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William Banting

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William Banting
Bornc. December 1796
Died16 March 1878(1878-03-16) (aged 81–82)
Kensington, 4 The Terrace, London, England
OccupationUndertaker, coffin maker
SubjectLow-carbohydrate diet
SpouseMary Ann (wife)
ChildrenAmelia (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.[3] He undertook his dietary changes at the suggestion of Soho Square physician William Harvey, who in turn had learned 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 Westbrook Banting.[5]

Weight loss diet[edit]

Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public[edit]

In 1863, Banting wrote a pamphlet, called Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public,[6] 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 regimens in his past. His previously unsuccessful attempts had been on the advice of various medical experts. He then described the dietary change which finally had worked for him, following the advice of another medical expert. "My kind and valued medical adviser is not a doctor for obesity, but stands on the pinnacle of fame in the treatment of another malady, which, as he well knows, is frequently induced by [corpulence]." (p24) 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] 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. Despite the success of the booklet, Banting opted to forego profits from the self-published versions, instead donating the profits to charity.[7] The third and later editions were published by Harrison, London. Banting's booklet remains in print as of 2007,[citation needed] and is still available on-line.[citation needed]

"Banting" as a verb[edit]

The popularity of the pamphlet mentioned above was such that the questions "Do you bant?" or "Are you banting?", still occasionally in use today, refer to his method, and sometimes even to dieting in general.[3] In Swedish, "banta" is still the main verb for "being on a diet". Scientist Tim Noakes popularised Banting in South Africa when he named his high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet after Banting.[8][clarification needed]


Gary Taubes' study of carbohydrates, Good Calories, Bad Calories, begins with a prologue entitled "A brief history of Banting" and discusses Banting at some length.[9] Discussions of low-carbohydrate diets often begin with a discussion of Banting.[10][11][12][13][14]

Personal life[edit]

Banting was a distant relative of Sir Frederick Banting, the co-discoverer of insulin.[9] Banting is buried alongside his wife and daughter at Brompton Cemetery, London, England.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Crystal, David (2006). Penguin Pocket On This Day. Penguin Books, Limited. ISBN 978-0-14-102715-9.
  2. ^ "William Banting". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/1320. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  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 Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Corpulence" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 192–193.
  5. ^ Van Beck, Todd (October 2012), "The Death and State Funeral of Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, part II" (PDF), Canadian Funeral News, vol. 40, no. 10, p. 10, archived from the original (PDF) on 16 March 2014
  6. ^ Banting, William (1864). Letter on corpulence : addressed to the public. New York.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  7. ^ Kellem, Betsy Golden (25 April 2019). "The Portly Victorian Undertaker Who Launched the World's First Low-Carb Craze". Narratively. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  8. ^ "Scientist lives as hunter-gatherer: Proves Tim Noakes' Banting diet REALLY improves health". BizNews.com. 4 July 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  9. ^ a b Taubes, Gary (2007). Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease. Knopf. ISBN 978-1-4000-4078-0.
  10. ^ 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. S2CID 24756993.
  11. ^ Bliss M (2005). "Resurrections in Toronto: the emergence of insulin". Horm. Res. 64 Suppl 2 (2): 98–102. doi:10.1159/000087765. PMID 16286782. S2CID 40227605.
  12. ^ 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. S2CID 13083017.
  13. ^ 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. S2CID 8267239.
  14. ^ 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.

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