Last time we continued our discussion of the history of diets and dieting by talking about the first low calorie diet plan, and about the beginnings of counting calories. We also looked at diets that were based on ‘magic pairs’ and on special food combinations said to promote weight loss because of some supposedly long-forgotten-but-now-rediscovered chemical connection between the two foods. These connections were said to somehow fool the body into absorbing less nutrients than the individual foods, eaten separately, would provide.
We’ve been discussing the history of diets and dieting. It may seem obvious to you that the idea of the calorie, at least as it pertains to dieting, must have been with us since the beginning of dieting. However, such is not the case. As we discussed last time, it wasn’t until the 1890s and early 1900s that chemists Wilbur Atwater and Russell Chittenden did the initial work of measuring food as units of heat that could be produced by burning it. But from the get-go, the calorie concept has never been nearly as scientific as it may appear.
Our low carbohydrate way of life is not new, dear readers. Last time I told you that the world’s very first diet book was a low carbohydrate plan written in the mid 1800s by William Banting. Banting was told about this approach to obesity control by his ear doctor, Dr. William Harvey. Dr. Harvey said that he had heard about healthful advantages from a diet low in sugar and starch while he was in Germany and Paris. He related that he had traveled to attend a lecture given at Stuttgart by a celebrated physician and professor, Dr. Niemeyer. Dr. Harvey had also gone to Paris to hear a certain Doctor Bernard report on using the diet plan for treatment of diabetes.
There is another small subject concerning carbohydrates that needs to be addressed before we move on to discussing protein. What about all the forms of actual sugar? Are they different? Is it safer/better to eat certain ones? Well-meaning friends and relatives often say, “But, this is made with a ‘special’ sugar that has vitamins and minerals! It is good for you.” Do you know what to tell them? No? Well, then read on.
We’ve been talking about diets and dieting. Dieting for weight loss has really only been a potential issue for the average person in the last few hundred years because prior to that, most people’s problem was getting enough food, not getting too much. But by the mid 1800s obesity was becoming a problem for some people.
With this article, I’m starting a series of columns that look at the history of diets and dieting – the plans and the personalities behind the plans. We are all so used to the idea of diets, that it is hard to believe there was ever a time when the “D word” wasn’t on everyone’s lips from morning to night.
In my last article, I explained the formation of ketone bodies, and we discussed the controversy over ketosis. We learned there are two kinds of ketosis: one, called lipolysis-ketosis, is from normal metabolic processes, and the other, more properly called keotacidosis, is from disease. We noted that in the absence of preexisting kidney or liver disease, ketosis will not become a problem as long as sufficient and adequate protein and fats are eaten. This is because some of both proteins and fats become glucose, and the presence of glucose in the body prevents too many ketones from forming. The key here is the phrase “in the absence of disease.”