Pioneers of Diabetes – William Banting

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William Banting is known for the being the first person to promote the benefits of a low-carb diet , which was originally referred to as the “Banting diet”.

Almost 150 years after his renowned booklet ‘ Letter on Corpulance, Addressed to the Public ’ was published in 1863, the Banting diet has been backed up by several clinical trials as being safe and effective for weight loss, and it is now finally being acknowledged as a beneficial diet for people with diabetes.

Low-carb origins

Banting was not a scientist. In fact, he was a highly skilful carpenter and notable undertaker to the rich and famous, including King George III in 1820.

In his thirties, Banting started to become overweight, and was told by a surgeon to do more exercise Banting found, though, that this just increased his appetite.

He tried a variety of weight loss options such as the starvation diet and bathing in spa waters, but he eventually wound up in hospital for his weight.

By 1862, aged 65, Banting weighed 92 kg (202 lbs or 14st 6 lbs) and was only 165cm (5 ft 5 inches) tall, giving him a BMI of over 33 kg/m2. At the point of giving up on his weight loss, he also had an umbilical rupture, his sight was failing and he was becoming increasingly deaf.

But then Banting met Dr William Harvey, an ear, nose and throat specialist. It turned out that Harvey had been attending lectures in Paris by Claude Bernard on the liver, which led Harvey to think that food elements play a significant role in diabetes.

Harvey was as interested in Banting’s obesity as much as his hearing loss and he instructed him to give up bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer and potatoes – foods that all contained starch and sugar.

Five months later, Banting was down to 184 lbs and, by the following August, 156 lbs. Moreover, his hearing had returned, his sight had improved and he was more agile.