Banting diet really does work but there are questions, not so much about its effectiveness, but the safety of meal plans high in fats from animal sources.
This is a non critical description of the low carbohydrate combined with high saturated fat diet; on another page we'll comment on it.
It's been around for a while; in fact for over one hundred and fifty years. In 1862 William Banting was a morbidly obese undertaker in London. That means his body mass index was probably over 35. When he started going deaf, he decided to consult one of the most famous doctors of his day; Dr Harvey decided that fat was pressing on his ear drums and making him hard of hearing.
He put the suffering man on an unusual diet that will conflict utterly with everything you know and have read about weight loss; carbohydrate was strictly limited and he was allowed unlimited saturated fat. History has it that when WB again consulted Dr Harvey some six months later, the latter never even recognised Banting; he had lost an incredible amount of weight.
This meal plan has one enormous plus; fans claim that they aren't hungry on the high fat diet.
Professor Tim Noakes, sports guru at the University of Cape Town did a professional about turn in his teaching; realising the traditional high carbohydrate diet wasn't working for him or his athletes, he started to investigate the merits of the so called Banting diet proposed by no other than Dr William Harvey and so successfully followed by the other William; a high saturated fat meal plan instead of unlimited carbohydrate and very low fat.
Certainly Noakes has stirred the pot, and has many critics but equally thousands of fans who have lost significant amounts of weight; all without hunger.
Certainly one cannot quibble about the fact that America has become morbidly obese since biochemist Ancel Keys published in 1977 his thesis that cholesterol was the villain of the piece; saturated fat is the cause of heart disease. The dramatic turn in the ensuing years from the traditional American diet to a high starch and very low animal fat way of eating resulted in a nation of hungry people who couldn't stop snacking.
Tim Noakes has an impressive pedigree; he's no fly-by-night crank. After careful study of the research, he has come up with some very interesting facts.
The Banting diet cuts right across everything you've been taught about losing weight. Unlimited animal fat is encouraged, polyunsaturate oils and margarine are banned, and you are encouraged to eat virtually no carbohydrate at all; less than 50g per day.
That means no bread or flour products and no sugar; no bagels or chocolate cake; unfortunately it also means no smart bran either; that means more cancer. Further, rice and potatoes, most fruit except berries, and pasta are all eliminated from the Banting diet.
So, butter is back, and you can enjoy the crackling on your pork chops. Steak is definitely on the menu, but not if it was corn fed. Starch makes all animals obese, including our cattle. More important it causes soaring blood glucose, especially in those who are insulin resistant, and that's what damages the tissues.
Proponents have pointed to huge weight losses, a drop in blood pressure and glucose readings; even lower total cholesterol.
Here's an important bit of research; the high carbohydrate coupled with very low fat diet has been strongly implicated in motor neuron disease; it may be a factor in MS too. This was done in studies done in Japan and confirmed by another in the Netherlands.
The word is used both as a adjective, as in Banting diet, but also as a verb. It means to go on a diet that very strictly limits your carbohydrate but you can enjoy unlimited animal fat; olive oil and avocados, everyone agrees having 'healthy' fat, are recommended too.
Many have been able to reduce their medication dramatically.
Professor Noakes, a highly qualified physician himself, takes several swipes at the pharmaceutical industry. Statins to lower cholesterol are very profitable drugs, with reportedly one quarter of Americans on them; organised medicine has resisted any challenge of Keys' unproven theory that saturated fat is the cause of the heart attack epidemic.
He also takes on the agricultural lobby that undergirds the 1977 dietary goals for Americans; he believes this is the real villain of the piece. Move bread, cereals, rice and pasta from the base of the food pyramid with 6 to 11 servings to the very top; use them very sparingly.
Steak, butter and bacon are all back in favour. Enjoy eating again, and you won't feel hungry; provided you stay strictly away from the starches. Remember, that means no bread, rice, chips or sugar.
Professor Noakes warns against the extreme danger of enjoying all the fat and steak parts of the Banting diet whilst continuing with the high carbohydrate diet; that's a recipe for disaster. In fact that's exactly the diet that had brought America to lower than fortieth place in the world health stakes. So, no bread with your burger.
There is also a strong move in the Banting diet away from polyunsaturate oils; sunflower, safflower and canola oils are out. Since margarines are made from hydrogenating these oils, it's also banished to Coventry.
There seems no doubt that hydrogenated and oxidised oils are one of the major causes of damage to the intima; the inner lining of the arteries. Next time you purchase a packet of french fries, first ask how long it is since the oil was changed. Those, and raised blood sugar, are the underlying causes of atherosclerosis. Add hypertension to the recipe and strokes and heart attacks are just around the corner.
From the joint pain and chiropractic standpoint too, a diet high in polyunsaturated fats is what raises the omega 6 to 3 ratio with its devastating inflammatory consequences.
The low starch and high fat diets make much of the research indicating that early man survived through hunting and gathering, and was very high in meat and fat and low in starches.
The Paleolithic area was the roughly 2 million years up until 10,000 years ago when agriculture and milled grains were supposed to have begun. Man has a very long small intestine designed for maximising absorption of sugars from a very low starch diet.
Changes to a high starch diet, and particularly a refined starch diet, heralded the dawn of raised blood glucose, obesity and diabetes.
Diabetes and banting is perhaps less controversial. Professor Noakes himself is diabetic and hence his particular interest. Immediately you start banting, you have to halve your insulin; that alone is impressive.
Noakes attributes his diabetes to two factors:
Without a doubt this Banting diet profoundly helps the diabetic gain better blood sugar control; and that automatically means weight loss for the type 2.
Your chiropractor will be pleased too; he's less likely to crack a rib, an albeit rare complication of the treatment of rib subluxations. Diabetes osteoporosis is a serious concern with the explosion of new diabetics.
Better blood sugar control will contribute to the prevention of osteoporosis, but the banting diet changes many other things too; no legumes, no fruit except berries and limited low glycemic index starches like butternut.
More research needs to be done before anyone can claim that there is a positive relationship between osteoporosis and banting.
It's interesting that the Banting diet has recently come to prominence at the same moment in dietary history when researchers have come with the startling finding that there is absolutely no scientific basis for going off saturated fats and changing to polyunsaturates.
Helens 15 euro salad is in vogue; plenty of salads, high fat feta cheese, olives and olive oil; only the hummus is questioned. Legumes are not on Noake's list of allowed foods; I question that in my Banting diet rebuttal, and several other features of his version of the William Harvey diet.
Let your food be your medicine was the advice of Hippocrates more than two millennia ago; it's still the best recommendation.
Owing to my concerns about banting as advocated by Tim Noakes, yet believing that he's onto something vital, we have come with our Banting diet modified menu plan. In short, include legumes and all low GI carbs, and emphasise rather the healthy fat in the olive and avocado and nuts and seeds.
In fact, I've discovered this is not new; there are five ketogenic diets, from the very low Banting diet at the one extreme, with low GI starch in the centre, to the modified Atkins diet at the most generous. All encourage high fat.
Interesting research reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences tells of a group of scientists have found various grinding tools, and ancient pestle, dating back to some 30,000 years ago, still with grains of oats embedded, show that early man began milling flour far earlier than previously believed. In facts starches were consumed, they were ground, but obviously not refined in the way we today remove all the bran and germ from most of our grains.
Unrefined grains were in fact a part of the human diet far earlier than once supposed, albeit probably a small part.
The question now arises as to whether all starches should be largely excluded from the modern human diet, or only those that are highly refined. Is there a place for the apple, sweet potatoes and butternut, and 100% wholegrain bread and rolled oats porridge on our plates?
Beets would not qualify for the Banting diet because of its carbohydrate. Indeed it has a moderately high glycemic index of 65; however the amount of carbohydrate in beetroot - the glycemic load - is very low, so that you would have to consume a dozen beets to affect your blood sugar. Overall then, beets are acceptable in my opinion, especially because of their important role in adult potty training; we live in a seriously constipated society, and the benefits of the fibre in beets greatly outweigh their carbohydrate content.
That fibre is also a starch, but it is resistant, reaching the colon for digestion to healthy short chain fatty acids, instead of glucose.
Strictly limiting carbohydrates has meant more fat and protein; since legumes are taboo if you are following the authentic Banting diet, that means a lot more animal protein; that is not a smart move. The World Health Organisation says high animal protein diets are almost certainly associated with cancer.
The environmentalists, looking at the devastating effect of greenhouse gases, have fingered animal husbandry as one of the major causes of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. To save the planet we should move entirely away from animal protein.
So, much debate, and many contradictions.
Free weight loss programs that focus on glycemic index rather than high this, or low that are a far more sensible way to shed those extra pounds.
Plus, it's importance to focus on the proven fact that overall only 5% of people who diet are any less heavy a year later; and many have put on weight.
It's far more sensible to my mind to follow a sensible and sustainable eating pattern than any diet, including banting.
My biggest beef with the banting diet is the banning of legumes; that means far too much protein of animal origin.
Epilepsy is a very trying disease, especially in children. Many do not respond at all to medication. Over 50% of children respond extremely well to banting for a period of at least three months, and in some cases, up to five years. But the diet has to be extremely carefully managed by experienced dieticians, and the amount of carb allowed is extremely small.
The aim is to turn the brain to using ketones instead of glucose for energy.