It’s been a while since I’ve written something here. I actually had a few posts in the works — driven by some theories gained by reading Ray Peat — but they petered out.
I’ve read some of Peat’s stuff before, but it was cursory due to his controversial position in the health sphere I traverse. Unlike most people, though, I don’t dismiss him easily. It’s obvious to me that he has an extensive knowledge of research literature, and he utilizes that to build some very interesting and unique theories. Moreover, much of his knowledge covers decades that aren’t often discussed. I think it’s important and wise to read the ideas and hypotheses of intelligent men who lack today’s education — they have a perspective that isn’t poisoned by any false truths we believe today. Gaining historical knowledge makes the permanent impermanent.
The two main sources of Peat’s controversy are his positions on PUFAs and sugar.
I made a breakthrough in my understanding of Peat’s context a couple weeks ago when I found out he’s familiar with Gilbert N. Ling. It’s rumored they even correspond. I know of Ling’s work from reading Jack Kruse’s blog. So I did a search combining with Peat’s name and Ling, and started from that angle.
After reading some of the things that came up, it’s my opinion that in order to understand why Peat dislikes PUFAs, you have to understand his position on membranes: Membranes, plasma membranes, and surfaces. I have to note that my understanding of the work of Ling and Gerald Pollack and the implications from their combined work is in its infancy; however, my interpretation of Peat’s mistrust of PUFAs rests largely on two facets:
- Lipid membranes are not essential for life due to water’s properties. “A small drop of water can float for a moment on the surface of water; this is explained in terms of the organization of the water molecules near the surface. No membrane is needed to explain this reluctance to coalesce, even though water has a very high affinity for water.”
- The skin disease that rats developed in the experiment used to prove the essentiality of Essential Fatty Acids was cured by the addition of vitamin B6 to the diet. In other words, a dietary lack of EFAs exposed a nutrient deficiency of vitamin B6. Peat maintains that PUFAs depress metabolism. If this is correct, then it stands to reason that removing PUFAs from the diet will upregulate the metabolism, and thus the organism will require more nutrients to maintain health at the new faster rate of metabolism.
Peat cites a multitude of other deleterious health effects from dietary PUFAs, but in my opinion these two concepts underpin an intellectual basis for their dietary removal. In other words, it’s one thing to say something has a multitude of negative effects; it’s another thing to explain why said thing is unnecessary in the first place. By working from a more fundamental angle, it’s easier to accept any empirical evidence that shows PUFAs are deleterious.
So context is good. However, the matter is far from settled. I haven’t really found any studies supporting Peat’s oft-cited claim that PUFAs depress thyroid function. Moreover, I have a feeling that many of them will conflate vegetable/seed oils and fish oils. The conflation of the two oils is unacceptable, because even though fish oils are prone to oxidation, they have redeeming qualities — at least DHA does. Vegetable and seed oils have no redeeming qualities as far as I know.
We’ve covered PUFAs, let’s talk about sugar. One things that’s always bugged me is why humans, and in particular children, have such a desire for sugar. Sugar is roundly criticized by health advocates of any stripe. It glycates proteins and interferes with cell receptors, causes premature aging and hormone problems, etc. So Peat’s fondness of sugar represents hope that I’ll be able to reconcile the human desire for sugar with its deleterious health effects. I don’t believe we’d desire it so heavily if we didn’t have some biological purpose for it. I’m of the same mind as Stephanie Seneff: biology isn’t stupid, it’s smart. There’s more to the sugar story than we know right now, more than people are willing to talk about. Right now, everyone chalks it up to addiction and insulin resistance, and they’ll tell you to only eat fruit during summer. I certainly agree with that prescription, because fruit was only available during certain seasons for thousands of generations. But what if sugar signals something to us? What if it’s a way for children to access information about the environment? Does sugar correlate with mineral content, or biological potential for growth? Why does sugar taste so sweet?
But sugar is sin, and nobody wants to entertain these questions.