Red Light Therapy Lowers Blood Sugar

A therapy involving 15 minutes of a specific frequency of red light shined on a person’s back may reduce blood glucose levels after eating, a study finds.

People with prediabetes and diabetes have elevated blood sugar levels, which, if not controlled, can cause permanent damage to nerves and eyes and problems with sight.

While medications, a healthy diet, and physical activity are the first-line treatments for increased blood sugar, a non-invasive red light therapy may also impact diabetes control after meals, according to a study published in the Journal of Biophotonics.

The study included 30 individuals without known metabolic conditions who were randomized either to 670 nm red light exposure or the placebo.

Participants were asked to do an oral glucose tolerance test (drinking glucose dissolved in water) and measure their blood glucose levels every 15 minutes over the next two hours.

Those who received red light exposure 45 minutes before drinking glucose saw a 27.7% decrease in blood glucose levels and a 7.5% reduction in maximum glucose spiking.

The researchers explain that 670 nm red light stimulates energy production within mitochondria, the powerhouses within cells, increasing the consumption of glucose.

“It is clear that light affects the way mitochondria function, and this impacts our bodies at a cellular and physiological level. Our study has shown that we can use a single, 15-minute exposure to red light to reduce blood sugar levels after eating,” said lead author Dr. Michael Powner, senior lecturer in neurobiology in the School of Health and Psychological Sciences at City, University of London.

As the study was conducted in healthy individuals, more research is needed on individuals with metabolic conditions like diabetes.

Nevertheless, the authors say 670 nm red light has the potential to impact diabetes control by helping to reduce potentially damaging glucose spikes in the body after eating.

Professor Keith Frayn, emeritus fellow at Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, says that if the findings are later confirmed in people with diabetes, the study could be the foundation of a useful intervention. But for now, the findings should be regarded as preliminary.

Importantly, we need to know whether this is a true metabolic effect, or whether, for instance, the warming effect of the red light exposure alters patterns of blood flow, potentially altering the nature of the blood sampled by pricking a finger. We also need more information on what happens to the glucose that doesn’t appear in the blood


The authors point out that now-dominating LED lights are mostly blue and have almost no red in them. Long-term exposure to blue light without red may be toxic.

“Blue light on its own impacts badly on physiology and can drive disrupted blood sugars that may, in the long run, contribute to diabetes and undermine health spans,” said Glen Jeffery, professor of neuroscience at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and the author of the study.

Regulating your blood sugar levels

If you have elevated blood glucose levels, follow your doctor’s instructions and take prescribed medications. Additionally, your healthcare provider may recommend you the following lifestyle changes:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Choose foods lower in calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, and salt
  • Avoid highly refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, and rice
  • Eat at regular times, and don’t skip meals
  • Consume more foods rich in fiber, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Choose fruit for a dessert

Red light therapy shows promise in blood glucose management after meals. However, the findings are preliminary, and the therapy should not replace medicines prescribed for blood sugar control.

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