Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public

By William Banting

Summary: William Banting was an overweight British undertaker who by the mid-1800s had tried all the popular prescriptions for weight loss of his day, without success. Then his physician recommended he try abstaining from starches and sweets (i.e., processed carbohydrates). When Banting promptly dropped thirty-five pounds in a few months, he was inspired to inform the public of his success in the form of this pamphlet. Banting’s publication sparked a rage of successful low-carb dieting across Europe and America that would span the next century. Unbeknownst to most modern nutritionists and weight loss “experts,” low-carb dieting in the Banting mode was commonly recommended in early-twentieth-century textbooks on medicine, obesity, and endocrinology. It wasn’t until the 1960s, with the emergence of the notion that eating saturated fat leads to heart disease—a hypothesis that remains unproven to this day—that low-carb diets fell out of favor. Here the author presents and comments on the fourth edition of his famous letter, by which time he had heard from countless readers confirming the effectiveness of his diet. Harrison Publishing, London, 1869.