William Banting

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William Banting
William Banting.png
Born c. December 1796
Died 16 March 1878
Kensington, London, England
Occupation Undertaker, coffin maker
Nationality British
Genre Nonfiction
Subject Low-carbohydrate diet
Spouse Mary Ann (wife)
Children Amelia (daughter)

William Banting (c. December 1796 – 16 March 1878)[1][2] was a notable English undertaker. Formerly obese, he is also known for being the first to popularise a weight loss diet based on limiting the intake of carbohydrates, especially those of a starchy or sugary nature.(The cited reference not only confirms this, but cites detailed LCHF diet experiences by Dr. Vilhjalmur Stefansson and others.)[3] He undertook his dietary changes at the suggestion of Soho Square physician Dr. William Harvey, who in turn had learnt of this type of diet, but in the context of diabetes management, from attending lectures in Paris by Claude Bernard.[3][4]

Professional career[edit]

In the early 19th century, the family business of William Banting of St. James’s Street, London, was among the most eminent companies of funeral directors in Britain. As funeral directors to the Royal Household itself, the Banting family conducted the funerals of King George III in 1820, King George IV in 1830, the Duke of Gloucester in 1834, the Duke of Wellington in 1852, Prince Albert in 1861, Prince Leopold in 1884, Queen Victoria in 1901, and King Edward VII in 1910. The royal undertaking warrant for the Banting family eventually ended in 1928 with the retirement of William Westport Banting.[5]

Weight loss diet[edit]

Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public[edit]

In 1863, Banting wrote a booklet called Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public which contained the particular plan for the diet he followed. It was written as an open letter in the form of a personal testimonial. Banting accounted all of his unsuccessful fasts, diets, spa and exercise regimes in his past, then described the dietary change which finally had worked for him, following the advice of a physician. His own diet was four meals per day, consisting of meat, greens, fruits, and dry wine. The emphasis was on avoiding sugar, saccharine matter, starch, beer, milk and butter. Banting’s pamphlet was popular for years to come, and would be used as a model for modern diets.[4][6] Initially, he published the booklet at his personal expense. The self-published edition was so popular that he determined to sell it to the general public. The third and later editions were published by Harrison, London. The pamphlet's popularity was such that the question "do you bant?" referred to his method, and eventually to dieting in general.[3] In the Nordic countries "banta" is still the main verb for "being on a diet". Banting's booklet remains in print as of 2007.[7][8]

Modern view[edit]

Banting was publicly vilified for advancing a low-carbohydrate diet and false rumours were spread, claiming his diet had destroyed his health.[9] Banting's work influenced contemporary physicians and scientists investigating low-carb diets. The attacks on Banting prefigured similar rumours spread about Robert Atkins, and the Atkins Foundation maintains Banting's works on its website.[6]

Gary Taubes' recent study of carbohydrates, Good Calories, Bad Calories, begins with a prologue entitled "A brief history of Banting" and discusses Banting at some length.[10] Discussions of low-carbohydrate diets often begin with a discussion of Banting.[11][12][13][14][15]

Banting was a distant relative of Sir Frederick Banting, the co-discoverer of insulin.[10] Banting's body is buried with his wife's and daughter's at Brompton Cemetery, London, England.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ edited by (2006). Penguin Pocket On This Day. Penguin Reference Library. ISBN 0-14-102715-0. 
  2. ^ "William Banting Biography". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/1320. 
  3. ^ a b c Groves, PhD, Barry (2002). "WILLIAM BANTING: The Father of the Low-Carbohydrate Diet". Second Opinions. Retrieved 26 December 2007. 
  4. ^ a b "CORPULENCE". Britannica (11 ed.). 1911. Retrieved 26 December 2007. 
  5. ^ Todd Van Beck, "The Death and State Funeral of Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill", part II, in Canadian Funeral News (October 2012), Vol. 40 Issue 10, p. 10 (online)
  6. ^ a b "Letter on Corpulence by William Banting, 4th Ed. (1869)". Atkins. Retrieved 5 January 2008. 
  7. ^ Banting, William (2005) [1863]. Letter on Corpulence. USA: New York: Cosimo Classics. pp. 64 pages. ISBN 978-1-59605-085-3. Retrieved 28 December 2007. 
  8. ^ See also ISBN 0-9543975-1-7.
  9. ^ William Banting (1869). Letter On Corpulence, Addressed To The Public (4th ed.). London, England: Harrison. Retrieved 2 January 2008. 
  10. ^ a b Taubes, Gary (2007). Good Calories, Bad Calories. New York City and Toronto: Borzai Books, division of Random House. ISBN 978-1-4000-4078-0. Retrieved 2 January 2008. 
  11. ^ Astrup A, Meinert Larsen T, Harper A (2004). "Atkins and other low-carbohydrate diets: hoax or an effective tool for weight loss?". Lancet 364 (9437): 897–9. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(04)16986-9. PMID 15351198. 
  12. ^ Bliss M (2005). "Resurrections in Toronto: the emergence of insulin". Horm. Res. 64 Suppl 2 (2): 98–102. doi:10.1159/000087765. PMID 16286782. 
  13. ^ Bray GA (2005). "Is there something special about low-carbohydrate diets?". Ann. Intern. Med. 142 (6): 469–70. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-142-6-200503150-00013. PMID 15767625. 
  14. ^ Focardi M, Dick GM, Picchi A, Zhang C, Chilian WM (2007). "Restoration of coronary endothelial function in obese Zucker rats by a low-carbohydrate diet". Am. J. Physiol. Heart Circ. Physiol. 292 (5): H2093–9. doi:10.1152/ajpheart.01202.2006. PMID 17220180. 
  15. ^ Arora S, McFarlane SI (2004). "Review on "Atkins Diabetes Revolution: The Groundbreaking Approach to Preventing and Controlling Type 2 Diabetes" by Mary C. Vernon and Jacqueline A. Eberstein". Nutr Metab (Lond) 1 (1): 14. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-1-14. PMC 535347. PMID 15535891. Retrieved 2 January 2008. 
  16. ^ "William Banting". Find A Grave. Retrieved 27 December 2007. 

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