Originating in France and having already made waves in Europe, the “Dukan Diet” is now set to wash over the US, as Dr. Pierre Dukan prepares to launch his diet plan across the continent. But following it is rather complicated, can cause deficiencies and be potentially dangerous for your health.
Another Diet To End All Diets
No starving, no tedious calorie counting is what Dr. Dukan promises us, along with “dramatic weight loss” in a diet that follows four steps:
- Step 1 (“Attack”) allows you to eat as much as you want of a choice of 72 high-protein foods.
- Step 2 (“Cruise”) keeps you eating these 72 foods, but add 28 kinds of vegetables to the list and go back to step 1 every second day.
- Step 3 (“Consolidation”) has you add fruit, bread, cheese, “starchy” foods and two “celebration meals” per week.
- Step 4 (“Stabilisation”), the final phase, supposedly gives you the freedom to eat what you like, but actually you are still restricted by “three simple rules” (see below) you are supposed to follow for the rest of your life.
Beyond that you also are supposed, right from the beginning, to do a 20-minute walk every day, drinks lots of water and to not use escalators.
The 72 foods high in protein you are supposed to eat in step 1 are all low in fat (lean cuts of meat, low fat dairy products etc.). The limited addition of 28 vegetables, that are to be eaten every second day, may for some people be the first time vegetables ever are a regular staple of their diet – and vegetables are low in calories, too. In step 3, bread and cheese are reintroduced into your palate, but only in very small quantities.
Step 4 is where you are supposed to maintain your weight, if you
- eat three tablespoons of oat bran per day, oat bran being another staple of this diet.
- keep doing the daily walks and never ever use elevators or escalators.
- eat only lean protein one day per week, as during step 1.
It’s Simply The Calories
There we go: water, vegetables, lean meats and oat bran have zero or at least less energy-density than what you ate before. If before starting this plan your diet consisted of sugar-topped donuts for breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch and a double-cheese pizza in the evening and you washed all this down with about two bottles of Coke, then you now are simply eating a lot less calories. Especially because your stomach is filled with all the water you are supposed to drink.
And not using escalators etc. and a 20-minute daily walk simply burn up to 200 extra calories per day – which I already pointed out eons ago.
Why The Diet Is Dangerous
At the heart of it, Dukan’s diet is nothing but a modified version of the Atkins’ Diet and comes with similar problems. France’s National Agency for Food, Environmental and Work Health Safety (ANSES) put the Dukan Diet on a list of 15 imbalanced and potentially risky diets, explaining that it contains too much salt and not enough vitamin C and fiber – an imbalance that in the long run can have consequences for the body.
For similar reasons, the British Dietetic Association named it as one of the “five worst diets of 2011”. Sian Porter, a dietitian and spokeswoman for the association, told the New York Times that “even if you can survive it for the first few days, it’s hard to stick with it. It’s hard on your kidneys. And it’s expensive”.
Yet on his website, under the header “Doctors Approve”, which may leave us with the impression that the majority of the medical community approves, Dukan writes:
(…) general practitioners in France and abroad, struck by the results obtained by their patients and especially by their long-term weight stabilization, have adopted the Dukan Method, either by learning it and applying it to their patients, or by recommending the Dukan Diet book.
Of course, the less favorable views above Dukan doesn’t mention. According to a Yahoo! article, when asked about these criticisms, he dismissed them as “unscientific” – while he himself never provided any scientific data on the safety of his diet plan.
Draw your own conclusions.
Picture courtesy of “Kristy“.