Was William Banting’s Diet LCHF? (Low-Carb, High-Fat)

"Those numbers are so small!"

“Those numbers are so small!”

I’ve been reading about Banting’s diet for at least six years. Thanks to Tim Noakes in South Africa, it’s seeing a mini-surge in popularity. William Banting published his Letter on Corpulence in 1863. Eating like him to lose weight is sometimes referred to as “Banting.” It’s one form of a low-carb diet and considered a precursor to the Atkins diet.

Form your own opinion of what William Banting may have eaten by reading these:

In terms of macronutrient calories, here’s my rough back-of-the-envelope synthesis of Banting’s diet:

  • 20–25% carbohydrate
  • 25% protein
  • 20–25% fat
  • 25% alcohol
  • 1800–2000 total calories

For the 200 lb (91 kg) man that Banting was, 2000 calories would almost certainly have been a calorie-restricted diet. Leigh estimated he was eating at least 2800 cals/day at baseline before losing weight. I don’t doubt that.

In summary, Banting drank a lot of alcohol (even more than on the Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet), and ate fairly low-fat, moderately carb-restricted, and relatively high protein. In other words: low cal, low carb, low fat, high protein, high alcohol.

His weight loss, assuming it wasn’t a hoax, came from calorie restriction. Something about that combination of macronutrients apparently allowed him to stick with the program and maintain a 50-lb (23 kg) weight loss. Protein is particularly satiating. Your mileage may vary.

I’m concerned that 25% of calories from alcohol would displace more healthful micronutrients.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Fun Fact: William Banting was a distant relative of Frederick Banting, the co-discoverer of insulin in 1921.

PPS: My diets are healthier than Banting’s, thanks to 150 years of nutrition science since then.

3 Comments

Filed under Weight Loss

3 responses to “Was William Banting’s Diet LCHF? (Low-Carb, High-Fat)

  1. Charles Grashow

    http://www.health24.com/Diet-and-nutrition/Nutrition-basics/Tim-Noakes-on-carbohydrates-20120721
    However the real point is that if one is as CR as am I, one has to make choices of (i) how much carbohydrate one wants to eat each day. I limit myself to between 50-75 grams a day as that is the amount that allows me to regulate my body weight effortlessly without hunger – and (ii) which carbohydrate sources will provide that scanty amount of carbohydrate. I have chosen to get my miserly grams of carbohydrate from highly nutritious vegetables and dairy produce, not from whole grain cereals. Others might be advised to make a different choice.

    As a result, I restrict my food choices to the following food and beverage groups:

    Eggs – from free range hens
    Fish – an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids
    Meat – not processed and preferably from sources that are organically raised eating grass. This group includes biltong, preferably game or ostrich.
    Dairy Produce – milk, cheese and yoghurt – all full cream and from organically fed cows.
    Vegetables – mainly leafy, low carbohydrate sources like lettuce but also including broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, avocado and many others. The choice is based on their nutrient value and their low carbohydrate content.
    Nuts – especially macadamias, walnuts and almonds but specifically excluding the non-nuts, peanuts and cashews which are high in carbohydrates.
    Fruits – only those which have a lower carbohydrate content like berries and apples.
    Water, tea and coffee (all unsweetened)!
    I eat my fill from these food groups and am no longer hungry. In fact my preferred choice is now to eat a “proper meal” only once every 12-24 hours. I wonder whether humans are truly designed by our evolutionary history to eat large meals, three times every 12 hours (during the day).