Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Raymond Peat

"Lactate, glutamate, ammonium, nitric oxide, quinolinate, estrogen, histamine, aminolevulinate, porphyrin, ultraviolet light, polyunsaturated fatty acids and endotoxin contribute to excitatory and excitotoxic processes, vasodilation, angioneogenesis, and fibrosis.

Carbon dioxide, glycine, GABA, saturated fatty acids (for example, Nanji, et al., 1997), vitamin K, coenzyme Q10, niacinamide, magnesium, red light, thyroid hormone, progesterone, testosterone, and pregnenolone are factors that can be increased to protect against inappropriate cellular excitation."
- Raymond F. Peat (2013)

Lately, I've spent quite a lot of time reading health articles written by Raymond F. Peat. Peat is a biologist (born in 1936), whose doctoral thesis (1972) addressed the age-related changes in hamster uterus. In his dissertation work, Peat found that estrogen decreased oxygen tension in the tissues, leading to age-related tissue changes. He also showed that vitamin E could prevent this effect. Since these observations, Peat's work has mostly focused on hormones and other kinds of signaling molecules, and how nutrition affects all of these things.

While Peat's name isn't very popular to most health-conscious people, some of his ideas have become very popular. For example, the term estrogen dominance was popularized by John R. Lee who got his ideas from Peat.

I started to find Peat's work interesting after noticing that he is aware of  Broda Barnes' observations of health effects of thyroid hormone. While Barnes focused completely on the thyroid hormone, Peat saw that there are also many other factors that can be influenced with dietary and lifestyle modifications.

Peat's main idea seems to be that modern lifestyle causes imbalance of stress-related signaling molecules, leading to a vicious cycle of inflammation and inefficient energy production involving excessive anaerobic glycolysis.

In chronic stress, the metabolism is increasingly mediated by adaptive substances such as prolactin, lactate, estrogen, nitric oxide, TNF, PTH, serotonin and aldosterone, which can protect from acute stress, but also lead to chronic diseases in the long term. In an healthy state, the influence of thyroid hormone and protective steroid hormones (progesterone, DHEA, pregnenolone) and other related substances is increased.

According to Peat, some of the main causes of chronic stress are lack of protein, sugar, vitamins, minerals or light. He also writes that polyunsaturated fatty acids are possibly the most important factor causing stress-related metabolic malfunction.

"When, in the 1940s, a group of vitamin B6 researchers showed that the supposed "essential fatty acid deficiency" could be cured by a supplement of vitamin B6, it became apparent that the polyunsaturated fatty acids slowed metabolism, and reduced all nutritional needs. The thyroid hormone was powerfully suppressed by the "essential" fatty acids." - Ray Peat

In animal studies, it has been noticed that the deficiency of "essential" fatty acids (EFA) increases animals' metabolic rate, and the animals will also tolerate various types of stress and toxins much better, and are more resistant to cancer.

In his special report, Chris Masterjohn didn't completely agree with Peat's idea, but in a later article referred to a study, where they tried to cause an EFA deficiency to the subject, William Brown. During the fat-free experimental diet, Brown's metabolic rate increased, weight decreased and he got rid of his migraine, despite eating ~300 grams of sucrose every day. According to Masterjohn, the elimination of excess EFA from the body could explain those results.

In addition to restricting EFA intake, Peat recommends sugar instead of starch and large amounts of animal protein, ~100g daily, preferrably from eggs, milk, cheese and gelatin. Muscle meats are not that good because of high amounts of tryptophan and cysteine and high P/Ca ratio. Despite the milk's high tryptophan concentration, milk should be healthy because calcium can decrease parathyroid hormone (PTH).

"PTH (like estrogen and serotonin) inhibits cellular respiration and activates glycolysis, lowering the ATP level and shifting the cells metabolism toward the production of lactic acid rather than carbon dioxide. PTH also causes bicarbonate to be lost in the urine." - Ray Peat

According to Peat, salt is healthy*, and could be used as a nutritional supplement. The effect can be partially explained by the fact that higher blood sodium inhibits renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system and also protects cells from water retention (swelling).:

"In this culture, it is hard to see that heart disease, cancer, and cataracts all involve a crucial respiratory defect, with the production of too much lactic acid and too little carbon dioxide, which leads to a “swelling pathology”: A pathological retention of water. The swollen heart beats poorly, the swollen lens turns milky, other cells divide rapidly as a result of swelling." - Ray Peat

Peat emphasizes the importance of carbon dioxide, and the harmfulness of it's inhibition by lowered aerobic metabolism, hyperventilation and lactic acid:

"The cancer’s production of lactic acid creates the same kind of internal imbalance produced by hyperventilation, and if we look at the physiology of hyperventilation in the light of Warburg’s description of cancer, hyperventilation imitates cancer metabolism, by producing lactic acid “even in the presence of oxygen.” Lactate, a supposedly benign metabolite of the cancer cells, which appears in all the other degenerative conditions, including obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, is itself a central factor in the degenerative process." - Ray Peat

While diet can affect the health positively, Peat writes that in some cases thyroid hormones (containing T3) are required, and progesterone ja pregnenolone can also be very useful for some kinds of diseases. Peat has patented a progesterone product (Progest-E), in which progesterone is dissolved in vitamin E.

"The excess cortisol of depression, old age, and hyperestrogenism often comes down with use of a thyroid supplement, but pregnenolone has avery direct action (in opposition to serotonin) that can quiet the pituitary, reducing ACTH and cortisol. Progesterone has some similar effects, and is protective against excess cortisol, and is a major factor in nerve and brain restoration. Thyroid, progesterone, and pregnenolone are all involved in the formation of new myelin, and in the prevention of the edema that damages it." - Ray Peat

Peat reminds us that sunlight is helpful, because the red light (and near-infrared) wavelengths activate mitochondrial respiratory enzymes and decrease inflammation. Also, he states that social isolation can cause significant physical stress. I think that these points are often overlooked in many health discussions.

"The brain-protecting neurosteroids, including pregnenolone and progesterone, which are increased by some kinds of stimulation, are decreased by isolation stress, and in their absence, serotonin and the glucocorticoids are relatively unopposed." - Ray Peat

"When I moved from Mexico, first to Montana and then to Oregon in 1966, I became very conscious of how light affects the hormones and the health. (For example, in Montana I experienced an interesting springtime shedding of body hair.) Many people who came to cloudy Eugene to study, and who often lived in cheap basement apartments, would develop chronic health problems within a few months. Women who had been healthy when they arrived would often develop premenstrual syndrome or arthritis or colitis during their first winter in Eugene." - Ray Peat

When I read Peat's articles for the first time, I couldn't believe that he was serious about some of his opinions, such as the harmful effects of serotonin or estrogen. But when I started reading his articles and checking the references, I found that many of his radical claims are based on real findings, and might have true significance for people really attempting to understand human biology.

Peat's expertise is not only limited on biology. He wrote his master's thesis on literature, analyzing poet William Blake's works. Peat has also founded a school Blake College, in Mexico. However, the school was closed later. On his website, Peat also has an art gallery, featuring his paintings.

Peat's articles and interviews can be found via his websiteMarshmalloW-blog, Danny Roddy's blog and book and this Buteyko method site. There are also some Ray Peat groups on Facebook.

Peat often refers to some other researchers' work: Gilbert LingOtto WarburgAlbert Szent-GyörgyiHans SelyeWilliam F. KochAlexander LipschützBiskindsFelix Meerson and Broda Barnes.


* In rats, it has been shown that high doses of sodium are harmful mainly if the intake of magnesium and potassium is deficient (Karppanen 1990)


  1. Great work here

  2. This website is great. Thank you for doing this.

  3. Does Raymond Peat make a difference between O3 and O6 unsaturated fatty acids ? Because it goes against everything I have read before that O3 may be harmful to health ; rather the ratio O3/O6 was key to optimal benefits. Is this suggesting that absolute intake of polyunsaturated fats is harmful ?

    Also for salt intake, it would be helpful to give a minimum and maximum intake

    1. Hi Jonathan,

      I think he has written that n-3 fatty acids are more susceptible to oxidation, and that some of the "anti-inflammatory benefits" might be due to damage to immune system.

      I think it might be a good choice to focus on a good omega3/6 ratio, and simultaneously limit the total intake of PUFA. I also think phenolic compounds in extra virgin fats (eg. olive oil, coconut oil) might have positive effects on health.

      In more recent interviews, Peat has stated that low-salt diet might also be healthy when the intake of potassium, magnesium and calcium is high.

      I have seen many studies showing that high sodium intake might have some negative effects (blood pressure) that are completely prevented by increasing potassium intake.

  4. Pardon, when you say low-salt, do you mean high-salt and high other 3 cations? Many thanks for your work, Valtsu. From Navarre.

    1. Hi Anonymous! If you refer to the comment above, I'm not sure whether I remember it 100% correctly, but I think that the idea was this:

      Ray Peat has stated often than it's good to get a lot of sodium. Though, I think that in one radio interview, he mentioned that you don't necessarily need to get that much sodium if you get high amounts of the other cations (Mg, Ca, K).

      However, I think that high-salt and high Mg/Ca/K might also be a good combination. In that case, especially the potassium protects from some potential dangers of sodium.

      Here's some very recent evidence showing that adding potassium and magnesium to the salt appears to protect against stroke-related neurological deficit:

    2. You may want to read:

  5. Great post summarizing Peat's ideas, thank you.