Red Light Therapy for Depression
Depression is a highly prevalent mood disorder, affecting at least 21 million people in the US in 2021. Depression disproportionately affects young people, with considerably higher rates in people aged 18-25. In the United States, $71 billion is spent treating depression each year by individual patients, government, and insurance programs, and depressive disorders are the sixth most costly health condition overall. Depression tends to be chronic with high rates of recurrence and remission.
Depression is widely treated with antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), but some patients are unresponsive, and many do not achieve full remission. They are also associated with many side effects. In a large analysis of 131 randomised, placebo-controlled trials, it was found that while SSRI’s may reduce depressive symptoms, they increase the risk of serious and non-serious adverse events to the extent that the researchers concluded “the potential small beneficial effects seem to be outweighed by harmful effects”.
While depression is associated with psychosocial factors such as trauma, there is also often an underlying brain pathology. In particular, depression has been associated with impaired functioning of brain mitochondria, brain inflammation, and oxidative stress, all of which may be improved by treatment with red and near infrared light.
Several clinical trials of light therapy in depression have been conducted, all of which used near infrared light applied directly to the head. A 2022 systematic review concluded that near infrared light therapy “can be classified as strongly recommended for moderate grade of major depressive disorder”. Similarly, a 2023 meta-analysis of human studies concluded that there is a “promising role of [near infrared light therapy] in the treatment of depressive symptoms”.
When using red light to treat depression, light can be applied to the head using a head wrap or helmet. Most commonly, near infrared light is used because it penetrates more deeply into the brain, but red light may also be helpful. The Fringe red light head wrap contains 450 LED chips that deliver two wavelengths of deep penetrating near infrared light along with red light to the forehead, sides, top and back of the head. Wireless, portable, and flexible, it is an ideal way to support brain health in the comfort of your own home.
Dr. Genevieve Newton, DC, PhD spent close to 20 years as a researcher and educator in the field of nutritional sciences before joining Fringe as its Scientific Director. Gen’s job is to “bring the science” that supports Fringe’s products and education. She is passionate about all things Fringe, and is a deep believer in healing body, mind and spirit using the gifts of the natural world.
The contents in this blog; such as text, content, graphics are intended for educational purposes only. The Content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider.
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