The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring that new weight-loss treatments coming online are safe for human usage. The review process is rigorous, and many experimental treatments fail to receive FDA approval. This does not, however, mean that every treatment that receives FDA approval is effective — or at least effective in all cases.
At Emerald Laser by Erchonia, we want our patients to be informed about alternative weight loss treatments as well as the services that our providers offer. This article will explore red light therapy and its comparison to laser lipolysis as a fat-reduction method.
Point of Clarification About Red Light Therapy vs. Red Lasers
Red light therapy for weight loss is not the same as laser lipolysis. While Erchonia’s pioneering instrument was a red laser light device, it should not be confused with devices that use infrared light or LED light. A true laser lipolysis device works on a much different and proven principle than red light therapy devices.
Red Lasers vs. Green Lasers
Patients who are considering undergoing true laser lipolysis may not realize that there’s a difference between green lasers and red lasers. It may come off solely as a branding decision, but that’s not the case. The color of the laser is determined by the light wavelength. Red lasers have a longer wavelength (approximately 650 nanometers) than green lasers (approximately 532 nanometers).
Because of the shorter wavelength, green lasers emit about 20% more energy per photon than their red counterparts. This translates to patients spending 20% less time in treatment sessions and 20% greater circumference reduction. In short, Emerald Laser’s green laser devices are more effective than our earlier red lasers.
An Explanation of Red Light Therapy for Weight Loss
Red light therapy is a form of photobiomodulation (PBM). Photobiomodulation exploits the body’s reaction to certain light wavelengths at the cellular level. Research indicates that photobiomodulation is effective in pain reduction, reducing inflammation, and accelerating healing.
When it comes to body fat loss, there is research that supports the idea that red light therapy releases triglycerides in fat cells, which causes the adipocytes (fat cells) to reduce in size. However, some companies market laser lipolysis as red light therapy and vice versa, but they are different processes. With laser lipo, the laser beam penetrates the walls of the fat cell, boring a minute hole. It also melts the lipids inside the cell, allowing them to drain into the body’s lymphatic system. There has been extensive research demonstrating the effectiveness of laser lipolysis, which is why some companies try to blur the distinction between laser body contouring and red light therapy.
This can be extremely confusing to a patient who may casually read a study about the effectiveness of red light therapy without knowing whether the article is referring to PBM or laser lipolysis. Consequently, if you are seeking laser lipolysis, make sure that the clinic that you’re going to isn’t offering LED or infrared light treatments.
What the Red Light Therapy Experience is Like
There are several different types of applications for red light therapy. Some centers have a chamber where the patient is completely immersed in red light. For targeted fat loss, the light is directed to the problem area, often with a handheld device. Sessions last about 20 minutes and there should be no pain involved.
Weight Loss Expectations and the Effectiveness of Red Light Therapy
Whether you’re considering red light therapy or laser lipolysis, it’s important to define your weight loss goals in advance. Regardless of the type of weight loss therapy you seek — red light therapy, cryolipolysis (fat freezing), surgical liposuction, or laser lipolysis — it’s important to have a realistic expectation of what these fat reduction treatments can offer.
When it comes to red light therapy, clinical results have been mixed, and there have been many questions about the methodology used for the research. In some studies, the experiment group showed a reduction in fat and size compared to the control group. Other studies show no reduction or nominal reductions within the margin of error for a no-change result.
If you decide to give red light therapy a try, here are some things that you should know:
- Any improvements you garner can quickly be erased by an unhealthy lifestyle. In other words, red light therapy is not a magic bullet for fat reduction. We recommend pursuing a calorie-neutral or calorie-negative diet. That means balancing the calories you consume with the calories you burn through day-to-day activities and exercise.
- It’s important to recognize the difference between losing weight and fat reduction. While the two concepts are closely related, they are different. Weight loss refers to a general reduction in weight. However, losing weight does not always result in a reduction in mass in the areas the patient is trying to target. The aim of red light therapy is fat reduction in a targeted area. For example, if you want to target fat in your arms, weight loss may help reduce the fat in that area. However, a targeted treatment may improve your results.
- Different therapies have varied recovery times. For example, there is no downtime for laser lipolysis and red light therapy. Similarly, fat freezing requires little downtime but does, however, leave bruising and irritation that can last for a few days. Liposuction is a surgical procedure that can require up to a month to fully recover.
It may be to your benefit to explore more than one option before committing medical intervention. Consult your physician for additional guidance.
Red Light Therapy Safety
As one might expect, red light laser therapy is relatively safe, painless, and does not cause side effects. However, in one study, the patient sustained serious skin damage. Many people choose treatments like red light therapy, cryolipolysis, and laser lipolysis because they’re non-invasive. Unlike liposuction, these treatments do not require incisions, anesthesia, or lengthy recovery periods. Patients who undergo red light therapy can immediately return to full activity after treatment.
One of the benefits of red light therapy is that it doesn’t destroy fat cells. While fat cell destruction may seem like a permanent solution for fat reduction, it can cause compensatory fat gain. This occurs when a patient gains weight after fat cells have been destroyed. New fat cells can develop in other areas of the body. Many medical professionals recommend Emerald Laser because it drains fat cells of lipids without destroying them. If the patient should gain weight after Emerald Laser lipolysis treatments, healthy lipocytes are there to receive it.
Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia is an uncommon result of fat cell destruction where new deposits of fat accumulate around the vital organs. This is not considered a risk with Emerald Laser. Patients who maintain their weight after any fat reduction treatment, however, can usually avoid it. With all other factors being equal, there’s broad evidence demonstrating that laser fat reduction and red light therapy are among the safest alternatives.
Red Light Therapy vs. Cold Laser Fat Removal
So, how do red light therapy and cold laser fat removal compare? We will review several factors for each:
In terms of effectiveness, laser fat reduction has an advantage over photobiomodulation (PBM). While some PBM studies have demonstrated reductions in both size and circumference, the results are often inconsistent.
On the other hand, laser lipolysis has had extensive research and over two decades of applications in the field. Erchonia, the parent company of Emerald Laser, is a pioneer in the industry. It was the first company to receive FDA market approval, and Emerald Laser boasts several improvements over earlier red lasers.
Furthermore, Emerald Laser was proven to be effective in three separate double-blind studies, and the average circumference loss after treatment is six inches.
Red light therapy is considered to be safe for most patients. It does not require anesthesia, and there are no incisions, injections, or chemicals involved in the treatments. Low-level laser therapy is also completely safe. Emerald Laser produces no side effects, the treatments are painless, and there is no risk of paradoxical adipose hyperplasia.
Patients can resume normal activities after both treatments. This is a significant advantage over other types of therapies like surgical intervention.
Side effects are rare with photobiomodulation, but there have been recorded cases of photosensitivity in patients. Emerald Laser has no known side effects.
Emerald Laser treatments can take as little as 30 minutes per session. Providers often offer extended hours so patients can schedule their treatments before or after work, during their lunch break, or on a weekend day. Because there is no downtime after each treatment, patients can immediately resume normal activities.
Red light therapy is similarly convenient, depending on the hours of operation the provider offers.
Emerald Laser providers offer packages of six treatment sessions for $1,500 to $2,500. Photobiomodulation costs vary but can be as low as $100 per session.
Frequently Asked Questions About Laser Fat Removal and Red Light Therapy
These are some of the most common questions laser lipolysis technicians hear from our patients. For specific questions about your fat loss concerns and goals, schedule an appointment with an Emerald Laser provider near you.
I Was Told That I Was Not a Good Candidate for Laser Lipolysis. Should I Try Red Light Therapy?
If you’ve been told that you aren’t a good candidate for laser lipolysis because you have a BMI in excess of 30, you should schedule an appointment with an Emerald Laser provider. Emerald Laser is the only device that is approved for patients with BMIs up to 40. If you have a higher BMI than 40, consult your physician for the best course of action.
How Can I Prevent the Weight From Coming Back After My Treatments?
Emerald Laser providers generally recommend a common-sense approach to weight maintenance: eating nutrient-rich foods in moderate quantities, participating in regular physical exercise, and maintaining a calorie-neutral diet.
Can I Get Faster Results if I do Back-to-Back Treatments?
Laser lipolysis requires a period of time for lipids to drain from the lipocytes. We generally recommend two weeks between sessions for maximum results. Red light therapy also requires a waiting period between treatments.
Emerald Laser Lipolysis Near You
Before you consider an alternative fat reduction treatment, talk to an Emerald Laser provider near you. Emerald Laser has been proven effective in multiple double-blind studies, and as a pioneer in the laser lipolysis industry, Emerald Laser is the authority on cool laser fat reduction therapy. Schedule your consultation today.