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DISCLOSURE AND DISCLAIMER

I am an attorney and an author, not a doctor. This website is intended to provide information about grassfed meat, what it is, its benefits, and how to cook it. I will also describe my own experiences from time to time. The information on this website is being provided for educational purposes. Any statements about the possible health benefits provided by any foods or diet have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

I do receive some compensation each time a copy of my book is purchased.

—Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat

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The First Low-Carb Doctor—2500 Years Ago!

By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat


The ancient city of Kos
Creative Commons License photo credit: bazylek100

Dr. Robert Atkins is credited (or blamed) for creating the low-carb diet. But Dr. Atkins was not the first to advocate a high-fat, high-protein, low-carb diet for losing weight.

The father of medicine was also the father of low-carb. Hippocrates of Kos, the most famous and honored doctor of all time, known as the “Father of Medicine” was the first to advocate a low-carb diet for losing weight.

Who Was Hippocrates?

Hippocrates was born in the middle of the fifth century before Christ. He revolutionized the practice of medicine in ancient Greece. At that time, there was a conflict in Greek medicine. There was a division between those doctors who relied on aggressive, dangerous treatments like drugs and surgery (yes, the ancient Greeks used both), and those who saw illness as a punishment from the gods and advocated religious means for healing. Hippocrates created a new path for healing.

Hippocrates studied his patients by observing them, taking careful notes, and using his experience to diagnose their conditions. His approach was centered on strengthening the patient through food, exercise, and rest, so the patient’s body could heal itself. Some other techniques used to strengthen the body included massage, inhaling various fragrances, soft music, relaxation, even gentle conversation designed to help calm the patient, and other similar techniques.

Hippocrates taught that it was more important to know the patient’s body and how to strengthen it, than to know the disease the patient had. Hippocrates taught that the body had the power to heal any illness, if the natural processes were properly supported.

The Hippocratic way of healing always started with diet and exercise. Only if those did not work was medication used. The use of medication was stopped when the patient was well enough to respond to diet and exercise. Surgery was the last resort. The doctor was instructed that every patient was a unique individual, and treatment had to be designed for each particular patient. This was the total opposite of today’s “same treatment for the same disease for everybody” approach.

Hippocrates taught that the patient should be treated with kindness, respect, love, and understanding, and knew that a person’s mental attitude had a great deal to do with the healing process.

Hippocrates believed that aggressive medical treatment could do great harm to the patient, and said that the most important rule for the physician was, “First, do no harm.”

Why Was Hippocrates Considered the Greatest Doctor of All Time?

Hippocrates was considered the greatest doctor of all time, because he was so successful in treating illness. While he did not cure everybody, he cured so many that he became recognized as the greatest and most successful doctor of antiquity, perhaps of all time.

Hippocrates became particularly famous when he was credited with stopping the great plague that hit Athens during the Peloponnesian War. Athens was under siege, with large numbers of people and animals crowded together. All food had to be brought in by sea, and there was a shortage of fresh food. A terrible plague broke out, killing thousands. The drugs and treatments of the conventional doctors proved useless, as did trying to appease the Greek gods. Hippocrates and his followers came to Athens to try to cure the plague, as it was feared that this terrible disease would wipe out Athens and threaten the very survival of the rest of Greece.

Diet and exercise would not work here, as the victims of the plague were too sick to keep food down, or to exercise. Hippocrates carefully observed the situation. He noticed that the only group of people not affected by the plague were the blacksmiths and their workers. Hippocrates noted that the blacksmiths spent a great deal of time around burning fires, and often drank warm water that had been brought to a boil, since they were always around hot fires. Hippocrates gave these instructions to the people of Athens:

  1. They were to light large fires in every home, and keep them burning.
  2. All corpses were to be burned completely.
  3. All water was to be boiled before drinking.

The people of Athens followed his prescription, and the plague soon ended.

I should mention that modern doctors and historians call this a legend, refusing to believe that an ancient physician could cure the plague. After all, he had no modern drugs or antibiotics. Any end to the plague must have been a coincidence that had nothing to do with Hippocrates. But the people who were actually there gave credit to Hippocrates, and considered him the greatest doctor in the world.

How to Lose Weight—“Let the Foods Be Rich”

Hippocrates lived in a time when many people were fat, and wanted to lose weight. He said: “People who wish to become thin should let the foods be rich.”

Hippocrates believed that a diet consisting of rich foods would satisfy the appetite, giving the body what it needed so the patient would not eat too much. “Rich food” in his day meant the fat from grassfed animals and pigs, fatty cheeses, and fatty meats. By limiting his patients to the rich foods, he was putting them on a low-carb diet, a diet that was very similar to the one advocated by Dr. Atkins, 2500 years later!

Hippocrates also cautioned doctors to avoid a “one size fits all” approach to weight loss. He stated that each patient had a natural weight that was ideal for that person. The goal was to reach the degree of thinness that the patient’s body would support, and maintain naturally with a good diet.

By advocating that each patient reach the level of thinness that was right for them, Hippocrates rejected the idea that every person must reach the same degree of thinness. The modern idea of identical thinness for everyone has caused so much pain and misery, causing the horrible cycle of drastic weight loss followed by drastic weight gain that is so common today. This horrible cycle is repeated by person after person, resulting in huge profits for the diet industry.

It should be noted that Hippocrates prescribed various diets to help sick people. Sometimes he would prescribe a diet that contained carbs, and sometimes he would put a patient on an all-barley diet for a short period, but not for weight loss. As always, he customized his treatment to the individual patient.

Hippocrates Said

Some of the quotes from Hippocrates really show his philosophy, and are completely consistent with the alternative doctors of today:

“Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.”

“Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot, if you can cure the patient with food.”

“Walking is man’s best medicine.”

The Hippocratic Oath

Hippocrates is famous for establishing a code of ethics for the medical profession, which was embodied in an oath he wrote for all physicians to take.

There was a time when all Western doctors took the oath, though many did not honor it. The modern version of the Hippocratic Oath does not even resemble the oath written by Hippocrates, and is completely different.

To me, the most important part of the original Hippocratic Oath is stated in this paragraph:

“I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability, and judgment, and I will do no harm or injustice to them.”

In other words, doctors used to take an oath to heal with diet! Not drugs, radiation, or surgery, but diet.

Hippocrates and the Research of Dr. Weston A. Price

The healing approach of Hippocrates, based on a healthy diet that supports the natural functioning of the body, is completely consistent with the findings of Dr. Weston A. Price.

Dr. Weston A. Price studied a number of healthy peoples who ate the diet of their ancestors. All of these peoples followed the Hippocratic method of using diet to support the natural functions of their bodies. All of these peoples were completely free of the chronic diseases that plague the modern world. All of these peoples ate a diet that was much higher in animal and fish fat, and much lower in carbs than modern diets. And all of these peoples were in great physical shape, with obesity being unknown.

Dr. Robert Atkins, the founder of the modern low-carb diet, had been demonized, vilified, and heavily criticized. His critics constantly claimed that his findings had no support in science or history. They were wrong, as the greatest physician of all time, Hippocrates of Kos, also prescribed a low-carb diet for losing weight, using very much the same approach as Dr. Atkins.

Related Posts

How Grassfed Meat Helps Weight Loss

Who Was Weston A. Price?

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday, Fight Back Friday and Monday Mania blog carnivals.

  1. Tweets that mention The First Low-Carb Doctor—2500 Years Ago! | Tender Grassfed Meat -- Topsy.com posted on February 1, 2011:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ivan M. Hansen, Stanley Fishman. Stanley Fishman said: New post about how the low-carb diet has ancient roots: HIppocrates the greatest doctor prescribed it for weight loss. http://fb.me/M57hs9oI […]

  2. Meatless Monday My Ass! Here’s Some Gristle To Chew On! posted on February 8, 2011:

    […] just came across another post that is interesting: Hippocrates, the father of medicine, prescribed a low-carb diet to lose weight! Imagine that, […]

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