Objective: To investigate whether bright light treatment can reduce body mass in overweight subjects irrespective of their seasonal (= light) dependence.
Methods: A crossover, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial was performed between November and April in Novosibirsk, Russia (55° N). The trial comprised a 3-week in-home session of morning bright light treatment using a device of light-emitting diodes and a 3-week placebo session by means of a deactivated ion generator, separated by an off-protocol period of at least 23 days. The number of placebo and light sessions was matched with respect to season. Data were obtained from 34 overweight women, aged 20-54 years, 10 were seasonal-dependent according to the Seasonal Pattern Assessment Questionnaire. Weekly measures included body weight, percentage body fat by bioimpedancemetry, and subjective scores (appetite, mood, energy levels).
Results: Motivation and expectation towards weight loss were similar for the two intervention sessions. With light, compared to the placebo session, weight did not reduce significantly, but percentage fat, fat mass, and appetite were significantly lower (average fat reduction 0.35 kg). The latter two results remained significant after excluding seasonal-dependent subjects from the analysis. Irrespective of the type of intervention, seasonal-dependent subjects had greater weight and fat mass changes during treatment (decline p < 0.036) or between sessions (regain p < 0.003). Photoperiod (p = 0.0041), air temperature to a lesser extent (p = 0.012), but not sunshine (p = 0.29) was associated with the weight change (greater weight reduction if the second session was in spring).
Conclusion: Morning bright light treatment reduces body fat and appetite in overweight women and may be included in weight control programs.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00406770.