Red Light-Blue Light
Better off Red than Dead, the vindication of a wrongfully perceived crackpot by hard backed science
In 2015 I attended the Voice and Exit conference in Austin Texas. Highlights included Seasteaders, Libertarians, and a diverse cast of characters who can only be described as fringe. Curiously enough, among the Bitcoin Prophets and Social Media alarmists, (Both of whom I should have listened to) was a man by the name of Jack Kruse. As he took the stage the lights switched from blue to a deep red, and I sunk back into my inflatable bean-bag chair, putting on my cynic’s seatbelt, steeling my self for what I thought would be a wild ride. I was right. Throughout his talk Dr. Kruse elaborated on the poisoning effects of blue light and the ambrosic properties of red light, citing gravitational effects on blue light, his own miraculous weight-loss, and even “special space diseases that you don’t know about” afflicting NASA astronauts.
Like too many other of this conferences attendees, I brushed his ideas off, and five years later, he’s been proven right! It’s now commonplace to see people wearing blue light filtering glasses to work with screens, and programs like f.lux are so prolific that many phones have this feature built in. Half the people you meet will say they have seasonal depressive disorder if asked. There have been multiple studies showing it’s effects on the circadian rhythm, suppression of melatonin, damage to the eyes, the list goes on. However, the effects Kruse claimed of red light are not nearly as well known or accepted by the public. If you start talking about the effects of red light at the watercooler, you’re liable to be labelled a crackpot yourself.
However, case studies by prominent scientists such as Margaret Naser (Professor of Neurology at BU School of Medicine) at the Boston VA Medical center have shown that red light therapy may restore brain function in CTE patients, lowering emotional outbursts and depression scores significantly over 18 weeks. It has also been shown that when the chest was exposed to sunlight testosterone levels increased by 120% and by 200% when the genital area was exposed. One Men’s Health journalist said in a testimonial article that after 20 minutes of red light therapy, he “blew the biggest load [he] could remember” with his wife.
But how exactly does red light have this function? Tabloid adjacent magazines aside, studies have shown that red light has a real effect on mitochondrial function, mostly in stimulating the enzyme Cytochrome C Oxidase, causing it to produce more ATP energy and release nitric oxide, even being found to reverse cyanide induced damage to cells. (Cyanide inhibits this enzyme).
There are even historical precedents of red light therapy being used to treat a diverse set of medical maladies. In fact, in 10th century Japan, they would widely decorate smallpox patient’s rooms with red paper, the smallpox patients in the red rooms were said to experience much better healing of the horrible scarring caused by the disease. Niels Ryberg Finsen, who won the Nobel prize in 1906 wrote in an 1895 paper that 69 of 70 patients in red light therapy across Denmark France, and Sweden had shown “extremely favourable results”.
Endre Mester in 1968 found that when he accidentally used an underpowered red laser on an incision he had made in a lab-rat’s skin, the incision healed much more quickly than expected. This serendipity led to the advent of what is today called low-level laser therapy, which is widely used today to combat acne scarring.
Remember that nitric oxide we talked about that Cytochrome C Oxidase emits? It helps heal damaged tissues, acts as a neurotransmitter, and increases bloodflow, a discovery that Furchgott, Ignarro, and Murad shared the 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine for.
So despite my political leanings, in this case you really might be better off red than dead!
Further readings and resources as well as a few relevant papers. Most everything I have said is verifiable via google, so I won’t cite everything:
Unveiling the Quantlet-Jack Kruse at Voice & Exit 2015
Red Light Therapy: Bullshit or Science? The mysterious Japanese skin medicine on Youtube by WhatI’veLearned