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William Howard Taft Struggled With Weight Loss Programs; Research Suggests

President William Howard Taft, the country’s was only morbidly obese commander in chief and a high-profile “yo-yo” dieter in his time, lost 60 pounds in the early 1900s on a low-carb diet with the assistance of a diet doctor.

he 27th U.S. president was lugging around 354 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame when he was inaugurated in 1909. His obesity was the subject of jokes, editorial cartoons and newspaper articles.

Letters uncovered between Taft and the English physician hired to help him lose weight, provide “a detailed look at patient care for obesity during this time,” says historian Deborah Levine, an assistant professor of health policy and management at Providence (R.I.) College and author of an article, out Monday, in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In today’s medicine, doctors would likely reccommend President Taft weight-loss surgery — which usually provides substantial weight loss — or weight loss drugs, which have a minimal effect at best. But the diet he was advised to follow would be largely unchanged, Dr. Allison said.

Obesity — often said to be a product of our sedentary lifestyle and fast foods — has been a concern for over a century.

Obesity experts said Taft’s experience highlights how very difficult it is for many morbidly obese people to lose substantial amounts of weight and keep it off, and despite surgical options, how little progress has been made in regards to finding a balanced combination of foods that lead to permanent, sustainable weight loss.