Historical Archives Subject: Low-Carb Diets

Diet Prevents Polio

By Benjamin Sandler, MD

Summary: Early nutrition research consistently showed that a properly nourished person is highly resistant to infection, whereas a malnourished one is highly susceptible. In this 1951 book, former U.S. naval surgeon Dr. Benjamin Sandler pokes holes in conventional ideas about polio and argues that the best way to have avoided the infectious disease was to eat a low-carbohydrate diet. He presents the evidence that led him to his conclusion and explains why, of all the countries in the world, the United States got hit hardest by the polio epidemic. He also details one of the most intriguing public health experiments in nutrition history, when in the summer of 1948 he convinced newspapers in the polio-ravaged state of North Carolina to publicize his low-carb diet as a means of prevention. Though the experiment was a success—the rate of polio in North Carolina changed from one of the highest in the country to one of the lowest—health officials categorically ignored Dr. Sandler’s work, and, shockingly, his book was later banned by the government. Like so much information suppressed in the early days of nutrition, Diet Prevents Polio holds great truths that merit a full examination in light of current biochemical knowledge. Published by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, 1951.

Doctor Claims Immunity Diet Prevents Polio

Author unknown

Summary: In 1948 the polio epidemic was nearing its frightening peak in the United States. While medicine attempted to find an answer to the problem with its usual recourse, pharmaceutical drugs, one doctor in North Carolina proposed a safer and easier way to prevent the disease: nutritional therapy. Dr. Benjamin Sandler, a former navy doctor, had discovered that patients who ate a diet low in refined carbohydrates and high in quality protein were resistant to infection by polio and other contagious diseases. Dr. Sandler would prove his point when he convinced the newspapers in the state to run stories, such as the one preserved here, recommending a low-carbohydrate diet as a means of preventing polio. The result was a dramatic drop in polio incidence statewide, transforming North Carolina’s rate of the disease from one of the highest in the country to one of the lowest. For a detailed analysis of the results of Dr. Sandler’s campaign—and for more on his theory of low-carbohydrate diet and disease prevention—see his remarkable 1951 book Diet Prevents Polio. See also “The Low-Carb Diet That Prevented Polio” for more media coverage of Dr. Sandler’s courageous effort to stem the polio epidemic through nutrition. From the Statesville Daily Record, 1948.

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.

Dr. Wiley’s Question Box: Starches and Sugar Are the Principal Sources of Body Fat

By Harvey W. Wiley, MD

Summary: In 1912 Dr. Harvey Wiley left his post as head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Chemistry (the forerunner of the federal Food and Drug Administration) because of the collusion he witnessed between food manufacturers and agents within the federal government. Unable to effectively enforce the country’s first food purity law (passed in 1906), he left the government and joined the private Good Housekeeping Institute in Washington, D.C. There Dr. Wiley helped develop the famous Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval while also writing for the institute’s magazine. In “Dr. Wiley’s Question Box,” he would answer specific questions from readers about food safety and nutrition. In the excerpt here, Dr. Wiley explains a fact that metabologists have known for nearly a century but which conventional nutritionists and doctors have failed to comprehend from then until now: the principal source of fat stored in the body is not dietary fat but sugars and starches (i.e., carbohydrates). While nutrition schools today continue to teach the erroneous notion that glucose from carbohydrates is “the preferred fuel of the body,” Dr. Wiley points out what people who study metabolism for a living all know: up to 80 percent of the carbohydrates a person eats are converted to fat by the liver and stored in the body’s fat tissue. Fat tissue, in turn, releases fatty acids, which form the majority of fuel calories used by the body’s cells. Dr. Wiley also addresses other queries from readers, including the age-old question of whether overeating “acid-producing” foods is harmful and whether eating sand is good for the digestive system. From Good Housekeeping, 1926.

Low Blood Sugar and Susceptibility to Polio

By Benjamin P. Sandler, MD

Summary: In this excerpt from his book Diet Prevents Polio, physician, nutritionist, and polio expert Dr. Benjamin Sandler explains how he came to believe, based on years of clinical observation, that susceptibility to infection by the polio virus (and other disease) is determined by quality of diet. “Specifically,” he writes, “I suspected that children and adults contracted polio because of low blood sugar brought on by a diet containing sugar and starch.” To read about the science behind Dr. Sandler’s theory—and how high-carbohydrate diets set humans up for infection and disease in general—see Diet Prevents Polio in its entirety within these archives. From Diet Prevents Polio, published by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, 1951. 

The Low-Carb Diet That Prevented Polio

SummaryIn the summer of 1948, the polio epidemic was raging across the United States, and it was hitting the city of Asheville, North Carolina, particularly hard. Parents had been ordered to keep their children quarantined in their homes, and residents were even advised to leave the state if possible. Among the town’s citizens was Dr. Benjamin Sandler, one of the few medical doctors of the time who recognized the profound connection between malnutrition and disease. Dr. Sandler’s research had convinced him that a diet high in refined sugar and starch was setting the stage for the polio infections (as well as many other illnesses). With his belief far too “radical” for public-health officials to even consider, Dr. Sandler took his case to the local newspapers and radio stations, who were convinced enough to report his theory and his proposed polio-prevention diet to the public. The story quickly went national, and rates of the disease proceeded to drop as people across the country started following the diet. (See chapter 7 of Diet Prevents Polio for a detailed discussion of the results.) Sadly and predictably, the medical field refused to acknowledge the efficacy of Dr. Sandler’s diet, leaving the sampling of newspaper clips here to document the “diet that prevented polio.” Reprinted by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research. Multiple original sources. 

Treatment of Tuberculosis with a Low-Carbohydrate Diet

By Dr. Benjamin P. Sandler and Dr. R. Berke

Summary: Dr. Benjamin Sandler, a former United States naval surgeon, studied for decades two of his era’s most devastating infectious diseases: polio (a viral infection) and tuberculosis (a bacterial one). In both cases he found that a low-carbohydrate diet was the best treatment and prevention for the disease. In this brief, Sandler reports that in ten tuberculosis patients treated with a low-carb diet, “digestive, cardiac, respiratory, nervous and mental symptoms were rapidly relieved and relief was sustained” in each subject. Sandler’s findings have been echoed in recent years in diet trials testing low-carbohydrate diets, in which subjects invariably exhibit improvement in biomarkers such as triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, and blood pressure. From American Revue of Tuberculosis, 1942.

Thoreau, Pulmonary Tuberculosis, and Dietary Deficiency

By Benjamin P. Sandler, MD

Summary: In this provocative letter to the editor of the medical journal Chest, Dr. Benjamin Sandler speculates whether the death of famous American author Henry David Thoreau, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 45, might have been the result of malnutrition he suffered during his years living on Walden Pond. Specifically, Dr. Sandler points to the lack of quality protein and excess of carbohydrate foods in Thoreau’s diet as probable causes behind his infection. 1973.

How to Prevent Heart Attacks

By Benjamin P. Sandler, MD

Summary: An absolutely gripping book, published in its entirety by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research. Dr. Sandler, a retired naval surgeon and researcher, challenges conventional science’s most basic beliefs about cardiovascular disease. If hardening and blockage of the arteries (i.e., arteriosclerosis) is the reason for heart attacks, he asks, why do many heart attack victims show no evidence of arteriosclerosis upon autopsy? And why do the vast majority of people with significant arteriosclerosis die of non-heart-related reasons? The truth is arteriosclerosis is a “secondary phenomenon, purely incidental, and is not the prime factor initiating [a heart] attack,” Sandler says, who points to dysfunctional blood-sugar regulation as the true cause of heart failure. Based on years of documented clinical work, Sandler reports consistent findings that a high-carbohydrate, vitamin-poor diet—the kind of diet Americans have been eating ever since the wide-scale adoption processed foods at the turn of the twentieth century—significantly weakens the heart and leads to heart attack. He especially warns against the budding advice of the time to reduce animal fat consumption. “To implicate animal foods as the ultimate cause of heart attacks because of their fat content is highly dubious and dangerous and unless absolutely confirmed as the cause…they should not be eliminated from the diet nor even slightly reduced.” Fifty years later, with animal fat still not shown to be linked with heart disease and heart attack rates showing no decline in spite of Americans having reduced their consumption of animal fats significantly, Dr. Sandler’s words ring as true as ever. Note: Be sure to check out the index at the end of the transcription. You’ll be amazed by the breadth of subjects Dr. Sandler covered. 1958.