William Banting and the First Low Carb Diet


Apr 25
Beginning of the Low Carb Diet

William Banting (1796 – 1878) was a London undertaker.

Undertaker you say? And why would an undertaker be found on the pages of a site devoted to health and wellness?

Though it is true that Frank Lloyd Wright said, “The physician can bury his mistakes.” that is not why we want to tell you about William Banting.

William Banting was a short, obese man who one day discovered he could no longer bend over to tie his shoes. “Unable to reach his laces, he gingerly eased his feet into his shoes with a boot hook – taking care as he stooped not to stress the angry boils on his buttocks.” [The Telegraph]

To avoid the pain in his knees, he walked down the stairs backwards. And besides the boils, he suffered from carbuncles, failing sight, and impaired hearing, and insomnia. He was the only one in his family who suffered from corpulence and when he found people on the street sniggering and making cruel remarks, he sunk himself into his work to avoid social gatherings.

Like anyone corpulent today, Banting tried everything. He took up to three Turkish baths a week and lost a bit. Then he tried a starvation diet, which only increased his weight when he quit that. He took brisk walks, took up horse riding and rowing. He admits, “It is true I gained muscular vigour, but with it a prodigious appetite, which I was compelled to indulge, and consequently increased in weight, until my kind old friend advised me to forsake the exercise.”

Ready to give up, he went to see his physician. However, his physician happened to be away on his usual summer holiday and instead showed up in the office of the distinguished surgeon, Dr William Harvey. When Banting laid out his struggles before the good doctor, Harvey perked up. You see, he’d just returned from a conference in Paris where he’d heard Claude Bernard deliver a lecture on diet and diabetes. Harvey took copious notes as Banting described his daily food intake.

Harvey prescribed the following: cut out potatoes, bread, sugar, milk, and beer. He tore off the sheet he’d been scribbling on and handed it to Banting. It had the following regimen upon it:

Breakfast, 9am: 6 oz of either beef, mutton, kidneys, broiled fish, bacon or cold meat of any kind except pork or veal; 9 oz of tea or coffee without milk or sugar; a little biscuit or 1 oz of dry toast.

Lunch, 2pm: 5-6 oz of any fish except salmon, herrings or eels, or any meat except pork or veal; any vegetable except potato, parsnip or beetroot, turnip or carrot; 1 oz of dry toast; fruit out of a pudding, not sweetened; any kind of poultry or game; 2-3 glasses of good claret, sherry or Madeira. Champagne, port and beer are forbidden.

Tea, 6pm: 2-3 oz of cooked fruit, a rusk or two, tea without milk or sugar.

Supper, 9pm: 3-4 oz of meat or fish similar to lunch. For nightcap, if required, a tumbler of grog (gin, whisky or brandy, without sugar) or a glass or two of claret or sherry. [The Telegraph]

Banting was absolutely delighted at this prescription. It was much more liberal than any diet he’d ever considered. He was so delighted, he tipped the good doctor an extra fifty pounds to give to his favorite hospital.

Banting stuck to his diet and lost around 50 pounds over the next two years and even wrote a booklet called Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public (still in print today) outlining his diet plan. He took no compensation for his work, and has been viewed by many as a great humanitarian.

On the darker side, he was attacked by by others and vilified for advancing his low-carb diet (very much as Robert Atkins was when he took it up 100 years later).

In his letters, Banting wrote that he regrets not having photos of himself taken at the beginning of his diet as proof to all the unbelievers. Ironic how today, before and after photos are a must in marketing any diet scheme.

Up until 1963, the word “bant” was listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. It meant, “to diet.”

Editor’s Note

Historians consider this the first low carb diet on record. It was in the 1920s that this was turned into the Ketogenic Diet, but its purpose was not to lose weight; the Ketogenic Diet was first employed to treat children with epilepsy. Today the Ketogenic Diet is being used in tests to treat Alzheimer’s patients, but truly comprehensive studies have yet to be initiated. [Ref] And as recent as March of 2019 we’ve learned that the Ketogenic Diet has benefits for cancer patients, mainly by keeping blood glucose levels down, for as we all know, Cancer Loves Sugar. However, in preliminary reporting, not all tumors respond, but cancer patients do experience beneficial effects, especially in quality of life. [Ref]

But because it helped drop pounds quickly and sometimes less painfully since it’s been known to decrease appetite, it has produced many spinoffs: the Atkins Diet, the new Jenny Craig Low Carb, the Rapid Safe Weight Loss Diet (the one we developed), etc.

We are currently writing articles about the Ketogenic Diet, so come back soon and see what we’ve discovered. (Spoiler Alert: It’s bullshit. It’s unhealthy. Sure, you might lose a few pounds in a month. It’s still bullshit. See: The Truth About the Ketogenic Diet and Dismantling the Ketogenic Diet.)

Oh, and there are critics of this low carb craze (that’s been going on for nearly two centuries), such as:

You can find a copy of this on Google Books too.

And if you’re in a hurry to learn about the Ketogenic Diet, this is our latest Affiliate Program, and let me tell you we have thoroughly checked them all out. They will all bug you later with emails, they all want you to spend your money at their site, but this one is the least offensive and, so far, the most helpful. They’re called the Keto Summit and the person in charge is Louise Hendon. It is the best we’ve seen with as little as possible BS in your inbox. And a good way to start is with her “free” book. You do pay about $10.00 shipping, and once you order, like most places they’ll make great offers (that they say you won’t get again, but you will). But we’ve found it to be the best program on the Ketogenic Diet with the least pain. Just click on the book to visit her pages.

We really liked Louise. She’s a straight shooter.

However, we did not like the ketogenic diet, for many reasons but the two biggest were:

  1. It’s very unhealthy.
  2. There is no maintenance program; you do not learn a thing about maintaining your weight.

You might want to read this: The Truth About the Ketogenic Diet and Dismantling the Ketogenic Diet.