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The History of Low Carb

"Oh, LOW CARB is that FAD diet designed by Dr. Atkins in the seventies!"

When did low carb first appear on the scene?  Was it the 70's?  Did Dr. Atkins really invent the low carb diet?  Do you know?

Low carb was around long before Dr. Atkins.  We have Dr. Atkins to thank for bringing low carb to us during our lifetime and not letting it get buried and forgotten, but we have William Banting to thank for the low carb diet. (William wasn't even a doctor!) 

William Banting wrote the first low carb book in 1863. It was titled "Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public".

William Banting was not a doctor. William Banting was a well-respected carpenter and undertaker who had very wealthy clients. For no apparent reason, in his early thirties William began to gain weight. From his 30's through 1862, then age 66, Banting consulted with every doctor, surgeon and specialist he could find regarding his weight problem. At 5 ft. 5 inches tall, he weighed 202 pounds. Banting was put on every diet and exercise regime known at the time. The results were more weight gain, failing health, sight and the onset of deafness.

In August of 1862 Banting consulted an ear, nose and throat specialist named Dr. William Harvey regarding his failing hearing. That meeting, unbeknownst to him, was about to change history.

Dr. Harvey was as interested in Banting's obesity as he was with his deafness. He realized there was a connection between the two. Harvey had recently returned from a symposium in Paris where Dr. Claude Bernard, a renowned physiologist, discussed a new theory about the part the liver played in diabetes. It was this symposium that prompted Harvey to launch his own research on how fats, sugars and starches affect the body.

Dr. Harvey put Banting on a low carb diet. Within days, Banting was seeing enormous benefits. Within a year, he was down to 156 pounds, his hearing improved and his sight was restored!

Soon Banting put his experience to paper. His first two book editions were given away, 1000 copies of the first, 1500 of the second edition even though they cost him to produce. With his third edition he charged a mere one shilling and started a fund to found and endow the Middlesex County Convalescent Hospital.

"The Banting Diet" as it became known in the medical community was highly criticized based solely on the fact that Banting was a layman and it was "unscientific"  - even though no one could deny it was highly effective.  This criticism  didn't stop an overwhelming number of people from trying the "Banting Diet" with much success. Their success made the medical professional take a second look, unable to ignore what was happening.

Dr. Harvey fell under heavy scrutiny. As a medical professional, he had an effective treatment for obesity but was unable to convince the medical establishment, in theory, how it worked. Eventually his practice began to suffer.

Into the picture came Dr. Felix Neymeyer. At the time carbohydrates and fats were deemed "respiratory foods", thought to burn together in the lungs for heat. Doctors knew proteins were not fattening. Neymeyer explained "The Banting Diet" to the acceptance of his peers by terming "meat" as lean meat with the fat trimmed off only. This tiny change was enough to give credence to the diet with the medical community. This also changed the original Banting Diet into a low carbohydrate and fat restricted diet.

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