Photobiomodulation for Weight Loss?

We have a client here at Peak Recovery & Health Center who was an active triathlete for ten years. He gave up multisports last Fall, saying he was tired of the running. He continues to ride his bike, but he’s no longer in training, and he says his physical activity has become somewhat haphazard.

“I bike at least five days a week,” he recently told me, “and I try to make sure that one of those bike rides includes a set of intense intervals and one other includes a 90-minute effort that’s more intense than simple endurance. But I don’t really follow a plan anymore, and you couldn’t characterize what I do as training.”

While he no longer competes, he wants to maintain a decent level of fitness. He was a little dismayed to discover that when he stopped training, however, he began to put on weight.

“It wasn’t a lot of weight,” he says. “But it was frustrating to read those numbers on the scale every morning. In about six weeks, I took on an extra five pounds, and they stayed with me for about five months. When I look at the record, however, I can see that my weight began to gradually drop again last May. In six weeks, I was back at my ideal weight, and it has remained there for the past six months. This is with no change to either my activity level or my diet.”

 What changed?

“I think it’s the photobiomodulation,” he says. “You wouldn’t think that lying on the PBM bed twice a week for 12 minutes would help with weight control, but that’s what appears to be happening with me.”

I trust this man’s account, but I wanted to better understand the process, so I did some research. A 2011 paper in the journal Obesity Surgery titled “Efficacy of Low-Level Laser Therapy for Body Contouring and Spot Fat Reduction” provides some insight. Seeking a safer alternative to liposuction, the researchers studied 40 healthy men and women. They told the subjects not to change their diet or exercise routines for the four weeks of the study. Then half of them got photobiomodulation twice a week and half of them got a control treatment. The treated group lost about a half centimeter of waist girth per week, with an accumulated loss of 2.15 cm (0.84 inches). That doesn’t sound like much, but the researchers found it was enough to be apparent in anonymous photos shown to observers.

PBM, apparently, does not cause fat loss, but it drains fat cells. The drained fat goes elsewhere in the body. Some believe, however, that the body is then capable of eliminating the fat naturally. There’s a brief explanation of the process here on the Livestrong site.

This may well be what is happening with our client. His regular PBM sessions are draining some of his fat cells, and then his body eliminates the drained fat before it takes up residence elsewhere. He is fairly active and consumes a relatively healthy diet, so he’s probably the ideal candidate for weight maintenance through PBM.

PBM is not by itself a weight loss program. If you have a serious weight problem, you probably need a life change and a new emphasis on diet and exercise. But if you’re doing everything right and still can’t shake those last five or six pounds, PBM might be worth a try. Book a session today.

Image: “Healthy Weight Loss” by mahmoud99725. Creative Commons license.