How Mr. Banting Lost 35 Pounds in 8 Months - Part II

Click Here for Part I

Part II

Luckily for Banting, he consulted a surgeon who had recently been to Paris. The doctor had just heard the great physiologist Claude Bernard lecture on diabetes.

The liver, reported Bernard, secretes glucose, the substance of both sugar and starch. It was this glucose that accumulates excessively in the bloodstream of diabetics. It struck him that "a diet of only meat and dairy would check the secretion of sugar in the urine of a diabetic.

Banting's surgeon immediately formulated a dietary regimen for Banting. Namely, "complete abstinence from sugars and starches.

After all, wrote the doctor, we know that to fatten up animals, "a saccharine (sugar) and farinaceous (flour) diet is used." He thought "excessive obesity might be allied to diabetes as to its cause...and if a purely animal diet were useful in the latter disease, a combination of animal food with a vegetable diet that contained neither sugar nor starch might...arrest the undue formation of fat."

So here's the regime Banting followed for the next year:

"He ate three meals a day of meat fish, or game, usually five or six ounces at a meal, with one or two stale toast or cooked fruit on the side. He had his evening tea with a few more ounces of fruit or stale toast. He scrupulously avoided any other food that might contain either sugar or starch, in particular bread, milk, beer, sweets and potatoes.

Despite a considerable allowance of alcohol in Banting's regimen - four or five glasses of wine each day, a cordial every morning, and an evening tumbler of gin, whisky or brandy - Banting dropped thirty-five pounds by the following May (eight months later) and fifty pounds by early the next year.

I have not felt better in health than now for the last twenty-six years,' he wrote. 'My other bodily ailments have become mere matters of history.'" - Gary Taubes, 2007

That was 1864.

Banting's sixteen page Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to The Public, launched the world's first popular diet craze. Within a year, Banting "had entered the English language as a verb meaning 'to diet.' "

If someone is "gouty obese, and nervous, we strongly recommend him to 'bant' " suggested the Pall Mall Gazette in June, 1865. - Gary Taubes, 2007

Guess how the medical community of the day reacted? 

Some, writes Taubes,

"did what members of established societies often do when confronted with a radical new concept: they attacked both the message and the messenger. The Lancet, (like today's Newsweek), first whined that Banting's diet was old news. Second...that his diet could be dangerous."

One hundred and fifty years later, some in the medical community raise the same question:

Is a low carb approach safe?

Today we have many modern versions of Banting's low carb diet, most notably Atkins and South Beach.

For some people, however, the question remains:

Is a low carb routine dangerous? That's next.

To be continued...