A hundred years ago the President of the United States was on diet.

His name was William Howard Taft and he was the 27th President of the United States of America. He was also chronically overweight and to date is the only obese president of the USA. 

Taft struggled to lose the extra weight which made him such a delicious target for the political cartoonists of the day. At 160 kg (350 lbs.), with a BMI of over 40 he certainly was obese.

A chronicle of his weight battle and the doctor who helped him, Dr Nathaniel Yorke-Davies, an English diet expert has been published in The Annals of Internal Medicine by Deborah Levine, a medical historian from Providence College in Rhode Island.




The article highlights how similar diet advice a hundred years ago was to today’s modern prudent diet. Tafts’ doctor advised him to undertake a low calorie, low fat diet. Also in keeping with modern understanding he was advised to get a personal trainer and to take extra exercise.

Sadly for Taft the lessons of William Banting’s Letter on Corpulence published fifty years earlier were not heeded by Taft’s doctor. Just as they are by so many doctors and dietitians today. Banting’s weight loss journey was as long and difficult as Taft’s except that he eventually found a sustainable solution.

Banting’s message was simple. Avoid sugars and starch. Exercise does not work for weigh loss because you simply eat more to compensate for you exertions. 

A few months on Decarb and he would have been fine.


1)  New York Times Article - http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/health/in-struggle-with-weight-william-howard-taft-used-a-modern-diet.html?hp&_r=0

2)  Article in the Annals of Internal Medicine - http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1748846

3)   William Banting – Letter on Corpulence - http://www.decarbdiet.com/LowCarb/LowCarbBooks/LetteronCorpulence.aspx