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Abstract

The harmful effects of the vinegar diet that Lord Byron used for weight loss have recently been examined in an article in the journal Nutrients.1 Byron, who suffered from a combination of what we would call eating disorders today, also had several other health issues throughout his life, and was obsessive about losing weight, is known to have consumed only vinegar with water and rice in the last years of his life. This article explores the history of the use of vinegar as a weight-loss tool, and the associated health risks, which include hypocalcaemia (low calcium levels), hyperreninemia (abnormally high concentration of renin in the blood, which contributes to high blood pressure and kidney failure), and osteoporosis (thinning of bone tissue). The authors conclude that Byron’s extensive use of the vinegar diet likely exacerbated his pre-existing health problems.

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References

1.
A. Santonicola, M. Gagliardi, M. P. L. Guarino, M. Siniscalchi, C. Ciacci, P. Iovino, ‘Eating Disorders and Gastrointestinal Diseases’, Nutrients, 11.12 (2019), p. 3038.
2.
See Alex R. Mills, ‘The last illness of Lord Byron’, The Byron Journal, 28.1 (2000), pp. 73–80, and Jeremy Hugh Baron, ‘Illnesses and creativity: Byron’s appetites, James Joyce’s gut, and Melba’s meals and mésalliances’, British Medical Journal, 315.7123 (20–27 December 1997), pp. 1697–703.
3.
See Mills, ‘The last illness of Lord Byron’, as well as Wilma Paterson, ‘Was Byron anorexic?’, World Medical, 15 (1982), pp. 35–38; Wilma Paterson, Lord Byron’s Relish: Regency Cookery Book (Glasgow: Dog & Bone Press, 1990); Jeremy Hugh Baron and Arthur Crisp, ‘Byron’s eating disorders’, The Byron Journal, 30.1 (2002), pp. 91–101.
4.
See Bernard Beatty, Byron’s Don Juan (London: Routledge, 2016), passim.
5.
Mills, ‘The last illness of Lord Byron’. See also William Wadd, Comments on Corpulency: Lineaments of Leanness, Mems on Diet and Dietetics (London: John Ebers & Company, 1829).
6.
‘I have lost 18 LB in my weight, that is one Stone & 4 pounds since January’, and ‘eat only a quarter of [a] pound of Butchers meat in 24 hours, no Suppers, or Breakfast, only one meal a Day; drink no malt Liquor, [only?] little Wine, & take physic occasionally’. Letter to Hanson of 2 April 1807, BLJ, I, p. 114.
7.
Phyllis Grosskurth, Byron: The Flawed Angel (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), p. 134.
8.
See Doris Langley Moore, Lord Byron: Accounts Rendered (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1974). William Wadd, Cursory remarks on corpulence: by a member of the Royal College of Surgeons (London: J. Callow, 1810).
9.
Jennifer Lokash, ‘Byron and the Pathology of Creativity; or, the Biogenesis of Poetic Form’, Journal of Literature and Science, 1.1 (2007), pp. 24–39 (pp. 30–33).
10.
Grosskurth, Byron: The Flawed Angel, p. 134.
11.
See Mills, Baron, and also J. H. Baron and Arthur Crisp, ‘Byron’s Eating Disorders’, The Byron Journal, 30.1 (2002), pp. 91–101.
12.
Fiona MacCarthy, Byron: Life and Legend (London: John Murray, 2002), p. 347.
13.
David Wilcox, ‘The Clothing of a Regency Poet, Lord Byron (1788–1824)’, Costume, 55.2 (2021), pp. 212–39; Chris Hart, Lives of the Great Romantics, Part I (Oxfordshire: Taylor & Francis, 2022), pp. 367 and 385.
14.
Pierre Desault, Dissertation sur les maladies venerienes. Avec deux dissertations, l’une sur la rage, l’autre sur la phtisie (Bordeaux: Pierre Calamy, 1733).
15.
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Physiologie du goût, ou méditations de gastronomie transcendante (Paris: G. de Gonet, 1826), p. ix.
16.
Clinton Jarvis DeForest, Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor’s Guide to Good Health (New York: Henry Holt, 1958). See also the review ‘Bestseller Revisited’, Time (28 December 1959), available at https://web.archive.org/web/20081209063206/http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,811634,00.html?iid=chix-sphere.
17.
Karl Lhotta, Gunther Höfle, Rudolf Gasser, Gerd Finkenstedt, ‘Hypokalemia, hyperreninemia and osteoporosis in a patient ingesting large amounts of cider vinegar’, Nephron, 80.2 (1998), pp. 242–43.
18.
Dien L. Gambon, Henk S. Brand, Enno C. I. Veerman, ‘Unhealthy weight loss. Erosion by apple cider vinegar’, Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Tandheelkunde, 119 (2012), pp. 589–91.
19.
Ilya Vinitsky, ‘Byron’s Teeth: Alexander Pushkin and the Romantic Body’, Pushkin Review, 21 (2019), pp. 85–105. Also see Wilcox.
20.
Christine Kenyon Jones, Byron: The Image of the Poet (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008).
21.
Zheng Li-wei, L. U. Jun-zhuo, ‘Effects of vinegar on tooth bleaching and dental hard tissues in vitro’, Journal of Sichuan University (Medical Science Edition), 45.6 (2014), pp. 1–8.
22.
Summer Anderson, Lisa A. Gonzalez, Paniz Jasbi, Carol S. Johnston, ‘Evidence that daily vinegar ingestion may contribute to erosive tooth wear in adults’, Journal of Medicinal Food, 24.8 (2021), pp. 894–96. Ines Willershausen, Veronika Weyer, Daniel Schulte, Felix Lampe, Stephan Buhre, Brita Willershausen, ‘In vitro study on dental erosion caused by different vinegar varieties using an electron microprobe’, Clinical Laboratory, 60.5 (2014), pp. 783–90.
23.
Philipp Kanzow, Florian J. Wegehaupt, Thomas Attin, Annette Wiegand, ‘Etiology and pathogenesis of dental erosion’, Quintessence International, 47.4 (2016), pp. 275–78.
24.
Baron, ‘Byron’s appetites’, p. 1698.
25.
Cf. Baron. See also Fiona MacCarthy, Byron: Life and Legend: ‘in the summer of 1807’ ‘he was physically changed. The boy who, at his heaviest, weighed 14½ stone, had now, by a strict regime of dieting and fasting, reduced to 10 stone 13 lbs, weighed with his shoes’ (p. 62). Cf. Letter to Long of 16 April 1807, BLJ, I, p. 115: ‘I grow thin daily; since the commencement of my System I have lost 23 lbs. in my weight (i.e.) 1 st. 9 lbs. When I began I weighed 14 st. 6 lbs., and on Tuesday I found myself reduced to 12 st. 11 lb. What sayest thou, Ned? do you not envy? I shall still proceed til I arrive at 12 st. and then stop’.
26.
Cf. Baron, ‘Byron’s appetites’, p. 1697.
27.
Christina Scribner Reiter, ‘Nutrition therapy for eating disorders’, Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 25.2 (2010), pp. 122–36. Barton J. Blinder, Karin H. Chao, ‘Eating disorders: A historical perspective’, in Understanding Eating Disorders (Oxfordshire: Taylor & Francis, 2019), pp. 3–35.
28.
Carol S. Johnston, Cindy A. Gaas, ‘Vinegar: medicinal uses and antiglycemic effect’, Medscape General Medicine, 8.2 (2006), pp. 61–78.
29.
Carol S. Johnston, Amanda J. Buller, ‘Vinegar and peanut products as complementary foods to reduce postprandial glycemia’, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 105.2 (2005), pp. 1939–42.
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Tomoo Kondo, Mikiya Kishi, Takashi Fushimi, Shinobu Ugajin, Takayuki Kaga, ‘Vinegar intake reduces body weight, body fat mass, and serum triglyceride levels in obese Japanese subjects’, Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 73.8 (2009), pp. 1837–43.
31.
Elin Östman, Yvonne Granfeldt, Leif Persson, Inger Björck, ‘Vinegar supplementation lowers glucose and insulin responses and increases satiety after a bread meal in healthy subjects’, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 59 (2005), pp. 983–88.
32.
Johnston and Gaas. ‘Vinegar: medicinal uses and antiglycemic effect’, p. 61.
33.
Justine J. Reel, Filling Up: The Psychology of Eating (Santa Barbara: Greenwood, 2017), p. 11.
34.
Helena Liljeberg, Inger Björck, ‘Delayed gastric emptying rate may explain improved glycaemia in healthy subjects to a starchy meal with added vinegar’, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 52 (1998), pp. 368–71.
35.
Cf. Paterson, and Baron and Crisp.
36.
Paul Robinson, Michael Clarke, Julia Barrett, ‘Determinants of delayed gastric emptying in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa’, Gut, 29.4 (1988), pp. 458–64. Antonella Santonicola et al., ‘Eating Disorders and Gastrointestinal Diseases’, p. 3038.

Information & Authors

Information

Published In

The Byron Journal
Volume 51Number 11 June 2023
Pages: 57 - 62

History

Published in print: 1 June 2023
Published online: 24 July 2023

Authors

Affiliations

Inmaculada Zarzo [email protected]
University of Valencia
Jose M. Soriano [email protected]
University of Valencia

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