William Banting - Letter on Corpulence

In 1862, William Banting visited noted surgeon William Harvey, about his excessive weight. Banting had tried everything commonly suggested in his day. Exercise, fasting, purgatives, restricting his calories, and nothing worked. Harvey prescribed a diet he had heard about in France. The recommended diet was mainstream medicine in Europe, but not yet in the UK.

It worked so well that, in 1864, Banting published a 16 page pamphlet, Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public describing the diet and his experience using it.

William's Banting Diet

  • Meat, fish, and poultry, with no limitation on animal or dairy fats.
  • Small portions of low sugar fruits, and small pieces of toast.
  • Zero, sugar, sweets, or starchy foods. No beer.
  • Wine and spirits were allowed.

Adoption of Banting's Diet

Banting's diet was included in the medical text-book "The Principles and Practice of Medicine," by Sir William Osler, then a physician at Johns Hopkins (1892).

German physician Dr Wilhelm Ebstein was critical, but took it back to Europe. His research into obesity, and gout identified the importance of fat in the diet. Wilhelm Ebstein, is really the father of the high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, after realising that the key was replacing carbohydrates with fat, not protein, as fat reduced hunger more effectively.

German and Austrian scientists were the leading researchers in nutritional science in the world until WWII. After the war, their knowledge was ignored and led by American propaganda and political decisions, nutrition was over-taken by a non-scientific fad focused on reducing saturated fat in the diet. This idea never had any scientific basis.

The Banting Diet

In the last ten years, much new scientific work has shown the value of LCHF diets, technically known as ketogenic diets. It's a well tested old idea, especially in Germany and Austria 100 years ago, and in the USA until the 1930's. The Real Meal Revolution has used advances in nutrition and medical understanding since then, to design a modern diet, firmly based on scientific research about human nutrition.