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Brief History of the Low-Carbohydrate Diet

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  Anthropologists believe that early humans were hunter-gatherers thereby consuming diets that are high in both protein and fat but were mostly low in nutritive carbohydrates. In fact, until now, there are certain isolated societies which continue to consume these types of diet. However, the advent of agriculture brought about the rise of civilization and the gradual increase in the inclusion of carbohydrate in all human diets. More specifically, the modern age has seen a particularly steep rise in refined carbohydrate levels amongst societies in the Western Hemisphere (Wexler, 2006 and Zahensky, 2007).   It was in 1863 when William Banting, an obese English undertaker and coffin maker published his Letter on Corpulence Addressed to the Public wherein he described a diet for weight control (Allen and Lutz, 2000).

According to him, it is only through the giving up of bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer and potatoes that a person would be able to successfully control his or her weight. In 1967, the so-called Stillman Diet became popular which eventually highlighted the need to shift to a high-protein, low-carbohydrate and low-fat diet in order to guarantee one’ s weight loss.

According to several researchers, the Stillman Diet is often regarded as one of the first low-carbohydrate diets to become popular in the United States of America. Following this, however, were other kinds of diets which basically promoted the need to reduce the intake of carbohydrate and compensate such loss by consuming protein and fat (e. g. the Air Force Diet and the Drinking Man’ s Diet (Freedman, King and Kennedy, 2001).     It was, however, the publication of Dr Atkins’ book “ New Diet Revolution” that the low-carbohydrate diet became more popular (Freedman, King and Kennedy, 2001).

Dr Atkins was basically one of the most popular advocates of the low-carbohydrate diet because he believes that obesity was caused by the consumption of refined carbohydrates such as sugar, flour, and high-fructose corn syrups.    

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