Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dr. Raymond Peat's Books

They are thin and easy to carry around, at least..:)
If you are hoping for authoritative tomes that would once and for all put to rest your doubts regarding Dr. Peat's views, don't buy his books.

Buy them if you are on the market for more skepticism.

I must admit, I had expected books published by a publishing house specialized in scientific works, texts with a clear structure, fully edited and with a comprehensive index. I was hoping that Ray Peat's books will further my knowledge and enlighten me on the topics that his articles and radio interventions had only touched upon.

Alas, there is (let's say "almost") nothing in the books that you couldn't have found on the net already if you followed the excellent collections put together by his followers which include articles, radio shows and even published emails.

The books are self-published collections of articles.

The most developed of them is called "From PMS to Menopause. Female Hormones in Context". 189 pages ending with the following note:

Added to the artisanal publishing, this rather aggressive promotion of Progest-E places a serious question mark over the book's contents. I cannot see a good reason not to name Dr. Peat's patented product here and I honestly do not see why Dr. Peat does not name it as well, since he so obviously refers to it in the note above. Is this name omission business intended to not make the entire book appear like a "companion" to Progest-E? Be that as it may, even without the name of the patented product, the book still reads like an extensive effort to persuade Progest-E users that the progesterone product they bought is good for them and to persuade readers that the mysteriously unnamed but obviously referred to Progest-E should be bought and used.
It is all about context, right?
I did read the book carefully. I underlined many things. Sometimes, these were just interesting tidbits I did not know. For instance, the fact that "a male runner's estrogen is often doubled after a race" or that "Estrogen and insulin lower blood sugar, progesterone and thyroid sustain it". Sometimes, I noted snippets of speculation that sound pretty cool, stuff I tend to believe in or that I have seen elsewhere information about: "Antibodies to joint material are found after even a mechanical or thermal injury to the joint; twisting cartilage makes it antigenic; autoimmune disease is probably nothing very special" but I would stop underlining when things went off in directions I didn't find convincing, like the estrogen-demonization pathway, very present in the book. The above sentence goes on with: "estrogen is now known to be responsible for many forms of it, including osteoarthritis".
But many times I underlined things that were unsubstantiated in a major way. Key elements of the "progesterone is good for women" theory are left hanging, simply things we should trust Ray Peat on.
For instance, on page 68, there is this paragraph that had me pull my hair in frustration (my reactions are in red):  
"Progesterone and DHEA are the precursors for the other more specialized steroid hormones, including cortisol, aldosterone (sodium retaining hormone), estrogen and testosterone. The formation of these other hormones is tightly regulated (by what?), so that taking a precursor will correct a deficiency (but why would that unnamed "regulatory authority" ever allow a deficiency to begin with?) of the specialized hormone, but will not create an excess (if 'it' allowed it to be deficient, how can we trust 'it' that it will a) increase b) not overly increase the deficient hormone?). At least in the case of progesterone (why suddenly ditch the other precursors, then? Are they less likely to be properly used by the unnamed "regulatory authority" and if so, why?), an excess tends to balance or neutralize an excess of the specialized hormone, so it has been described as having anti-androgenic, anti-estrogen, anti-aldosterone and anti-cortisol functions (I find it so easy to believe all this, especially that it totally contradicts my own horrible experience of attempted progesterone supplementation!)".  
WHAT? Is that IT? I mean, the paragraph above establishes a whole universe and places progesterone on a position that is incredibly powerful, a god among hormones. No reference is given, however, Ray Peat merrily goes on to other things. That is often the feeling I get reading his books and/or articles: he drops bombs and then pretends nothing has happened and keeps on gathering pretty flowers and spreading references/explanations for THOSE!
Even so, I believe that the paragraph unequivocally implies that, should someone be in need of estrogen, the supplemental progesterone, its precursor, might just oblige. However, although half the book is about how estrogen is the work of the devil, this obvious pathway is never explored and the idea that women who are low in estrogen should not touch progesterone is never even mentioned, not a fleeting remark, nada! Besides, what a can of worms that is, given how a woman's hormones fluctuate throughout most of her adult life.
Besides the variations on the "progesterone=good/estrogen=bad" theme, the book is also replete with the usual believable advice Dr. Peat has extended for a long time and for which he has gathered his current following.  Sunlight, red light, coconut oil, saturated fat, the benefits of milk and OJ, the malediction of PUFAs are all there.  Honestly, were it not for the hormonal exaggerations, I would recommend it to my friends.
However, tall tales of progesterone wondrousness had me roll my eyes too many times in regret that Dr. Peat ever embarked on his progesterone-worship journey. Too many formulations like "I suspect", "probably", "seems to be", "appears", "from my observations", "x suggests y" "indicate that" we are not on solid scientific ground.
I will end this review with another one of Ray Peat's optimistic speculations, one that might entice you to take advantage of the summer season better, instead of embarking on unsafe hormonal supplementation. I don't know about you, but I'd rather be cured (or harmed) by some good old sun exposure than by rubbing on my skin powerful substances recognized as carcinogenic by the scientific community and labeled as such by the authorities: 
"I suspect that light on the skin directly increases the skin's production of steroids, without depending on other organs. Different steroids probably involve different frequencies of light, but orange and red light seem to be important frequencies."

No comments:

Post a Comment