Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) does not reduce subcutaneous adipose tissue by local adipocyte injury but rather by modulation of systemic lipid metabolism

Lasers Med Sci. 2017 Feb;32(2):475-479. doi: 10.1007/s10103-016-2021-9. Epub 2016 Jul 6.


Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) has been applied recently to body contouring. However the mechanism of LLLT-induced reduction of subcutaneous adipose tissue thickness has not been elucidated and proposed hypotheses are highly controversial. Non-obese volunteers were subject to 650nm LLLT therapy. Each patient received 6 treatments 2-3 days apart to one side of the abdomen. The contralateral side was left untreated and served as control. Subjects' abdominal adipose tissue thickness was measured by ultrasound imaging at baseline and 2 weeks post-treatment. Our study is to the best of our knowledge, the largest split-abdomen study employing subcutaneous abdominal fat imaging. We could not show a statistically significant reduction of abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue by LLLT therapy. Paradoxically when the measurements of the loss of fat thickness on treated side was corrected for change in thickness on non treated side, we have observed that in 8 out of 17 patients LLLT increased adipose tissue thickness. In two patients severe side effect occurred as a result of treatment: one patient developed ulceration within appendectomy scar, the other over the posterior superior iliac spine. The paradoxical net increase in subcutaneous fat thickness observed in some of our patients is a rationale against liquefactive and transitory pore models of LLLT-induced adipose tissue reduction. LLLT devices with laser diode panels applied directly on the skin are not as safe as devices with treatment panels separated from the patient's skin.

Keywords: Body contouring; Fat tissue interaction; Laser lipolysis; Low-level laser therapy; Subcutaneous adipose tissue.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / radiation effects
  • Adipocytes / pathology*
  • Adipocytes / radiation effects
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / radiation effects*
  • Low-Level Light Therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Subcutaneous Fat / radiation effects*
  • Subcutaneous Fat, Abdominal / radiation effects
  • Young Adult