I’ve had a recent jolt to my understanding of nutrition, particularly with regard to fats and oils. I went looking for a private gym to see if I could do a joint venture and film some training videos with the owners. One of them took a look at my writings and website and declared that he and I were badly divergent on nutrition and there wasn’t much sense working together. I asked how that would be possible and he sent me to a guy named Ray Peat, PhD, who he follows and said that if I read his writings, I would see that my ideas were riddled with error. So I start reading Peat’s writings, and much of what he writes made sense – not all, but enough to make me suspect I was off base on some concepts.
For example; he says the neurotransmitter serotonin has little to do with depression, and excess serotonin production down-regulates thyroid function, so my taking 5-HTP (a precursor to serotonin) as a sleep aid (and to prevent depression) is inducing hypothyroidism. I have been on Armour Thyroid for the last couple of years for exactly that reason, without a good explanation until I read that. So I dropped the 5-HTP to see if I get a benefit.
Secondly, he believes the recent science behind the need for omega-3 fats is bogus, that neither omega-6 or omega-3 fats are “essential”, that balancing a high intake of omega-6 fats with a similar amount of omega-3 (fish oil/flax oil) only makes a bad situation worse, and we get all the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) from modest use of good extra-virgin olive oil and real butter, that the balance of fats in our diets should be saturated animal fat. He proposes that coconut oil is the only other vegetable oil we should eat or cook with, and that it is really good for thyroid function, losing body fat and making us lean (I agree with that to a degree). He believes eating oily fish, including taking cod liver oil, is a negative to thyroid health and metabolism, use of oxygen, etc, leading to higher cancer rates and inflammatory diseases, and speeds up aging. He sites plenty of studies to prove his points which are being ignored by the food/science/medical community.
Third, our diet of leafy greens should be moved toward root vegetables (contain fewer natural toxins that plants make to protect against pests) and fruits, and more animal protein. However, the fact that we only eat muscle meats in our culture is far from healthy, and if we are not willing to eat the other parts of the body (organs, stomach, brains, heart, liver, bones), we should at least add beef gelatin to our diet to get the bone, marrow and connective tissue elements back in our diet like man in more primitive times. (I agree with this and started using gelatin in various ways in meals and drinks over a year ago).
Finally, he shows in his writings a strong belief that the science of cell biology is on the wrong track. He keeps referring to “cell membranes”, “pores and pumps” as features of the cell that don’t exist, and believes that these proposed features are not needed to characterize cell function. He is particularly hard over on the negative impact of omega-3 and omega-6 fats in these mechanisms, and proposes that they are actually toxic to cell function.
So I have spent days reading his material and supporting studies, while trying to incorporate his suggestions to see if I get any immediate changes. I have also spent many hours reviewing the state of cell biology science, particularly with regard to how these PUFAs function within cellular structures. What I see is a convergence of the science toward a better understanding of cell structures and function, and that the hypothesis of the cell wall structure as a dynamic lipid bi-layer punctuated with molecular structures forming various “channels”, “pores”, “pumps” and other yet to be determined structures will prove to be correct. I also am convinced that the ways that PUFAs are incorporated into cell membrane structures will continue to unfold, and their dietary importance will be validated. I think that Dr. Peat is ignoring a massive amount of progress in understanding these functions and will be found wrong on many of his opinions.
To reinforce my opinion with my readers, I send you to an important article on DHA and brain function by my favorite nutritionist Byron Richards – this is a ‘must-read’ article for understanding the importance of omega-3 fats in promoting health and avoiding the diseases of aging: Resolvins & Protectins: Did You Get Your Anti-Aging DHA Today? Byron pulls together several recent study outcomes that fortify the benefits of incorporating these fats in our diets, and gives you links to the studies to read for yourself if you want the details.
Good living – Frank