The Banting Diet: A Low-Carbohydrate Lifestyle


In recent years, the Banting diet has gained immense popularity as a highly effective weight loss and lifestyle approach. Named after William Banting, an English undertaker who popularized the concept in the 19th century, the Banting diet is based on the principle of restricting carbohydrate intake while increasing the consumption of healthy fats and proteins. This dietary plan has been hailed as a transformative way to shed excess pounds, improve overall health, and manage certain medical conditions. In this article, we examine the core principles of the Banting diet, explore its potential benefits and risks, and offer practical tips for those considering adopting this approach.

What is the Banting diet?

The Banting diet, often referred to as a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet, involves drastically reducing the intake of carbohydrates while increasing the intake of fats and proteins. This dietary shift aims to switch the body’s primary energy source from carbohydrates to fats, a metabolic state known as ketosis. During ketosis, the body produces ketones from fat breakdown, which can serve as an alternative fuel source for the brain and muscles.

Key Principles of the Banting Diet:

  1. Carbohydrate Restriction: The Banting diet emphasizes minimizing carbohydrate consumption, especially from refined sugars and processed grains. This includes avoiding sugary beverages, desserts, white bread, pasta, and starchy vegetables.
  2. Healthy Fats: Emphasis is placed on consuming healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, and fatty fish. These fats provide essential nutrients and contribute to feelings of satiety.
  3. Moderate Protein Intake: The diet encourages a moderate intake of protein from sources like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
  4. Real and Whole Foods: Banting advocates for a diet based on real, whole foods and discourages the consumption of highly processed and artificial foods.

Benefits of the Banting Diet

  1. Weight Loss: One of the primary reasons individuals adopt the Banting diet is to lose weight. By reducing carbohydrate intake and maintaining a higher fat and protein intake, many people experience reduced hunger and improved satiety, leading to a natural decrease in calorie consumption.
  2. Improved Blood Sugar Levels: The Banting diet may benefit those with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance by reducing blood sugar levels and improving insulin sensitivity.
  3. Enhanced Heart Health: Contrary to previous beliefs, several studies suggest that a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet may have a positive impact on heart health. This includes raising HDL cholesterol levels (the “good” cholesterol) and improving triglyceride levels.
  4. Mental Clarity and Focus: Some proponents of the Banting diet report experiencing improved mental clarity and focus while in a state of ketosis.
  5. Reduced Inflammation: The diet’s focus on whole foods and healthy fats may help reduce inflammation in the body, benefiting those with inflammatory conditions.

Risks and Concerns of the Banting Diet

  1. Nutritional Imbalance: The Banting diet, if not well-planned, could lead to a nutritional imbalance due to a reduced intake of certain vitamins, minerals, and fiber-rich foods.
  2. Keto Flu: When transitioning to a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet, some individuals may experience “keto flu,” characterized by symptoms such as fatigue, headache, and irritability. These usually resolve after a few days as the body adapts to ketosis.
  3. Sustainability: Some individuals may find the strict carbohydrate restriction challenging to maintain over the long term, potentially leading to difficulty adhering to the diet.
  4. Lack of Consensus: While there is growing evidence supporting the benefits of low-carb diets, some experts still advocate for a balanced diet that includes a moderate intake of carbohydrates.

Who should NOT try the Banting diet?

While the Banting diet can be beneficial for many individuals, there are certain groups of people who should avoid or approach this diet with caution. Here are some groups of patients who should not try the Banting diet or should approach it with caution:

  1. Individuals with Type 1 Diabetes: The Banting diet, which involves significant carbohydrate restriction, may not be suitable for individuals with type 1 diabetes, as they require insulin to manage their blood sugar levels. Altering carbohydrate intake could lead to unpredictable fluctuations in blood sugar, potentially risking hypoglycemia or diabetic ketoacidosis.
  2. Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women: Pregnant and breastfeeding women have increased nutritional needs, and drastic dietary changes like the Banting diet may not provide adequate nutrients for both the mother and the developing child. It is crucial for pregnant and breastfeeding women to consult their healthcare providers for appropriate dietary recommendations.
  3. People with Kidney Disease: High-protein diets, such as some variations of the Banting diet, may put extra strain on the kidneys, making it unsuitable for individuals with kidney disease or compromised kidney function. Those with kidney issues should opt for a diet that meets their specific nutritional requirements.
  4. Patients with Liver Conditions: Some versions of the Banting diet include a significant increase in fat intake. People with liver conditions or impaired liver function should be cautious with high-fat diets, as it may exacerbate their condition.
  5. Individuals with Gallbladder Problems: A high-fat diet can sometimes trigger or worsen gallbladder issues in susceptible individuals, leading to symptoms like gallstones or gallbladder attacks.
  6. History of Eating Disorders: Those with a history of eating disorders should avoid diets that may promote restrictive eating patterns or an unhealthy relationship with food.
  7. Athletes and High-Intensity Exercise: Athletes or individuals engaged in high-intensity exercise may require a sufficient amount of carbohydrates to support their performance and recovery. Restricting carbohydrates significantly might negatively impact their athletic performance.
  8. People with Metabolic Disorders: Certain metabolic disorders may not be compatible with a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, and attempting such a diet could worsen their condition.
  9. Individuals with Cholesterol or Lipid Issues: While some studies suggest that the Banting diet can improve lipid profiles, it may not be suitable for all individuals with cholesterol or lipid issues. Those with such concerns should consult a healthcare professional before adopting this diet.
  10. Children and Adolescents: Children and adolescents have unique nutritional requirements for growth and development. Drastic dietary changes like the Banting diet should be avoided unless specifically recommended and monitored by healthcare professionals.

Bottom line

The Banting diet, inspired by William Banting’s historical approach, has evolved into a modern low-carbohydrate, high-fat dietary plan that has captured the attention of many individuals seeking weight loss and improved health. By significantly reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing healthy fats and proteins, the Banting diet aims to shift the body’s metabolism to burn fat for fuel, leading to several potential health benefits. However, like any diet, it has its share of potential risks and concerns that need to be considered before embarking on this lifestyle change. As with any significant dietary shift, it is advisable to consult with a gastroenterologist or registered dietitian to ensure that the Banting diet is suitable for individual health needs and goals.

Last update: 26 September 2023, 19:07


Gastroenterologist - Hepatologist, Thessaloniki

PhD at Medical School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

PGDip at Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht, The Netherlands

Ex President, Hellenic H. pylori & Microbiota Study Group