Red light therapy, otherwise known as photodynamic therapy, which involves exposing your skin to a small amount of a light for several seconds can improve body weight and metabolic rate and improve blood pressure and cholesterol, according to researchers.
“An interesting aspect of this is the very short exposure time required, as light needs to be emitted for just a few seconds and the treatment time could be between a couple of seconds and a minute. The whole process takes less than a minute,” said Mark Mahalakar, associate professor, University of British Columbia in Canada.
“Red light is a highly specific modulator of glucose metabolism and also has anti-inflammatory properties that make it an interesting addition to the treatment regimes of those suffering from metabolic disorders,” Mahalakar added.
The findings showed that red light improves post-exercise glucose metabolism in muscle.
“This study indicates that red light therapy can help improve blood sugar and insulin sensitivity in an acute setting. This is relevant because although diabetics are already given many kinds of insulin, they are still at risk of post-exercise glucose spikes,” said Paul Meinardus, a professor at McGill University.
“Also, people undergoing diabetes treatment or undergoing surgeries are at risk for glucose crashes after exercise,” Meinardus said.
He added that the same kind of red light therapy may also be of interest in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.
Published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the research involved 73 athletes, divided into two groups. One group was treated with red light therapy while the other group received blue light therapy.
The athletes trained for two weeks and then did an exercise test before and after the intervention.
As part of the exercise test, the athletes jogged at a steady pace on a treadmill for 60 seconds, after which they walked at the same pace for 30 seconds and then repeated the exercise procedure again, the researchers said.
“At the end of the intervention, the red light group was actually running for longer periods of time and covering greater distances than the blue light group,” Mahalakar said.
There was also a difference in blood glucose levels in both groups, but the red light group had lower glucose levels after exercise and a corresponding reduction in blood pressure compared with the blue light group.
The study showed that the light caused a rapid shift to the phosphorylated state of glucose in the muscles, which increases glucose uptake in the cells.
“The takeaway is that these results could lead to new therapeutic avenues for both metabolic syndrome, obesity and cardiovascular disease. This is exciting, especially if these results hold up in additional studies,” Meinardus said.
“In this respect, we would predict that red light would be most beneficial for those seeking to lose weight, and maybe reduce fat mass, while blue light would be most beneficial for those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes,” Meinardus added.