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WILLIAM BANTING: The Father of the Low-Carbohydrate Diet
Barry Groves ^ | 2002

Posted on 01/06/2004 9:37:17 AM PST by dennisw

The Father of the Low-Carbohydrate Diet

For two decades 'healthy eating' propaganda has influenced the way we eat. Over the same period there has been a consequent dramatic rise in obesity and associated conditions. This has led to a backlash which has seen a rash of diet books advocating high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets described as 'new' and 'revolutionary'.

But in reality, they are not. The first low-carbohydrate diet book was written in 1863 by William Banting as a service to his fellow Man. His name passed into the language as the verb 'to bant'.

That the 'Banting diet' works has been attested to by 140 years of epidemiological studies and clinical trials.

For the sake of our health, it is time we started 'banting' again.


The Father of the Low-Carbohydrate Diet

For three decades we have been told that for our health and to lose weight we all should eat a diet based on carbohydrate foods: breads, pasta, fruit and vegetables, and low in fat. Over the period there has been such a dramatic increase in obesity and related diseases that recently there has been a strong backlash: cut out foods high in carbohydrates and eat a lot more fat. In the 1990s and increasingly over the past year, this latest 'fad' diet has taken the world by storm.

There seems to be a general belief that the rash of low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets are 'new' or 'revolutionary' in some way. Popular books certainly give that impression. But nothing could be further from the truth. I started eating a low-carbohydrate diet in 1962 when a doctor advised me that this the best way to lose weight. You may also think that these 'new' low-carbohydrate regimes have been pioneered by far-seeing and learned medical men. Again, this is incorrect. The truth is that we would probably never have heard of diets where people could lose weight eating that most calorific of foods, fat, if it had not been for a 19th century English carpenter by the name of William Banting.

William Banting (1796-1878)

Only three men in history have been immortalised by having their names enter the English language as verbs. The first was Irishman, Captain Boycott, whose name entered the language in the 1860s. Another was Louis Pasteur and the third was the subject of this article – William Banting, a man who came to have a great impact on many peoples' lives, including mine.

Being overweight has affected a small proportion of the population for centuries but clinical obesity was relatively rare until the 20th century. Indeed obesity remained at a fairly stable low level until about 1980. Then its incidence began to increase dramatically. By 1992 one in every ten people in Britain was overweight; a mere five years later that figure had almost doubled. In the USA it is even worse: by 1991 one in three adults was overweight. That was an increase of eight percent of the population over just one decade despite the fact that Americans spend a massive $33 billion a year on 'slimming'.

It may be hard to believe, but this has occurred in the face of increasing knowledge, awareness, and education about obesity, nutrition and exercise. It has happened despite the fact that calorie intake has gone down by twenty percent over the past ten years and exercise clubs have mushroomed. More people are cutting calories now than ever before in their history yet more of them are becoming overweight. There is now a pandemic of increasing weight across the industrialised world.

But it needn't be like that, for nearly 140 years ago one man changed thinking on diet completely.

It all started with a small booklet entitled Letter on Corpulence Addressed to the Public , not written by a dietician or a doctor, but by an undertaker named William Banting. It became one of the most famous books on obesity ever written. First published in 1863, it went into many editions and continued to be published long after the author's death. The book was revolutionary and it should have changed western medical thinking on diet for weight loss forever.

William Banting was well-regarded in 19th century society. He was a fine carpenter, and undertaker to the rich and famous. But if he had remained only that, his name would probably be remembered today merely as the Duke of Wellington's coffin maker, if indeed it were remembered at all.

None of Banting's family on either parent's side had any tendency to obesity. However, when he was in his thirties, William started to become overweight. He consulted an eminent surgeon, a kind personal friend, who recommended increased “bodily exertion before any ordinary daily labours began”. Banting had a heavy boat and lived near the river so he took up rowing the boat for two hours a day. All this did for him, however, was to give him a prodigious appetite. He put on weight and was advised to stop. So much for exercise!

He was advised that he could remedy his obesity by moderate and light food. But wasn't really told what was intended by this. He says he brought his system into a low, impoverished state without reducing his weight, which caused many obnoxious boils to appear and two rather formidable carbuncles. He went into hospital and was ably operated upon – but also fed into increased obesity.

Banting went into hospital twenty times in as many years for weight reduction. He tried swimming, walking, riding and taking the sea air. He drank “gallons of physic and liquor potassae”, took the spa waters at Leamington, Cheltenham and Harrogate, and tried low-calorie, starvation diets; he took Turkish baths at a rate of up to three a week for a year but lost only 6 pounds in all that time, and had less and less energy.

He was assured by one physician, whom he calls “one of the ablest physicians in the land”, that putting weight on was perfectly natural; that he, himself, had put on a pound for every year of manhood and he was not surprised by Banting's condition – he merely advised “more exercise, vapour baths and shampooing and medicine”.

Banting tried every form of slimming treatment the medical profession could devise but it was all in vain. Eventually, discouraged and disillusioned – and still very fat – he gave up.

By 1862, at the age of 66, William Banting weighed 202 lbs (14st 6 lbs) and he was only 5 ft 5 ins tall. Banting says that although he was of no great weight or size, still, he says:
“I could not stoop to tie my shoes, so to speak, nor to attend to the little offices humanity requires without considerable pain and difficulty which only the corpulent can understand, I have been compelled to go downstairs slowly backward to save the jar of increased weight on the knee and ankle joints and have been obliged to puff and blow over every slight exertion, particularly that of going upstairs.”
He also had an umbilical rupture, and other bodily ailments.

On top of this he found that his sight was failing and he was becoming increasingly deaf.

Because of this last problem, he consulted an aural specialist who made light of his case, sponged his ears out – and blistered the outer ear – without the slightest benefit and without enquiring into his other ailments. Banting was not satisfied: he left in a worse plight than when he went to the specialist.

Eventually, in August of 1862 Banting consulted a noted Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons: an ear, nose and throat specialist, Dr. William Harvey. It was an historic meeting.

Dr. Harvey had recently returned from a symposium in Paris where he had heard Dr Claude Bernard, a renowned physiologist, talk of a new theory about the part the liver played in the disease of diabetes. Bernard believed that the liver, as well as secreting bile, also secreted a sugar-like substance that it made from elements of the blood passing through it. This started Harvey's thinking about the roles of the various food elements in diabetes and he began a major course of research into the whole question of the way in which fats, sugars and starches affected the body.

When Dr. Harvey met Banting, he was interested as much by Banting's obesity as by his deafness, for he recognised that the one was the cause of the other. So Harvey put Banting on a diet. By Christmas, Banting was down to 184 lbs and, by the following August, 156 lbs.

Banting's diet to that date had followed this pattern:

Breakfast: bread and milk for breakfast, or a pint of tea with plenty of milk and sugar, and buttered toast (this was before the invention of breakfast cereals but it is actually very similar to the modern cereal breakfast);
Dinner: meat, beer, bread and pastry for dinner;
Tea: a meal similar to breakfast;
Supper: generally a fruit tart or bread and milk.
Banting says he had little comfort and far less sound sleep.

Harvey's advice to him was to give up bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer and potatoes. These, he told Banting, contained starch and saccharine matter tending to create fat and were to be avoided altogether. The word 'saccharine' meant sugar.

When told what he could not eat, Banting's immediate thought was that he had very little left to live on. Harvey soon showed him that really there was ample and Banting was only too happy to give the plan a fair trial. Within a very few days, he says, he derived immense benefit from it: the plan leading to an excellent night's rest with six to eight hours' sleep per night.

For each meal, Harvey allowed Banting:

TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: diet; health
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1 posted on 01/06/2004 9:37:18 AM PST by dennisw
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To: dennisw
bump for Banting
2 posted on 01/06/2004 9:46:55 AM PST by tom paine 2
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To: dennisw
interesting, thanx
3 posted on 01/06/2004 9:47:43 AM PST by breakem
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To: All
Rank Location Receipts Donors/Avg Freepers/Avg Monthlies
15 Illinois 325.00

Thanks for donating to Free Republic!

Move your locale up the leaderboard!

4 posted on 01/06/2004 9:48:19 AM PST by Support Free Republic (Hi Mom! Hi Dad!)
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To: dennisw
Mmmm, meat!

Someone alert PETA!

After losing 36 lbs in under 2 months, Atkins or Banting, I am a believer. It has literally changed my life for the better.
5 posted on 01/06/2004 9:48:47 AM PST by Trampled by Lambs (...and pecked by the dove...)
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To: dennisw
This is interesting. In reading period literature I had often come across an expression like, "She is banting." Had no idea what it meant. Now it's clear, this was a nineteenth-century way of saying, "She's doing Atkins." Some things never change.
6 posted on 01/06/2004 9:50:25 AM PST by Capriole (5'10", size 6)
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To: dennisw
Thanks for the post! I am bookmarking it. Great history of low-carb diets. While I am not currently on one, I believe it can work for many people, and should be in the "arsenal" so to speak, for people trying to reduce weight.
7 posted on 01/06/2004 9:51:05 AM PST by Paradox (Cogito ergo boom.)
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To: Trampled by Lambs
PETA conspiracy...hummm...ever notice it is a food PYRAMID?!?!
8 posted on 01/06/2004 9:51:13 AM PST by 50sDad ("You used ALL THE GLUE on PURPOSE! It's a MAJOR AWARD!")
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To: dennisw
Why I didn't know that...
9 posted on 01/06/2004 9:55:47 AM PST by Pharmboy (History's greatest agent for freedom: The US Armed Forces)
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To: dennisw
Only three men in history have been immortalised by having their names enter the English language as verbs.

Like we all go around saying "I want to bant" all the time?

I'll bet a serious search would turn up many more such names. Off the top, I think of only "gerrymander" and the probably apocryphal "crap." Maybe some other time :-)

10 posted on 01/06/2004 9:58:23 AM PST by T'wit
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To: dennisw
I started South Beach on Jan. 1, have lost 7 pounds in 6 days (staying well-hydrated the whole time), and feel fine.

I really do think that a diet high in protein with some fat and some low-glycemic index carbs (mainly veggies and a little fruit) is the way to eat for a lifetime. I tried Weight Watchers, and although I lost about 16 pounds over three months, I always felt hungry and snacked a lot on sugary, empty calorie JUNK simply because it was low in points. I have not been hungry once in the last week on South Beach. I was a major carb addict...pasta once a day, bagel with breakfast, sandwiches at lunch, and a big bowl of sugary ice cream for dessert. Much of my excess fat is in my gut, and it got there mainly because of my carb addiction.

I *like* not eating "diet" foods loaded with sugar and unpronounceable ingredients. I *like* to be able to eat cheese and olive oil and eggs! I've finally got a weight-loss plan that I don't mind doing...because I feel full, I can exercise without getting hungry, and it doesn't feel like work (no calorie counting!).

I go to Phase Two (limited re-introduction of low-GI, high-fiber carbs like whole wheat pasta and fruit) in 8 days and I don't miss anything that I used to eat. The sugar and starch cravings were gone within two days.

(I know there's a lot of Atkins folks here, nothing against Atkins - it's just that I'm vegetarian and South Beach has a reputation for being far more vegetarian-friendly, so that's what I went with.)
11 posted on 01/06/2004 10:11:34 AM PST by Rubber_Duckie_27
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To: dennisw; 4ConservativeJustices
bump--read later
12 posted on 01/06/2004 10:12:36 AM PST by Ff--150 (What is Is)
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To: T'wit
I can think of a girl's name verb: She Lewinskyed her boss to keep her job.
13 posted on 01/06/2004 10:14:36 AM PST by Reeses
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To: dennisw; carlo3b; SamAdams76; Right2Lifer
14 posted on 01/06/2004 10:17:47 AM PST by TruthNtegrity (I refuse to call candidates for President "Democratic" as they are NOT. They are Democrats.)
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Comment #15 Removed by Moderator

To: HaloStatue
What about Clymer? At least around these parts, it's part of the vernacular.
16 posted on 01/06/2004 10:37:30 AM PST by chriservative
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To: T'wit
How about "Borked"?

Or "Clintonese"?

17 posted on 01/06/2004 10:42:54 AM PST by ThirstyMan
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To: Ff--150
Another sermon at lunch. Coinkydink?

Lunch was high in fat & protein. Losing the sugared tea is killer. :o(

18 posted on 01/06/2004 11:25:51 AM PST by 4CJ (Dialing 911 doesn't stop a crime - a .45 does.)
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To: 4ConservativeJustices
better watch out---those cowinkidinks will shift your paradigm.....
19 posted on 01/06/2004 12:50:17 PM PST by Ff--150 (What is Is)
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To: ThirstyMan
Bork is an excellent example.

Here are eight more eponymic verbs, just to jeer at the article's claim:

20 posted on 01/06/2004 1:20:54 PM PST by T'wit
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