RFF#69 – Low-carb diets were first popularized in 1863

In 1863, an obese English undertaker named William Banting published a booklet called “Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public” where he described the benefits of a  low-carbohydrate diet.  He was 66 years old when he lost 46 pounds (originally weighting 202 pounds) on this diet, and wrote that “the great charms and comfort of the system are that its effects are palpable within a week of trial and creates a natural stimulus to persevere for a few weeks more”.

Coincidentally, William Banting is a distant relative of Frederick Banting, the co-discover of insulin. This is a strange coincidence because William Harvey (the doctor who told William Banting about the benefit of low carb diets), first learned about low-carb diets from a conference in Paris where they were promoted as being ideal for diabetes management. Oddly enough, Banting’s discovery of insulin would eventually eliminate the need for such diets for type I diabetics. Nevertheless, to this day, low-carb diets may be a strategic diet for some type II diabetics.

I learned about this fact from: Bravata et al. Efficacy and Safety of Low-Carbohydrate Diets A Systematic Review. JAMA 289(14); 2003.