It's hard to reconcile Ray Peat's ideas about the body and nutrition with the paleo/primal lifestyle. Paleo enthusiasts can get behind Peat's ideas about avoiding gluten and increasing saturated fat, but Peat's incorporation of simple sugars can create cognitive dissonance in some. Hell, even I had a hard time wrapping my head around the concept and I've spent an extended amount of time on a very high-starch version of my own diet (potatoes, saturated fat, meat).
While the addition of starch seems to be cutting edge in the paleosphere, Pete is guzzling salted orange juice along with a single carrot to inhibit estrogen reuptake. Is he crazy? Maybe. Can we learn something from him? Yes.
I do not intend to suggest that one way is better than the other, but I do want to highlight some areas were the two styles of eating part ways. Let's go over the differences between The Paleo Diet and from what I can put together, what Ray Peat consumes. Peat doesn't have a home page for his diet, because he's a biologist and not a diet guru, so I have pieced together Peat's diet from his articles, interviews, and random texts from the internet. Hopefully I didn't screw it up.
Paleo: We'll start with a macronutrient that isn't too controversial. Paleo dieters dig natural saturated fats (animal, coconut, butter, red palm oil) and have a love/hate relationship with omega-3 oils (fish, krill, flax). In the beginning, supplementation of omega-3s was HOT and many were megadosing to overcome inflammatory conditions. Since then, progressive paleoers (Paleo 2.0ers?) like Dr. Kurt Harris and Chris Kresser slapped the community with some sense explaining that the composition of fish oils is very similar to that of harmful vegetable oils.
Ray Peat: Similar to the paleosphere, Peat believes that saturated fat is good for you. He disagrees however that ANY unsaturated fatty acids are "essential," and goes as far as to say that one should avoid most vegetables (especially the juices) because of the small amount of PUFA they contain. Peat also differs in theories on behind PUFA's mechanism of being harmful. Rather than focusing on inflammation and oxidative stress, Peat suggests that they are harfmul due to their estrogenic, anti-thyroid and pro-cortisol effects.
Paleo: Paleo dieters subscribe to anywhere from 0.8-2g of protein per kg of bodyweight. The low-end being being 10-20% calories from protein (The Perfect Health Diet) and the high-end being 30-45% calories from protein (Leangains, Anthony Colpo, Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf).
Ray Peat: Believe it or not Dr. Peat subscribes to a moderate protein intake. He recommends at least 80-100 grams of protein and is even cool with more. Peat differentiates himself by suggesting that too much muscle meat is problematic, leading to thyroid suppression, inflammation and stress. He recommends one balances intake of muscle meats, cheese and milk with glycine-rich gelatin (or bone broth).
Paleo: For the most part, paleo advocates recommend lower carb diets. Sisson recommends 150 grams (or less) of carbohydrates a day, while others recommend ketogenic levels (50g or less).
Peat: This is the greatest departure Peat makes from the typical paleo diet. Ray states that sugar (sucrose, fructose) is not an issue when polyunsaturated fats are not in the diet. Here is Peat's reasoning:
"When glucose can't be oxidized, for any reason, there is a stress reaction, that mobiles free fatty acids. Drugs that oppose the hormones (such as adrenalin or growth hormone) that liberate free fatty acids have been used to treat diabetes, because lowering free fatty acids can restore glucose oxidation.
Brief exposures to polyunsaturated fatty acids can damage the insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas, and the mitochondria in which oxidative energy production takes place. Prolonged exposure causes progressive damage. Acutely, the free polyunsaturated fatty acids cause capillary permeability to increase, and this can be detected at the beginning of “insulin resistance” or “diabetes.” After chronic exposure, the leakiness increases and albumin occurs in the urine, as proteins leak out of the blood vessels. The retina and brain and other organs are damaged by the leaking capillaries."
On lipid peroxidation and advanced glycation end products (AGEs):
"The name, “glycation,” indicates the addition of sugar groups to proteins, such as occurs in diabetes and old age, but when tested in a controlled experiment, lipid peroxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids produces the protein damage about 23 times faster than the simple sugars do."
As for sugar vs. starch:
"Starch and glucose efficiently stimulate insulin secretion, and that accelerates the disposition of glucose, activating its conversion to glycogen and fat, as well as its oxidation. Fructose inhibits the stimulation of insulin by glucose, so this means that eating ordinary sugar, sucrose (a disaccharide, consisting of glucose and fructose), in place of starch, will reduce the tendency to store fat."
Peat also believes that sugar is beneficial for the thyroid:
"Sugar and thyroid hormone (T3, triiodothyronine) correct many parts of the problem. The conversion of T4 into the active T3 requires glucose, and in diabetes, cells are deprived of glucose. Logically, all diabetics would be functionally hypothyroid. Providing T3 and sugar tends to shift energy metabolism away from the oxidation of fats, back to the oxidation of sugar."
And finally, the production of glucuronic acid to clear estrogen out of the liver:
"Hypothyroidism prevents the liver from attaching glucuronic acid to estrogen, and so increases the body’s retention of estrogen, which in turn impairs the thyroid gland’s ability to secrete thyroid hormone."
From reading Peat's writings it becomes clear that he doesn't subscribe to any specific idea about nutrition. Healthy thyroid, low cortisol, and low estrogen; these are the things he's concerned with.
I love Peat's site because the dude has literally nothing to gain by promoting his ideas. In a conversation with Jacob, a hyper-intelligent commenter of mine, he summed up my feelings about Peat after I explained to him how I was unable purchase any of Peat's books on his site:
"I suppose one of the most encouraging things about Peat is his scrupulously anti-capitalist ethic. Absolutely no salesmanship at all - in fact, it's often difficult to pay him for anything, as your failure to secure his books proves!"
Time will tell if Dr. Peat's ideas infiltrate the paleo 2.0 universe.