Ray Peat, PhD is an eccentric biologist who has very interesting views on nutrition. He loves sugar. He loves coffee. He is not a fan of vegetables or omega-3s. What gives? Let’s take a whirlwind tour through the world of Ray Peat.

 

Dr. Ray Peat: The man, the mystery, the mangoes

What exactly is a “Peat Whisperer”? Let’s dissect the term. Danny Roddy wrote a book with that title, about a guy named Ray Peat. {blue links open to original sources, green links open to further explanation} Dr. Peat is a biologist who has written a lot about nutrition. A whisperer is more commonly used in the sense of a horse whisperer or a dog whisperer. The idea is that a wild animal cannot be understood by most humans, and someone with a knack of understanding these mysterious creatures can tame them. In this analogy, Ray Peat is the wild animal. If you stumble across his web site without knowing a little about nutrition, you will be quite perplexed. Like when he recommends eating white sugar, or when he recommends staying away from fatty fish.

I ran across Ray Peat’s site after a couple years in my nutrition PhD program, in 2008. Except for his whole-hearted  recommendation of fruit consumption (mangoes! watermelon!) I was utterly confused by his mishmash of recommendations. I understood that he valued a high metabolic rate (high body temperature, lots of energy, etc) and believed that certain foods and nutrients could support that goal. But I didn’t understand the specifics, and brushed it off for a while. Indeed, I could have used a Peat Whisperer to better understand what was going on. Later on, I got into a spat with some Peatarians when I wrote an article about the dangers of aspirin (Ray Peat loves aspirin). And to this day I remain a Peat skeptic, but am also interested in his unique viewpoints. So who is this Peat Whisperer guy, anyway?

 

Danny Roddy: Hair loss guy turned Ray Peat guy

Ray Peat’s most well-known disciple is Danny Roddy, a blogger who started writing about his own diet experiments in 2008. For a while, Danny’s main thing was writing about the effect of diet on hair loss. His diet experiments ranged from zero carb to super high carb, and many things in between. Eventually Danny started writing more and more about Ray Peat’s views on diets and hormones, culminating into his transformation. Danny Roddy is now…The Peat Whisperer. He is the guy who you approach when you want to understand something Ray Peat has said, since Ray Peat is not so into the Internet scene, and can confuse the hell out of someone reading his articles.

Should you buy Danny’s book? That I can’t say. But I can tell you what I thought was good about the book, and what I thought was not so good about the book. I’ll describe who might want to look more into Ray Peat’s ideas, and who needn’t bother. Before delving into that, let me tell you what sets Ray Peat apart from most nutrition writers.

1) Ray Peat does not give a shit.

2) Ray Peat is old.

Alright, let’s proceed.

 

The information is unique

A lot of diets convey the most mundane messages, like “Carbs are bad!” or “Don’t eat too much!”. Danny Roddy’s book is not like that. It starts off with a glossary of important terms, most of which are hormone-related. He then launches right into the science, talking about competing theories of degeneration and the metabolic rate. This book is about hormones and thyroid health, and it doesn’t dance around the subject. It’s refreshing, in that many nutrition authors spend lots of time talking about themselves, and a disproportionate amount of their books being motivational. You won’t find that in here. Instead you’ll find things that aren’t in most nutrition books, such as beneficial properties of the amino acids in gelatin, the awesomeness of oysters, and why to sometimes consider refined coconut oil and pasteurized milk.

It tastes good

No, this doesn’t mean that the book is edible. What it means is that Ray Peat’s diet tastes better than most diets. That is, if you like sugar and dairy. Ray Peat is a big proponent of white sugar, fruit, and full-fat dairy. I don’t want to spoil the book, but the reasons have to do with purported metabolic advantages provided by calcium and sugars, as opposed to phosphate and fats. And what do you get when you combine fruit and full-fat cream? You get mother@#$% Haagen Dazs ice cream! I’m lactose intolerant, and pay the price when eating too much ice cream. Ray Peat says that lactose intolerance can be overcome with certain nutrition strategies. I’m skeptical, to say the least, but some people have anecdotally done well when upping their sugar and dairy, Ray Peat style.

It’s way easier to read than the Ray Peat website

Danny Roddy wrote this book to help people make sense of Ray Peat’s diet. If you go through articles on Ray’s website, you will see certain hormones and nutrients repeatedly mentioned, but without any roadmap on what to eat or how everything is connected. Danny does a fine job in doing this. Each major dietary suggestion gets its own chapter. For example, there’s a chapter on “Obtain Pro-Thyroid Nutrients” with each important nutrient, how it relates to relevant hormones, and which foods are good sources. There’s also a chapter on meal ideas, complete with pictures, as well as a table of blood tests that might be helpful to get and an FAQ answering questions such as “How do I intermittent fast on The Pro-Thyroid Blueprint?”.

 

The main source is Ray Peat

Danny references almost every statement he makes. Sometimes the references are to scientific publications. But most of the references are to Ray Peat. To be fair, the book is called “The Peat Whisperer”, and Danny notes that he is trying to make the information provided by Dr. Peat more accessible by writing this book. But if you’re hoping to get a dissection of Ray’s ideas from an outside perspective, this is not it. For example, Ray Peat does not like using fats as a major fuel source. Danny writes about how free fatty acids negatively affect a bunch of stuff including thyroid function, as well as Peat’s perspective on omega-3s being bad for you. I personally don’t take an omega-3 supplement because of rancidity issues, and because I eat fish, but in my personal review of the literature there seems to be lots of good information on either side of the “omega-3 good vs omega-3 bad” issue. The Ray Peat perspective is interesting, but limited. See here for an instance where a Ray Peat idea (cysteine is bad for thyroid) was addressed in detail by Mat Lalonde, a very knowledgeable third party.

Enough “whats” but not enough “hows”

There’s a lot of talk in the book about things that support thyroid function. For example, the liver is essential in metabolism of nutrients and hormones that effect thyroid health, so Danny (and Ray Peat) often mention liver health. In the chapter on bacterial endotoxin, Danny lists the many harmful effects of endotoxin, including negative effects on the liver. Personally, I’m less interested in lists of “what affects what” than “how exactly does this nutrient affect this organ, and what doses are safe and what doses are dangerous?”. In a class on disease causality back in the day, we learned about what factors go into studying the health effects of nutrients. These factors included a clear dose-response relationship, repeatability of the experiment, biological plausability, and some other things. Perhaps because Danny’s book is a condensed summary of Ray Peat, he usually only addresses one or two of these factors.

The views are one-sided

Again, to be fair, this is a book that synthesizes the views of Ray Peat. I don’t think the goal was to provide a point-counterpoint view of his ideas. But I would have liked to see this. For example, there’s a lot of talk on the internet about whether or not low-carb diets are bad for thyroid health. You don’t have to be a genius to see what Ray Peat’s view on this would be (hint: sugar good). But there are a lot of specifics that can be argued about, and good points on either side. Since the book is about metabolic health, I would have liked to see a chapter on the thyroid, and more information on interpreting a thyroid panel.

 

Mysterious health condition? Fibromyalgia? Chronic Fatigue? Consider this book.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter so much if Ray Peat uses old sources and is confusing to read. There may even be things he’s totally wrong about (in fact, I’d bet lots of money that there are things he’s totally wrong about). But if his unique diet helps you with a health problem, then that’s all that matters. A lot of people have tried diets based on natural foods (like paleo or vegan or whatever) and have seen improved health. But some people still have lingering health conditions, and are looking for other avenues. Consider Ray Peat Avenue. This especially applies to conditions like fibro and CFS, where there’s something askew in energy production. In fact, supplementing with a special type of sugar often helps fibromyalgia. Energy production is Ray Peat’s middle name, and even if I can’t quite understand what he’s talking about at times, it might behoove you to try some Peat ideas.

 

Happy with your diet? Look elsewhere, except for tweaks.

Many people have transitioned to a more unprocessed diet, lost weight, and reversed health conditions. To those, I’d say that this book would only be worth it for very specific purposes. If you’re looking to tweak your diet to improve smaller issues (like brittle hair, minor skin issues, etc), you might want to look at some Ray Peat strategies such as gelatin use, pregnenalone supplementation, etc. Also, if you love reading about nutrition, you might want to include Ray Peat in your readings. He gives a perspective that is quite unique in the nutrition world.

 

So what do I really think about Ray Peat? Well, I’m skeptical. I think he’s a kooky guy, and interesting to read. I’ve tried Peat’s diet twice over the past few years, for a month at a time. I didn’t notice any health improvements, but  usually don’t notice improvements with diet, for my specific and rare pain condition. I did think the diet was fun. Ice cream at night, lots of orange juice spread throughout the day. I still supplement with gelatin, as I’m fairly sure that a muscle-meat heavy diet is not optimal for a few reasons. Peat also rekindled my interest in endocrinology. But sometimes I’ll read something he writes and have no idea how he drew those conclusions. Thus is the life of a nutrition experimentor. If you like to experiment, and haven’t looked into Ray Peat, I’d recommend doing some reading.

 

26 Comments

  1. Why do you suspect a muscle meat heavy diet is not optimal?

    Reply
    • One reason is iron. Personally, my recent ancestors ate no red meat (they’re from west India) and hence didn’t get so much iron. On a broader level, many paleo eaters use cast iron pans and eat at least a serving or two of red meat every day. Since iron metabolism seems to vary quite a bit in humans, and iron and oxidation can be an issue, I myself wouldn’t eat red meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.

      Other reasons are muscle meat displacing other foods such as organs and shellfish, imbalance in amino acids from not eating a wider variety of proteins, and the general anabolic effect of muscle meats potentially impacting longevity and disease, when consumed over many many years at a high dose. Of course, I’m not totally sure about any of these things, but it’s my hunch.

      Reply
      • Again, you clearly did not read the book or the sources. Iron in the meat is relayed over and over again that it must be eaten with milk or coffee to limit iron absorption, and increase the carbohydrate to protein ratio.

        Reply
        • Not really sure where you’re going with this. Ray has always advocated a lower muscle-meat diet when compared to the average paleo diet. My family has always eaten their iron with dairy and coffee, but that is nonheme iron. Iron metabolism alleles are one of the most distinct in terms of impact on health for different haplotypes. I would guess that you think I’m being anti-Peat in these comments, but my diet is much Peat-ier than most people I know, with lots of fruit, relatively low muscle-meat, hormone testing etc.

          Reply
          • Oh you don’t come over as ‘anti-Peat’ at all, whatever that means :D! I liked your review very much. Would love to see a followup of Peat on cysteine. What I find strange is that Peat is often taken a bit out of context, as if he urges to eat particular types of food. Broda Barnes’ work is pretty good imo, and when you combine that with Hans Selye a lot of Peats’ work is real easy to follow. That some of his claims aren’t supported that well is true, but it’s not like he doesn’t admit that. He just works with what we have. If you read his books from the 70s you’ll notice that his recommendations differ from what he says now, and that’s another thing that makes him different from ‘gurus’. I often e-mail him, and it is very clear how he adapts his recommendations to my personal experiences. It’s much more ‘chill-out’. Thanks for the review Kamal you always have a very cool point of view, very relaxed :)!

          • Thanks Korion, that means a lot coming from one of the leading Peatarians! (I lurk on your guys Q&A on rare occasion) It’s cool that you can email with him, and I’ve definitely seen similar stuff when Danny writes about communicating with him. For me, Peat is a good check on mainstream ideas. I most certainly disagree with some of what he says, but the final recommendations aren’t hard to swallow no matter who you are. Taking 30 fish oil pills a day and eating two pounds of steak is more common than it should be. By the way, who started the Peatarian Q&A? I have a question for that person.

          • Haha yeah! Bruno started it he has an account with the same name.

  2. What are your thoughts on high sugar diets in general?

    Reply
    • I think it’s very dependent on the person. For example, my mother is diabetic, as is my grandmother and uncle. This is despite all of them being normal to underweight.Therefore I have to be more aware of the effect that high sugar intake has on my blood glucose. Some low-carbers haven’t eaten sugar for years, and if facing problems with lethargy and similar problems, might want to experiment with small amounts of sugar and/or starch.

      The most interesting question isn’t low versus high carb (which I think it quite testable on a personal level, with regards to effect on hunger, health issues, etc), but starch vs sugar. “Fructose is a poison” is a blanket statement which doesn’t take into account dose at all. I’m not convinced by the Ray Peat argument that starches are bad because they can increase endotoxin levels. So I guess my viewpoint is the pretty weak “everything good in moderation”. I eat some starch, I eat some fruit, I eat some meat. I still haven’t experimented rigorously with every promising diet, such as GAPS, Failsafe, etc, and will do so at some point.

      Reply
      • you apparently didn’t actually read the book if that’s your view on sugar, nor did you research further into the sourced links for why sugar/fructose is good, especially for diabetics. /fail.

        Reply
  3. Hey, just wanted to say that your blog is really cool! Thanks for the review of DR’s book.

    Reply
    • Reviewing book is fun! You should write one so that I can review it.

      Reply
  4. I thought the peat whisperer was going to be about peat moss :( It’s a great for weight loss, the stuff just goes right through you.

    Reply
    • It’s chock full of minerals too.

      Reply
  5. Excellent review! very informative.

    Reply
  6. Yeah really good review. Helped with my decision to purchase the book. Thanks

    Reply
    • No problemo!

      Reply
  7. Thanks for the review, Kamal. I was considering buying the book, now I think I will. I suffered from Graves, which eventually turned in to Hashi’s. But doctors were no help and all the lab tests were exactly the same! Only the TSH number increased. I had to force my endo to run a Reverse T3 to discover all my T4 was being turned in RT3, so I seemed hypo even though I was making the same amount of thyroid as when I supposedly was hyper!

    I tried T3 for months (because I couldn’t take T4, t4/t3, or NDT), but it did nothing for my low body temp or hair loss or energy. It wasn’t till I started taking a small amount of Pregnenolone that things turned around. My temp began to go up, without changing my T3 dosage, in fact, I cut it back and I was still fine. My hair began to grow back. I got some energy again.

    Then one day, I took 2.5 mg of Pregnenolone with 12.5 mcg of T3, and wow! the T3 was potentated right away. That’s when I realised, if you have no Pregnenolone, it doesn’t matter how much T3 you take. I had no Pregnenolone according to my tests (which you should always run before doing anything with Pregnenolone/DHEA/whatever. Never guess or assume).

    Based on another T3-only user’s experience with Peatarian Diet, I decided to up foods with cholesterol in them (butter, Cheese, Dairy) which I’d avoided previously due to allergies (although culturally I’m from people groups that lived on this stuff for centuries). If you have no cholesterol, the pregnenolone has nothing to work with. Once I gave the pregnenolone some cholesterol, against what I expected, I lost weight and my dairy allergies went into remission.

    I don’t know that much about Ray Peat. I’ve read the info on his site and some of the articles on the Peat Whisper. I haven’t tried (and wouldn’t try) everything he mentions. However, for me, individually, what I have tried of Peatarian theory works in practice. So, I will definitely be buying the book and I might try other things he suggests if I can see a sound reason for doing so in my particular circumstances.

    The only thing I’ve really wondered about is Peat’s advocacy for Aspirin. Large amounts of aspirin is known to block T4 conversion to T3. In essence, if you’re trying to boost thyroid function that would seem a bad idea. However, if your T4 converts to RT3 or causes your autoimmune disease to flare, I could see taking aspirin to block the T4, especially if you had an autoimmune thyroid disease (like hashimoto’s), were hypo, and were taking T3. That scenario makes perfect sense to me.

    Anyway, thanks again for the very helpful review!

    Reply
  8. Hey, Kamal. I see not text or body to this blog post. Just letting you know, in case others face the same issue.

    Reply
  9. View reviews from patients and their medical experiences and knowledge with Thyroid Disease from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkfvbO3dMjo

    Reply
  10. Hello, Kamal.

    Thank you for the very informative comments. I hope you don’t mind a question. I’ve emailed Ray Peat many times for years, and I have to say the man has a very good soul. He gets right back to me with the answer. My main problem is very low body temperature and hypothyroidism. I’ve had my hormones tested, and my DHEA and pregnenolone levels were almost non-existent. I take a high quality product, have actually tried many from very high end companies, but I’m not sure how low the dose should be on both, when is the best time to take them and should I take them with coconut oil? What I am finding is disturbing, eventually after about 2 weeks or so, my libido is dead and my prostate seems somewhat swollen making urination difficult first think in the morning. When I stop the two, all clears up within a day. Should I just take the pregnenolone, since Ray peat pushes that product quite a bit? Any information on a safe dose, and what to take with it, and when is the best time to take it, will be greatly appreciated. Thank you, David.

    Reply
  11. brilliant review of a peatinterpreter. Thankyou. I’ve only just started reading pages from his site. Your measured analysis is much appreciated.
    Thanks again, Daisy Z (not the commenter further up)

    Reply
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  13. Dear Danny Roddy on your website you talk about the death hormone hypothetical hormone DECO there is others death hormones too they are Insulin and cortisol hormone and prolactin -growth hormone which one is the main one which do most of the ageing is there pills l can take to stop all of these death hormones yes or no l must know who sells then can you find out for me can you find for me who sells these pills face lift pills they are type one collagen with cells and genes pills if l cant have then l will have only type one collagen pills and elastin pills too l want the strongest in all the pills l take will all these pills l take will keep me young forever yes or no or what will l must know what should l do for the best please tell me thankyou .

    Reply
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