic rate that is diminished. Red light therapy works in opposition to this. It boosts energy in the body and acts as a buffer against stress.
    Clinical trials have been conducted to support this mechanism. It has been stated that this mechanism is based on chromatophores' absorption of red and infrared photons which causes mitochondrial membrane potential, consumption of oxygen and adenosine triphosphate and an increase in reactive oxygen species. This therapy reduces fat, reduces weight and improves the lipid profile of the blood.

  • Blood flow - Wherever the red light falls, this therapy is believed to increase the flow of blood in that area. Hence, larger amount of energy is produced and the flow of blood is improved. Essential nutrients are made available to the body, so the health is maintained.

    From the respiratory enzymes, the nitric oxide molecules are photodissociated by the red light wavelength. This contributes towards the vasodilatory effect. This indicates that cells can provide more glucose as well as produce more energy. One mechanism also suggests that light therapy affects the cells that store fat, which are the adipocytes. They cause the lipids to disperse. Hence, this helps to wash away the fat cells from the body.

    What actually motivates people to lose weight is when they look at themselves in the mirror. Different sorts of therapies and treatments used are referred to as body contouring, which either do not work or make the problem worse. They also produce undesirable effects on the body. Red light therapy helps to lose weight from a specific range of natural light and provide energy boost to our cells.

    Red light therapy was performed in some subjects for four weeks and they were told not to change their exercise habits or diet. It was noted that in just four weeks there was statistical and cosmetic reduction in the girth of the waistline. In another study, there was reduction in each part of the body as well as the overall circumference. It was concluded that circumference of specific areas can be cut down with the help of red light therapy.

    Also, in another study, the light therapy was found to be beneficial in contouring thighs, waist and hips. Even the effect of the wavelength on the body was researched by using this therapy on 86 people at wavelength of 635 nm for twenty minutes per session. The session was conducted on alternate days for two weeks. This wavelength was found to be safe.

Benefits of Red Light Therapy

  • Red light therapy improves the energy level of the body. Even during the treatment, the person stays active and fully energetic. The technique is non - invasive and lean tissue is maintained.
  • This treatment does not interfere with your normal daily routine. A person undergoing this treatment can continue with the daily routine or tasks.
  • It is believed to not cause side effects since it is a non-invasive. Patients who have undergone red light therapy do not complain of pain or discomfort. Red light therapy adds collagen and elastin which tightens and tones the skin and at the same time, it stimulates fat cells. It makes the skin look young and beautiful. 

What are the Side Effects of Red Light Therapy?

Red light therapy provides maximum benefits without causing side effects. Along with weight loss, red light therapy is also used for anti-aging treatment. This therapy is similar to the tanning bed with red lights. Red light therapy burns over 500 calories per session. 

Red light therapy controls the levels of ghrelin and leptin, which are hunger-related hormones, thus affecting hunger. Red light therapy is meant to reduce the appetite of the patient so the person tends to eat less. The stored fat is used by the body and thus, extra fat is not accumulated. Red light therapy causes loss of fat systemically and locally. 

Reviews of Red Light Therapy

There are many reviews that are unable to find a link between the therapy and weight loss. This therapy might work just for concerns related to skin. 

However, there have been some clinical trials that support this therapy, but shouldn't be considered as an option for effective weight loss. 

Bottom Line

Minimal results can be achieved by using red light therapy. It can aid in weight loss and reducing fat. This process is natural, simple and safe. There are no surgeries involved and is painless.