Ray Peat

Biologist and Author

Raymond Peat PhD, better known online as Ray Peat, is a biologist and author whose work focuses on endocrine physiology, with a particular emphasis on achieving and maintaining a high metabolic rate. Ray is one of the few people who spoke about the mitochondrial effects of red and near-infrared radiation decades ago, before a large amount of research became available.

CytoLED: Hello Dr. Peat, could you tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and your interest in human physiology?

Ray Peat: I got BS and MA degrees, and taught various humanities subjects in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, and operated Blake College in Mexico, a school with a critical attitude rather than a curriculum, before deciding in 1968 to return to the University of Oregon for a PhD (1972) in biology-biochemistry. The nature of light and its interactions with matter have been of continuing interest to me. In my teens I experimented with the effect of different colored lights on plants, and later began investigating the state of electrons in tissues.

CytoLED: You were the first person through whom we learned about the effects of red and near-infrared light. How and when did you first learn about the therapeutic effects of light in general, and specifically the effects of red and near-infrared light?

Ray Peat: I met a practitioner of chromotherapy and realized that the opposing effects of red and blue light that I had seen in my experiments had been recognized for a long time. When I moved to cloudy Eugene in 1966, I met several women who developed PMS within a few weeks of moving there to study, and whose symptoms disappeared when they used bright incandescent lights. Knowing about the toxic effects of blue light, I assumed that it contributed to the effect by increasing activity of the adrenergic nervous system.

CytoLED: Do you feel that humans have fully adapted to living as far from the equator as many do nowadays?

Ray Peat: I think part of the adaptation involves an increase of stress hormones; that is, the stress is objective, damaging the organism’s energy production, and so can probably never really be adapted to.

CytoLED: You're known for being a proponent of people watching their physiological state in real time, and using markers such as body temperature to self-assess one's state. How have you found red and near-infrared light therapy to interact with body temperature, and other self-assessment markers?

Ray Peat: I think red light protects mitochondrial oxidative metabolism, and so allows the body to regulate its temperature. I think the main effect of [far-] infrared light is a direct heating action on cells. It’s helpful when the environment is cool.  

Picture credit: Brad Abrahams and Jeremy Stuart (from On the Back of a Tiger)

CytoLED: What has been your personal experience using red and near-infrared light on yourself?

Ray Peat: I found that full spectrum light was effective for “winter sickness". I usually rely on sunlight or incandescent bulbs(130 volt bulbs on 120 volt circult).

CytoLED: What have been your experiences communicating with people who have used such light, perhaps based on your recommendation?

Ray Peat: Prolonged use on head and back have helped with neurodegenerative problems.

CytoLED: Are there any therapeutic modalities that you feel augment the effects of the light?

Ray Peat: Consuming carbohydrates.

CytoLED:  Some recent research indicates that red light can exert at least some of its beneficial effects even when cytochrome c oxidase is absent, what do you think explains this?

Ray Peat: Many kinds of stress can cause displaced electrons in other structures that produce continuing inflammation and malfunctioning of immune processes.

CytoLED: We've spoken to Dr. Michael Hamblin, and he feels that fairly large doses (>100.000 J) of red and near-infrared light can be useful when distributed over a large enough surface area, such as half or all of the body. Anecdotally, we've found such doses to appear very beneficial to ourselves, reducing stress systemically to a notable degree. Do you have any general thoughts on using such large total amounts of light energy?

Ray Peat: Both intensity and larger area produce a quicker result.

CytoLED: We feel that using an LED setup is an effective way to administer large amounts of light without much heat accompanying it, do you have any personal experience using a large LED setup?

Ray Peat: In the 1990s I made some large arrays of LEDs on paddles and canvas strips that could be wrapped around the body. The time of day is probably important, to interrupt the stress as soon as possible, for example around dawn.

CytoLED: Thanks for answering our questions, Ray! To find out more about Dr. Peat, check out his website.