Photobiomodulation for Weight Loss

A recent Google search on the phrase “photobiomodulation for weight loss” returned 64,000 hits. If it had come back with a million, we could probably say there’s a trend, but 64,000? Heck, I got 34,500 hits on a search for “photobiomodulation for cats.” Nevertheless, if you begin clicking on those hits from the weight loss search, it turns out to be a real thing. But saying it’s a real thing is not the same as saying that photobiomodulation (PBM) is an effective technique for losing weight. PBM’s fat control capabilities are more subtle than that.

PBM Drains Fat Cells

It’s true that PBM can destroy fat directly. It’s a technique called laser lipolysis. Low level laser light can penetrate the skin and reduce the stability of fat cell membranes without affecting skin, muscle, or nerve tissue. The fat cells then release their lipids, which are carried away by the lymphatic system. Taking lipids out of fat cells makes them smaller, reducing the amount of fat. Plastic surgeons use laser lipolysis on targeted fat deposits. Results begin to appear about six weeks after treatment and become apparent at three months. The process is considered quite safe. It requires no downtime for the subject, and there are no reported side effects beyond occasional tenderness, redness, or swelling.

The plastic surgeons who perform laser lipolysis say that it’s not a weight control method. It is purely a cosmetic technique for reducing fat deposits. Serious weight reduction, they say, requires lifestyle changes, including diet or exercise or both.

Spot Fat Reduction

A 2011 paper in the journal Obesity Surgery titled “Efficacy of Low-Level Laser Therapy for Body Contouring and Spot Fat Reduction” found that patients who got PBM twice a week for four weeks lost an average of 0.84 inches of waist girth. That doesn’t sound like much, but the researchers found it was enough to be apparent in anonymous photos shown to observers. For more on this effect, see this blog post from 2018.

Whole-body PBM, such as we offer at Peak Recovery & Health Center, is not a method of fat removal, but if you eat well and exercise regularly, I think it could help you to manage stubborn excess weight. Perhaps more important than helping you manage weight, however, PBM may also protect you from the harmful effects that often accompany excess weight. Yes, there are people who are both obese and healthy, but there are probably far more who are obese and at serious risk. 

PBM Stops Chronic Inflammation

The association of obesity and chronic inflammation is fairly well documented. The conventional view is that the low-fiber diet and inactivity that often lead to obesity also contribute to chronic inflammation, which in turn leads to metabolic syndrome and ultimately the insulin resistance of type two diabetes. This chronic inflammation is also associated with increased cancer risk and even Alzheimer’s. PBM reduces inflammation by preventing the oxidative stress that causes it. I discussed the experiment that proved PBM stops oxidative stress in a 2018 blog post.

The bottom line, then, is that PBM drains fat cells, which helps with weight management. And even while you’re waiting the six weeks to three months for the fat reduction, it helps to protect you from the worst effects of excess weight by preventing oxidative stress and its resulting chronic inflammation.

Book a few PBM sessions and see if it doesn’t help you feel better — and lighter.

Image: “He’s Big Boned.” by Martin Cathrae. Creative Commons license.