Updated: Jan 14, 2020
Losing weight and fat is one of the most common health goals, both for medical and cosmetic reasons. Few of us would turn down losing a few pounds or cutting back on some fat here or there. This article gives an overview of clinical research showing how natural red light therapy can help people lose weight, tone their body, cut back on fat & cellulite, and control obesity.
How Does Light Therapy Work to Reduce Fat?
If you’re not familiar with red light therapy, this article gives a good overview of what it is and how it works. A medical-grade device delivers safe, concentrated wavelengths of therapeutic natural light to your skin and cells, where it reduces oxidative stress and stimulates cellular energy production (adenosine triphosphate or ATP). Not only does that help your body power itself more effectively, but researchers believe red 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 as well. A 2012 study in the International Journal of Endocrinology showed that light can affect hunger levels, 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. 
Clinical Research Shows Red Light Therapy Reduces Fat and Helps with Weight Management
Red light therapy’s positive effects on fat and cellulite loss, obesity control, and cosmetic body enhancement have been seen in numerous clinical trials in recent years. And unlike many solutions promoted for weight-loss, such as medications and surgery, red and near infrared light therapy is a safe, natural, and noninvasive option to becoming healthier and more fit.
This is a brief overview of significant clinical research:
Less Cellulite: In a 2011 study on red light therapy and cellulite reduction, women ages 25-55 were divided into two groups: some did treadmill exercise + red light therapy twice a week, while the other group just did treadmill exercise. The researchers presented thermographic photographs of the changes in thigh circumference and cellulite to demonstrate that red light therapy and exercise was more effective than just exercise alone. The study concluded that treadmill exercise and red light therapy in conjunction can improve body aesthetics. 
Cosmetic Body Contouring: Many people trying to lose weight just want to look better in the mirror, or at the beach. A wide variety of therapies to target fat and improve appearance are called “body contouring” or “body sculpting”, some surgical, others noninvasive. But many of them don’t work, and/or produce troublesome side effects. Red light therapy is completely natural & noninvasive and has proven to be an effective option for changing the way your body looks.
Smaller Waistline, Less Girth: 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 size of their waistline. At the end of the study, participants had achieved a statistically significant reduction in waistline girth. 
Targeted Fat Loss: In a similar study published in Lasers in Surgery Medicine, participants who received light therapy showed a significant reduction in overall circumference, including numerous parts of the body. Researchers concluded that light therapy can reduce the circumference of the specific areas of the body that are treated with natural light. 
Tighter Hips & Thighs: 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 wavelength was safe and clinically effective (Figure A). 
Less Body Fat: A 2018 triple-blind, placebo-controlled trial assessed red light therapy’s effects on people doing endurance training. Researchers found pre-exercise treatment can “decrease the body fat in healthy volunteers when compared to placebo.” 
Weight and Obesity Control: A study conducted by Brazilian researchers in 2015 assessed the effects of light therapy and exercise on 64 obese women, ages 20 to 40. One group exercised and received red light therapy treatments, while the control group just exercised. They concluded that red light therapy and exercise together were more effective than just exercise in reducing fat mass.
Researchers also observed an increase in skeletal muscle mass. They wrote:
“Our results demonstrated for the first time that light therapy enhances the physical exercise effects in obese women undergoing weight loss treatment promoting significant changes in inflexibility metabolic profile.” 
A recent study published in 2018 also evaluated obese young women and found similar results. Some followed an exercise regimen + red light therapy, while the control group just did the exercise. The women who did exercise and red light therapy saw more significant changes in fat mass and insulin variables.
“It was demonstrated that exercise training associated with light therapy promotes an improvement in body composition and inflammatory processes. The light therapy group especially presented positive modifications of WNT5 signaling, FGF-21, and ANP, possible biomarkers associated with browning adiposity processes. This suggests light therapy is applicable in clinical practice to control obesity.” 
A placebo-controlled clinical trial in 2015 noted similar improvements with obese women who exercised and were treated with red light therapy. Researchers also concluded red light therapy could control cardiometabolic risk factors in obese populations. 
Health and Fitness Leaders Trust Red Light Therapy
In addition to the clinical research, there’s no shortage of health & fitness leaders who use red light therapy for weight loss, skin health, and muscle recovery—and advise their clients and patients to do the same.
Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, aka Paleo Mom, has analyzed the scientific literature and written about how she sees weight loss benefits from her daily use, in addition to major joint pain relief.
Conclusion: Consider Red Light Therapy for Fat Loss and Weight Management
In summary, clinical research and the accounts of many natural health experts shows that red light therapy can be an effective, safe, and natural treatment for weight loss and fat reduction, as well as an efficacious method of body contouring and cosmetic improvement.
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