The origins of today’s low-carb diets can be traced back to a Mr. William Banting. Mr Banting lived in London, England during the mid 19th century. He was a severely overweight man who had searched unsuccessfully for solutions to his innumerable health-related disorder. Back then, doctors believed weight-gain to be a side effect of ageing – and since Banting was retired, that was it! He tried eating less but still gained weight and his varied health problems grew worse. He could not understand how the small amounts of food he did allow himself to eat hadn’t fixed his weight issue:
“Few men have led a more active life – bodily or mentally – from a constitutional anxiety for regularity, precision, and order, during fifty years’ business career, from which I had retired, so that my corpulence and subsequent obesity were not through neglect of necessary bodily activity, nor from excessive eating, drinking, or self indulgence of any kind, except that I partook of the simple aliments of bread, milk, butter, beer, sugar, and potatoes more freely than my age required…”
Active Americans today may recognize Banting’s ” unhealthy” diet:
“My former dietary table was bread and milk for breakfast, or a pint of tea with plenty of milk, sugar, and buttered toast; meat, beer, much bread (of which I was always very fond) and pastry for dinner, the meal of tea similar to that of breakfast, and generally a fruit tart or bread and milk for supper. I had little comfort and far less sound sleep.”
Today, Banting may breakfast with a danish, doughnut or buttered muffin washed down with coffee and cream; a fast-food burger, French fries and soda for lunch; a defrosted chicken pot pie or pizza for dinner followed by strawberry ice-cream for dinner; and a late-night snack of packaged cereal with whole milk, to take care of his TV munchies. It is hardly surprising the man was obese! It is remarkable how similar Banting’s diet is to today’s typical fast-food-addicted adult.
Banting’s physicians gave him a “forbidden foods list” and he lost 50 lbs and 13″ in one year. By sticking to his new “Permitted Foods List”, he kept the lost weight off and lived a much longer and healthier life than he would otherwise have.
The change in his girth and improvement in his health were so obvious that his friends noticed and wanted to know what he was doing to achieve all this. Banting felt so very much better; he could see the difference in himself. He decided to write a pamphlet.
That pamphlet (it would be a $7 eBook today, wouldn’t it?) was entitled ‘A Letter on Corpulence’. In it, he described how he had lost the weight and detailed both his meal plan and his maintenance regimen. It was hugely [I couldn't resist] popular, widely read and was translated into many languages for sale throughout Europe. Unfortunately, its popularity was lost to the public consciousness over time and it was forgotten.
As the medical community learned more about “calories”, the concept of “counting” them became part of a dietary fix. Other issues such as how much of which foods should be eaten, and how often are also part of 20th Century recent research.
The Low-Carb argument re-appeared with strong public acceptance in the 1970′s with the publishing of the Atkins and Scarsdale diets. The Scarsdale sets a 14-day meal plan which strictly restricts calories, while “Atkins” permits unlimited calorie consumption from protein only, with a low fat, vegetables and carb intake.
The popularity of Atkins and Scarsdale waned in the 1980′s when the U. S. Department of Agriculture promoted the consumption of grains per their food pyramid.
A return to low-carb dieting in the 1990′s came as proponents pushed the lifestyle effect of weight loss and the health benefits that come to people who eat “low-carb”. There are now an increasing number of diet variations as well as retail and internet stores which market specialty low-carb products. If you like fruit, you will perhaps prefer The South Beach version: if you want the fastest results, you may want to consider The Dukan Diet from France.
Today’s Low-Carb industry argues that over-consuming simple, refined carbohydrates leads to the body to produce too much insulin. This leads to the storage of excess fat – especially around the belly. There are many variations of Low-Carb diet, but they all agree on the negative effects that excess insulin production has on our body. In all its forms, sugar is always the bad guy.