Red light therapy for weight loss has been increasing in popularity. However, there is currently no expert consensus on whether it actually works.
Red light therapy, which people also call low-level laser therapy (LLLT), has been the subject of a number of scientific studies.
While the available research generally shows that LLLT provides some fat loss benefits, the study designs are inconsistent. Additionally, a lack of data makes it difficult to say whether the results are long term or clinically relevant.
Read on to find out whether it is worth trying red light therapy for weight loss.
Due to inconclusive research, there is some controversy surrounding the question of whether red light therapy can help with weight loss.
Studies include a pilot study from 2020 involving 60 adults with overweight. The results showed a modest 0.8-inch (2 cm) reduction in waist circumference following twice-weekly LLLT treatments over 6 weeks. However, there was no control group to compare the results with.
Another study, from
The results showed significant reductions in upper, middle, and lower abdomen size, with all of the study participants experiencing positive results.
The participants underwent three sessions per week of exercise training with phototherapy after exercise for 4 months.
All participants experienced improvements. However, only those who received LLLT showed reduced interleukin-6, which is a marker of immune health, and increased WNT5 signaling, which is needed for the development of healthy cells.
This group also experienced bigger changes than the sham group in relation to:
- fat mass
- HOMA-IR, which is a measure of insulin resistance
- FGF21, which regulates carbohydrate and fat metabolism
Another study from 2017 also found that receiving LLLT in addition to treadmill walking resulted in a
However, one study actually found an
Researchers still need to work out the definitive mechanism of action behind LLLT. However, it might relate to the absorption of laser light into the adipocytes, which leads to
This then stimulates an enzyme called cytoplasmic lipase, which converts triglycerides to fatty acids and glycerol. These substances can pass through pores, causing the adipocytes to shrink.
Additionally, one animal study from
Photobiomodulation has also been shown to
The 2017 study mentioned above reported no side effects relating to the LLLT in any of the following three treatment frequencies:
- three times per week for 4 weeks
- twice per week for 6 weeks
- once per week for 12 weeks
However, another study from
The researchers concluded that devices applied directly to the skin are less safe than devices with treatment panels separated from the skin.
Some studies suggest that there are benefits to red light therapy for weight loss. Some have involved LLLT and other weight loss methods, such as exercise training or treadmill walking.
Each person should decide whether to proceed with red light therapy to lose weight by talking with their doctor and weighing the benefits and drawbacks for them individually.
A review in
- fresh fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- seeds and nuts
These diets include the Mediterranean diet, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, and the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet. They also tend to be lower in animal-based foods, especially fatty and processed meats.
Additionally, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American College of Endocrinology recommend moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for at least
There is also evidence that actively managing stress can help a person manage their weight. For instance, in one study from
Of these, 22 people in the intervention group also attended an 8-week stress management program. This involved breathing from the diaphragm, doing progressive muscle relaxation, doing guided visualization, and receiving instructions about healthy dietary habits.
The intervention group achieved a significantly greater reduction in BMI compared with the control group, with losses of 3.1 kilograms per square meter (kg/m2) in the intervention group compared with 1.74 kg/m2 in the control group.
A number of studies have found that red light therapy may help with weight loss. However, the study designs have been inconsistent and have not looked at long-term effects. So it is difficult to draw firm conclusions.
Some of the studies suggest that red light therapy could be a useful addition to following an exercise program or walking on a treadmill to lose weight. The procedure appears to be relatively safe if the device does not directly attach to the skin.
However, a person may also want to incorporate other evidence-backed weight loss strategies, including following a healthy dietary pattern, exercising, and managing stress.