William Banting’s story (no relation to the Banting of insulin fame) came across my desk this week. The 5’5” Mr. Banting, an Englishman, weighed in at over 200 lbs. His story resonated with me, when I read about his life long struggle with loosing weight, and his willingness to try the latest diet popular at the time. He prospered as an upscale London undertaker, and considered himself industrious, certainly not lazy or glutinous. He did not think he overindulged with his food or drink, usually didn’t eat between meals and was unable to identify a single person in his extended family that had a weight problem.
Beginning as a young man, he tried many different diets, exercising in various ways, exercising while dieting, exercising while eating normally, but all to no avail. His weight seldom budged, & if he did loose some, he quickly gained it back. Rowing became a passion, until the prodigious appetite built up during every rowing session, sent his weight even higher.
A famous London physician, Dr. William Harvey, became interested in Mr. Banting, & agreed to take him on as a patient. Harvey had contact with a team of French physiologists, and was learning about the destructive nature of carbohydrates in the body, especially their influence on blood sugar levels. He hypothesized that a diet mainly of meat, dairy & green leafy vegetables would reduce blood sugar, help prevent the accumulation of fat, and while at the same time reduce appetite.
Mr. Banting adopted his physician’s recommendations, & in the next year dropped 50 lbs.
The year was 1862! That date was the thing that really got my attention. I felt shocked that the knowledge of eating this way – restricting refined sugar as well as concentrated sources of carbohydrates, such as flour, potatoes, rice & starchy vegetables, was effective as a weight loss regimen and particularly useful in the prevention of type 2 diabetes, and as a treatment for this disease after it occurs.
I feel frustration and anger when I read in the in the literature ( both current & historical) about well documented nutritional research, pointing to the destructiveness of excessive carbohydrate consumption.
In my life long personal pursuit of a normal body weight, I learned from reputable and respected authorities, that my sole problem was consuming more calories than I used, and that cutting down my intake of calories and more exercise would solve my problem. In the light of much nutritional research undertaken as far back as the 1800’s, this was a lie. The difficulty was, following those instructions never changed my weight, except possibly for short periods of time after which I would gain everything back & usually then some.
My personal resolution which helped me shed more than 100 lbs. came from my understanding, that for me food was addictive, and the quantity of food had little too do with my dilemma. I needed to revise what I consumed.
Mel, thank you for writing about William Banting’s story. Wow – as early as the mid 19th century scientists were on to this.
I share your frustration, and I’m hopeful that the new wave of research and interest in the addictive properties of food, mainly sugar in all it’s forms, is finally here to stay.