Into The 20th Century
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. (Check out parts one, two, and three.)
Now, if you are prone to get angry at the ‘primrose path’ we have been led down for years, this is the time to do it. Consider: In the mid-1800s, no one had the slightest idea what caused diabetes or what to do about it. People with what we now call Type I diabetes merely died, usually in early childhood. And those with adult-onset diabetes (so-called Type II) had their lives materially shortened. Before 1860, doctors in Paris had been finding successes with the low carbohydrate approach, yet all these years later, our self-styled modern experts on diabetes are still blind to the plan!
As Beans To A Horse
William Banting came to think of the foods he should not eat “as beans to a horse.” A horse, he said, ordinarily eats hay and oats. Beans may be a useful food occasionally, but they are detrimental to the horse if eaten all the time. He began to refer to all starchy and sugary foods as”human beans.” He wrote, “Experience has taught me that these human beans are enemies of man.”
After losing weight by controlling them, Banting became certain that starches and sugars were responsible for fattening fat people. And even though he was not a scientist, he did some testing. Banting wrote, “I have ascertained, by repeated experiments, that five ounces of sugar distributed equally over seven days, which is not an ounce per day, will augment my weight nearly one pound by the end of that short period.”
Banting also talked about what we sometimes call “planned cheats,” that is, deciding to go off the plan on a special day or for a certain reason. He said, “Being fond of green peas, I take them daily in the season, and I gain 2 or 3 pounds in weight as well as some little in bulk, but I soon lose both when their season is over.”
So there we have it, friends. Almost 150 years ago.
Products Come Into Favor
William Banting died in 1878. After that, the low carbohydrate approach, which was not popular with the established medical community, was pushed aside in favor of products. After all, Banting’s low carbohydrate plan did not involve profits for anyone.
In 1879, the artificial sweetener Saccharin was invented. It became the basis for the Monsanto company. In 1894, animal-based thyroid compounds were developed, and drug companies were born. Doctors began to prescribe thyroid pills for weight loss in patients who were said to be overweight because of hormone problems.
Then in 1896 the first advertisements for products marketed exclusively for weight loss started to appear. Ingredients in these products included laxatives, purgatives, arsenic, strychnine, washing soda, and Epsom salts. There was no turning back.
Countless Plans, Countless Promoters
There have been countless diet plans. Most diet promoters have been doctors, but there have been dozens of different kinds of nutritionists, industrial tycoons, housewives, writers, preachers, actors, and some people with no obvious bona fides at all.
In the early years of the 1900s, American writer Upton Sinclair advocated fasting as a cure for both obesity and emaciation. A couple of years later, a spiritualist and magician named Hereward Carrington advocated eating only raw fruits and vegetables in his 1912 book, The Natural Food of Man. Carrington also wrote a few other books, including The Side Show and Animal Tricks and An Introduction to the Maniac.
A White Jacket Must Mean He Knows What He’s Talking About
Then we come to Horace Fletcher. Horace Fletcher was absolutely dedicated to the process of chewing. Known both as the Great Masticator and as the Chew-Chew Man, Fletcher was the first to wear a white jacket to give himself a look of authority. He apparently gleaned his diet ideas from a former British prime minister named William Gladstone who believed that prolonged chewing resulted in less overeating and led to improved health. Fletcher saw this as the answer to everything.
Gladstone had suggested that thirty-two chews per food morsel was the ideal amount of chewing. He based this on the number of teeth in the mouth. But, Fletcher went beyond that, urging that food should be chewed until it turned to liquid. And this held true even for food that was already liquid! Liquids, Fletcher insisted, should also be chewed a few times, too.
There was at least one definite drawback to Fletcher’s advice. He suggested that any food that did not become liquid in the mouth, should not be swallowed. This eliminated all the fiber from the diets of his followers, and constipation became a significant problem among his followers.
The recommended foods in Fletcher’s plan were: potatoes, cornbread, beans, and sometimes eggs, but not meat, alcohol, coffee, or tea. His rules were:
- Don’t eat until you’re truly hungry.
- Don’t allow depressing or unpleasant feelings at meal times.
Otherwise, the dieter could eat whatever foods he/she wanted on Fletcher’s plan, just so long as the food was chewed until, as Fletcher put it, “the food swallowed itself.”
Fletcher lost sixty-five pounds by chewing, some might say from the exercise of moving his jaw to distraction alone! He then wrote a book called The AB-Z of Our Own Nutrition. At one time, Fletcher claimed a million Americans were following his plan, including John D. Rockefeller and many students at Yale and West Point, who began calling it “Fletcherizing.”
One of the most famous devotees of Fletcher’s plan was Dr. John Kellogg, founder of the Kellogg Cereal company. But Kellogg balked at the no-fiber issue, and began to manufacture cereal products. (We’ll talk about John Kellogg and corn flakes in another article. Stay tuned.)
And also stay tuned until next time, when we’ll be talking about the rise of the “C” word. The calorie. Join me then.