What is the Dukan diet ?
The history of Dukan
Dubbed ''the French medical solution to permanent weight loss'', the Dukan diet is the ultimate in prescriptive eating, with just 72 foods to choose from in the first phase. Carbs are the enemy, even if they come dressed as fruit and veg
Pierre Dukan’s high-protein, low-carb plan was first published in France in 2000 under the name ‘Je ne sais pas maigrir’ (I don’t know how to lose weight). It wasn’t until 2010 that the Dukan movement reached the UK, rebranded as the Dukan diet. Despite being the new kid on an already very carb-free block, Dukan carved a gap in the jostling miracle weight loss market with a little help from some fairly well known fans. Kate Middleton, in the run up to her Royal wedding, reportedly dropped two dress sizes following Dukan’s method.
Pierre Dukan began his medical career specialising in neurology but allegedly switched to nutrition after recommending a high-protein diet to a friend desperate to lose weight. So impressed with his friend's rapid reduction in size, Dukan embarked on developing and researching the diet that would eventually make him a household name. To date, the Dukan diet book has sold more than eight million copies worldwide.
Not without controversy, Dukan’s weight loss plan has come under criticism from health professionals, many believing that the diet promotes an unbalanced way of eating. In recent years, Pierre Dukan’s controversial claims have also brought unwanted attention upon the Dukan brand.
The Dukan diet is similar to a ketogenic diet as both emphasise the consumption of fat and protein but omit carbohydrates. The body will turn to glycogen stores (carbohydrates) for energy first if supplies are plentiful. Ketogenic diets essentially force the body to switch from burning carbohydrates for energy to burning fat. This often has the desirable effect of weight loss, though high levels of ketones in the body can be problematic and may lead to a state known as ketosis.
The four phases of the Dukan diet summarised from dukandiet.co.uk:
This first stage lasts between five-ten days and promises immediate results. Dieters have 72 high-protein foods to choose from, with absolutely no carbohydrates allowed.
While pure protein days are still encouraged, carbohydrates are slowly reintroduced in the form of 28 pre-approved vegetables. Dukanites stay in this stage until they have reached their ‘goal weight’.
Previously forbidden foods such as fruit and dairy are gradually reintroduced. Followers are even granted two ‘celebration meals’ a week where they are allowed to eat almost anything they like (some restrictions still apply).
If you’ve managed to reintroduce carbohydrates back into your life without putting weight back on, you’re allowed to smugly step into stage 4 and unlock the ‘rules for life’.
How long people stay on the diet depends on their current weight, fitness and desired goal weight.
Nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens says:
During the initial, very restrictive phase you can expect to lose weight quite quickly which of course acts as a great motivator. The diet is especially attractive for those who don’t like counting calories and prefer a more prescriptive way of eating because it sets out exactly what you can have.
Unlike Atkins, the Dukan diet restricts fat and omits vegetables completely in the first phase, with a gradual re-introduction of some fruit, veg and carbs in the subsequent phases of the diet. Some reports suggest the stabilisation phase - the last of the four phases – is the one that causes the most problems. That’s because it’s hard to re-introduce a wider selection of food, without putting weight back on, and many followers find it difficult to stick to the dedicated weekly “protein day”.
There is limited scientific support that the Dukan diet is effective and sustainable in the long term, so although you can expect to lose weight in the initial very strict phases of the diet, most go on to regain the weight they originally lost.
More importantly, though, the diet ignores key healthy eating principles – including the importance of fruit and veg, the benefits of whole-grains and fibre and the health benefits achieved by selecting from a variety of food groups. For these reasons the diet is likely to be nutritionally imbalanced.
As a result of following a low-carb diet people sometimes experience the following:
Lack of energy, fatigue and dizziness because of the low levels of carbs
Bad breath and a dry mouth
Constipation and potential bowel problems because of the low levels of fibre
Nutrient deficiencies because of the restricted food choice
Please note, if you are considering attempting any form of diet please consult your GP first to ensure you can do so without risk to health.