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Ray Peat, Paleo, and 80-10-10: A Synthesis

Lately, things have been clicking like crazy. All the confusion and contradictory information from Ray Peat, Paleo, and 80-10-10 is finally congealing into a framework that I think makes a lot of sense and which resolves itself into a diet which is essentially the reverse Perfect Health Diet by which I mean that fat and carbohydrate ratios are reversed and the preferred carbohydrate source is fruit/simple sugars. Let me explain further.


Ray Peat

The main tenets of what I have read in relation to Ray Peat seem to resolve into reducing absolute PUFA levels as much as possible, maintaining a high calcium/phosphorus ratio, preference of sugar to starch as a fuel source, the importance of salt, and balancing your amino acids by limiting more common (and more inflammatory) amino acids such as tryptophan and preferring less common (anti-inflammatory) amino acids such as gelatin. These lead to several base recommendations of his such as high dairy consumption (especially milk), avoiding muscle meats, and eating a lot of fruit. I believe these explain a lot of the successes and difficulties of those following an 80-10-10 protocol as well as some of the problems of a Paleo diet as usually done.



As you already no doubt know, Paleo is about getting rid of beans and grains and eating meat, vegetables, and fruit. The first iteration of Paleo was low carb while the second iteration was at least moderate carb. In both cases, the preferred fuel source has been saturated fat and the preferred carbohydrate source has been starch. Sugar has always been demonized within Paleo even in fruit which has generally led to very low sugar consumption among this demographic. I would like to suggest that the most common Paleo diet is really the diet that humans adapted to once we began moving to more northern climates and that this switch over was relatively easy due to the metabolic flexibility most humans have. However, I would also like to suggest that perhaps lingering issues on a Paleo diet are due to the fact that your main fuel sources (saturated fat and starch) are later adaptations that are more difficult for you to process due to metabolic damage sustained through multiple generations. I will get into this more in a second but first.



So how does Ray Peat explain the success and failure of 80-10-10? The extremely low fat levels in 80-10-10 will produce extremely low levels of absolute PUFA in the diet, the high consumption of greens mandated by the diet (half by volume) will produce a very good calcium/phosphorus ratio, and the very low protein consumption coupled by the lack of animal protein means pro-inflammatory proteins are basically eliminated. The dental problems (and probably also the skin problems) encountered on 80-10-10 are due to a lack of fat soluble vitamins and could be solved by adding eggs, butter, and liver to the diet. Low body temperature can be explained by the fact that the thyroid is likely being suppressed by any raw cruciferous vegetables being consumed and the fact that low protein (as Matt Stone has pointed out) depresses thyroid. Simply by eating more protein and not being vegan, this diet becomes a lot better and I think may potentially represent a truer picture of the Paleo diet.


A Hypothesis on the Evolution of the Human Diet

If we look at bonobos then we see that before our evolution into humans, we were likely frugivores with a small consumption of meat and vegetables. Higher consumption of meat is likely what forced our digestive tracts to change (shrink the colon, increase the size of the large intestine, etc) and with this came the capability of relying on more calorie dense foods. If we consider cooking to be an adaptation that comes some amount of time after eating meat then we see that humans likely ate very little starch until the advent of cooking at which point the caloric density of root vegetables became available. I am thus proposing that there is a hierarchy of foods we are best adapted to and that this hierarchy is as follows: fruit, meat, greens, starch. Considering that humans evolved in equatorial Africa, it makes perfect sense that the diet would be as such since there would be no need to suddenly stop eating fruit in a place where fruit is abundant year-round. I believe the move to starch as a main energy substrate for diet is likely the result of the fact that roots grow and store well in northern climates thus making them suitable for humans there and the fact that because roots are so much more calorie dense, they may be seen as a more efficient energy source than fruit. This is why I think most modern foragers rely on starch or fat for bulk calories rather than fruit. The first authentically human diet appears from this to be either high sugar with some meat and greens or high fat with some fruit and greens. However, seeing as we began as frugivores, there is no reason why we would suddenly switch to eating so much meat.

Because humans are built to be flexible and adaptive, the northern diet should present no challenges to the normal human and, indeed, this is why you see such a huge variance in diets among human cultures. You see the Inuit, the Masai, the Kitavans, and so on. Each group eats highly different ratios of food yet all are lean and healthy on their traditional diet.


Matt Stone has also pointed out that people coming from traditional cultures can often withstand much more stress than your average person including the stress of subpar and denatured foods while those from the industrial cultures suffer allergies and bad digestion rampantly. If we can suppose that most people in the industrial nations suffer many of their ills as a result of reduced ability to withstand stress from the buildup of multi-generational malnutrition and lifestyle then perhaps the metabolic flexibility that allowed humans to moved from a high sugar, meat, and greens diet to a high fat, starch, meat, and greens diet has been impaired also. These people, in particular, I believe may benefit from the tropical (or southern) paleo diet which may be viewed as a more relaxed, omnivorous 80-10-10 or a sugar fueled reverse Perfect Health Diet.

This is what I shall be experimenting with in the next few months to see how it all bears out. Has anyone eaten like this (besides Minger and Roddy)? What is your experience?


Filed under: 80-10-10, Diet, Health, Paleo, Peat, PUFA, TPD, Veganism, , ,

10 Responses

  1. Sile says:

    Hello there!
    I have recently come to pretty much the same conclusion as you have, after extensive research into diets, and trying several (paleo, GAPS, WAPF, low-carb etc) over the past few years.
    I like your concise synopsis of how these all fit together, and it really makes a lot of sense.
    Back when I only knew about “paleo”, I had often wondered why some people seemed to do so well on 80-10-10…but like you said, there always seems to be some long-term skin/teeth etc issues that pop up.
    I did well eating typical low-carb paleo, but it didn’t completely heal me (I have relapsing multiple sclerosis). It wasn’t until I found Ray Peat’s work that it all sort of came together, and now I feel like I have the knowladge to actually get my body healing itself!
    Feel free to email me if you want to correspond about our dietary adventures! 🙂

    • jingo says:

      I think the reason that Ray Peat has been striking such a nerve is precisely because of how he’s been able to conceptually bridge these very different (and relatively dogmatic) communities by implying not that one is wrong but that both are right but not necessarily for the reasons they think. A big step.
      Good luck with your journey!

    • ridesincars says:

      I have stumbled upon Ray Peat due to current MS episode and found this today. Have used Swank and extreme diets in past and am now trying to follow Peat philosophy. I was wondering what you are doing to manage your MS.

  2. […] hypothesis for what I believe underlies the possible efficacy of a Ray Peat style diet in this post but I wanted to go into a little more detail in regards to […]

  3. cliff180 says:

    I’ve done 811 for about 8 months, than did WAPF/Paleo type diets for about 2 years. Been following ray’s principles for about 6 months now with great results. Acne is gone, lean gains come easily, life is generally stress free and there are generally no cravings.

  4. Daisy says:

    Fantastic synthesis of ideas! I had come to a similar conclusion as you, but hadn’t been able to articulate it so well. Thanks for the article.

  5. Brad says:

    i also came to a similar synthesis (albeit much later). It’s a neat feeling not only having it all gel together, but realizing other people are digging on it too 🙂

  6. […] Ray Peat, Paleo, and 80-10-10: A Synthesis | An … – Jan 08, 2012 · Lately, things have been clicking like crazy. All the confusion and contradictory information from Ray Peat, Paleo, and 80-10-10 is finally congealing …… […]

  7. reggin says:

    Hey, I’m a big fan of this. 80/10/10 with small amount of meat, once or a couple times a week.

    I’m a little confused on one point you make however.

    What makes you think that ” metabolic flexibility” has been damaged for descendants of multiple generations of industrial eating? I think “metabolic flexibility” is what allowed generations to SURVIVE on these unhealthy foods, but as you said, over the course of generations it builds up and now we are starting to see the detrimental effects of imperfect eating. What i’m saying is the metabolic flexibility hasn’t been lowered, it is the same, but the limits of this flexibility take generations to build up and have their effects become noticeable.

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