Blue light bad, red light good!
Light from the sun plays a key role in powering all life on earth, even in the makeup of our cells. We have talked a great deal about how an imbalance of blue can be extremely detrimental to our sleep/wake cycle and many aspects of our physical and mental wellbeing, actually impacting our bodies at a cellular level (read more here: “Your Lightbulb Moment- What’s so Bad about Blue?”)…but what about red?
In our daily lives ‘seeing red’ generally carries negative connotations, but when it comes to the colour spectrum red actually does us a great deal of good – improving hair, skin, eyesight and cell rejuvenation. Here comes the science…
Our bodies have been creating the energy that they need to regenerate cells to survive for as long as life on earth (and natural sunlight) has existed, however recent research is discovering that light can positively impact that process to further motivate the key players- specifically mitochondria!
Often referred to as the “powerhouse of the cell”  because they convert food, water and oxygen into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), Mitochondria are the main source of energy used within the body . They also produce essential chemicals that your body needs to function, as well as break down and recycle waste products that would otherwise be harmful to your body . Mitochondria are also key to helping cells die naturally, which is vital when we’re talking about abnormal cell growth, which can result in tumours. Basically, they are vital to our wellbeing.
And which part of the light spectrum supports these miniature miracles?
Yup, you guessed it! Red.
How do we know they respond to red light in the colour spectrum?
Many, many scientific studies have tested the impact of photobiomodulation (varying levels of red light on the health of cells), and in particular their mitochondria. A list of just a few of these can be found in the appendix below, but the upshot is that exposure to red light has a positive impact on many aspects of our physical wellbeing. These findings have lead to rise in red light therapies and treatments, often offered at great expense. But are these the solution? And why aren’t we getting enough red in daily life?
Well, once again, it comes down – at least in part – to the humble LED. These are the main light sources for the vast majority of the electrically connected world now, but for the most part, they lack the quality and quantity of red we need! Since so many of us can’t or don’t spend enough time outside in natural sunlight in these strange times, we are noticing the deficiencies more.
So do we all just need a good blast of red? …Not really!
Professor Shelby Temple, visual neuroscientist and expert on how light interacts with the eye and body points out: “My experience in biology suggests that nature has found a balance, and we’ve adapted over millions of years to do things a certain way. If you start adding more blue light or more red light to the system, it may be fine in the short term, but you’re probably going to pay a price in the long term.” What we need is balance.
How does RAY improve your balance?
Since RAY Lighting technology has worked so hard to bring its light into alignment with the sun’s spectrum and eliminate that worrisome spike, we asked Professor Temple to take a look at RAY’s bulbs… not through rose-tinted glasses but with red in mind.
The results were extraordinary.
Most LEDs taper off as they enter the ‘red zone’ to such an extent that they have a notable deficiency and, as a result, often produce poor quality reds for us to see, but also for us to ‘experience’ at a cellular level. Because RAY has balanced the spectrum, the concentration of red is in keeping with that which our bodies, and indeed our mitochondria, crave.
Professor Temple explains: “Our bodies have evolved to work under sunlight for millions of years. Since the first organisms- the sun hasn’t changed! We are biologically pre-programmed to use light in certain ways.” In recent years we’ve learnt that too much blue light is bad, and lots of red light can be good for cells. “That’s where RAY Lighting is a really nice balance,” Professor Temple states, ““it’s giving what your body expects so that they can do what they are supposed to do”.
Introducing RAY into your home does not require an entirely new lighting design-RAY advises starting small, by choosing an area of your house that you spend the most time in, and replacing the existing light bulbs in that space with RAY bulbs.
Looking for more evidence of the benefits of increased red light?
These are just a small sample of the scientific studies that have taken place between 2007 to 2021.
A 2015 study  by researchers from the UK and Brazil found that when fruit flies received a daily dose of red 670 nanometers (nm) light, they showed elevated ATP levels and reduced inflammation. The researchers also noted an increase in average lifespan: Fruit flies that received 670 nm exposure ended up far more likely to survive into old age. In a later 2019 study , researchers measured ATP synthesis in muscle cells from mice that had been exposed to red and near infrared (NIR) light. The study found that exposure times of three to six hours “could be the best time-response for light therapy to improve muscle metabolism”. This study was among the first to identify and examine the correlation between red light/NIR light therapy and mitochondrial function.
The positive benefits of red-light therapy are evidenced by a wealth of studies boasting successful results, to mention a few;
A 2007 study  exposed skin to red light to speed up wound healing. Its authors concluded that light therapy involving a combination of 830nm and 633 nm wavelengths proved “an effective approach for skin rejuvenation.”
A 2014 study  showed promising results with male and female candidates who used a red laser hair comb over a period of time showed an improvement in ‘terminal hair density’ compared to those using a placebo.
A 2016 metastudy  of 46 separate, validated studies reviewed, the majority showed more positive effects of red light therapy on muscle recovery when used before and after exercise.
A 2021 study  tried experimental treatment for sight loss by shining a red light into the eyes for a few minutes to boost the mitochondria. In the first small test of 24 people, one short exposure to the red light slightly improved people’s performance in tests of colour vision for several days.
1. McBride, H. Neuspiel, M. Wasiak, S (2006) Mitochondria, More than just a Powerhouse. Current Biology, Vol. 16 Issue 14.
2. Joov, Light Therapy Supports Cellular Function And ATP Energy Production.
3. Platinum Therapy Lights (2021) Can Red Light Therapy Stimulate Your Mitochondria To Produce Cellular Energy?
4. Begum, R. et al (2015) Near-infrared light increases ATP, extends lifespan and improves mobility in aged Drosophila melanogaster. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2015.0073 [PubMed Central].
5. Sommer, A. (2019) Mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase is not the primary acceptor for near infrared light—it is mitochondrial bound water: the principles of low-level light therapy. DOI: 10.21037/atm.2019.01.43 [PubMed Central].
6. Lee, S. et al (2007) A prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded, and split-face clinical study on LED phototherapy for skin rejuvenation: Clinical, profilometric, histologic, ultrastructural, and biochemical evaluations and comparison of three different treatment settings. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology, Vol. 8 Issue 1.
7. Jimenez, J. et al (2014) Efficacy and safety of a low-level laser device in the treatment of male and female pattern hair loss: a multicenter, randomized, sham device-controlled, double-blind study. DOI: 10.1007/s40257-013-0060-6
8. Ferraresi, C. Huang, Y. and Hamblin, M. (2016) Photobiomodulation in human muscle tissue: an advantage in sports performance? DOI: 10.1002/jbio.201600176 [PubMed Central].
9. Shinhmar, H. Hogg, C. Neveu, M. and Jeffery, G (2021) Weeklong improved colour contrasts sensitivity after single 670 nm exposures associated with enhanced mitochondrial function. Scientific Reports, Volume 11, Article number: 22872.