The use of light for treating skin diseases and as beauty treatments is a well-established practice in dermatology clinics. But the benefits of light therapy may extend far beyond the dermis, say researchers.
In a new Brazilian study, scientists shone infrared light (of 850 nm wavelength) from light-emitting diodes (LEDs) on the thighs and buttocks of post-menopausal women as they walked on treadmills in their bikinis. The ladies who received the light therapy on top of exercising over the one-year study maintained their thigh bone mass and showed improvement in the appearance of leg cellulite while those who just did exercise alone had lost significant bone mass (2.5 percent) over same period.
The electrical charge generated by the vibration and pressure via exercising muscle on the bone during exercise (“the piezoelectric effect”) attracts bone-building cells or “osteoblasts” into the area to encourage bone growth. Infrared light further increases cell activation, raises cellular metabolism and helps regenerate tissue (like the skin, muscles, bones and nerves); thus lighting up the largest muscle mass possible and enhancing benefits of physical exercise.
Thermal images of the women in the infrared group also showed a raise in skin temperature and an increase in skin blood circulation and muscle oxygenation. This would explain why the uneven “orange peel” skin surface of the cellulite was visibly reduced in the light therapy group as the superficial fat deposits are broken down and healthy skin collagen regeneration is promoted.
Besides the potential for preventing osteoporosis (brittle bone), anti-ageing skin and smoothing cellulite, the study also revealed 20 percent reduction in the overall and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol that clogs up our blood vessels and cause cardiovascular diseases).
While the results of this study are exciting (and the perfect excuse to go for my favourite LED and infrared light therapies more frequently!), researchers cautioned that larger studies are needed to confirm the findings of this small study (only twenty participants were involved).