The Dukan diet is a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet with four phases in which carbohydrates are completely eliminated at first and then slowly reintroduced in limited quantities.
The Dukan diet was created by Pierre Dukan (1941–), a French doctor. While he began his medical practice as a neurologist, he became interested in the problem of obesity and how best to help overweight patients lose weight and keep it off. According to the Dukan diet website, as of 2018 Dukan had spent 40 years working in clinical nutrition and had worked with over 40,000 patients.
The Dukan diet was first introduced in France in 2000, when Dukan published his first diet book Je ne sais pas maigrir, which roughly translates to “I don't know how to lose weight.” The book became widely successful in France, remaining a best seller for more than ten years, and was followed by many other books about the diet, including a variety of cookbooks.
In 2011, Dukan released The Dukan Diet: 2 Steps to Lose the Weight, 2 Steps to Keep It Off Forever in the United States, where it also became a best seller. As of 2012, Dukan's diet books had been published in more than 14 languages and sold over 7 million copies worldwide.
The Dukan diet is different from another popular HPLC, the Atkins diet, in a few ways that Dukan emphasizes as being extremely important. The Dukan diet requires all dieters following his plan to drink at least 1.5 quarts (1.5 L) of water each day. Dukan suggests that this will help prevent the kidney problems often associated with HPLC diets. Also, the Dukan diet requires the dieter to eat a certain amount of oat bran each day. This, combined with the required water intake, may help prevent the constipation many dieters experience while on other HPLC diets. Additionally, the Dukan diet emphasizes lean sources of protein and does not allow high-fat meats such as bacon that other HPLC diets allow.
The Dukan diet also allows artificial sweeteners (but no sugar), diet soft drinks, teas, nonfat milk, and some other nonfat dairy products during each phase of the diet. It also recommends using spices, herbs, onions, shallots, vinegar, and other seasonings that do not contain any fat and no or very few calories. These are recommended to help dieters stick to the diet by providing them with ways to change the taste of the allowed high-protein foods so that they do not become bored with the available food options.
This is the first phase of the diet, and it is intended to “jump start” the dieter's weight loss. This phase lasts between 2 and 7 days. During this phase, no carbohydrates are allowed, except for a small amount of oat bran eaten each day. No fruits or vegetables are allowed during this phase. The dieter can, however, eat an unlimited amount of any of 68 high-protein foods. These foods include:
During this phase the dieter must consume 1.5 teaspoons of oat bran each day and should walk at a moderate pace for 20 minutes a day.
The second phase of the Dukan diet lasts until the dieter has reached his or her goal weight. It generally lasts for about three days for each pound of weight loss desired. This phase allows all of the high-protein foods allowed in phase one. On alternate days, this phase also allows the inclusion of a small number of vegetables. The dieter is allowed to eat as much as he or she desires of all allowed foods. The allowed vegetables include:
During this phase, no starchy vegetables, such as potatoes or corn, are allowed. The dieter must eat 2 tablespoons of oat bran each day and should increase his or her daily exercise to 30 minutes of brisk walking each day. This phase continues until the dieter has reached his or her goal weight.
Phase 4 is intended to last the rest of the dieter's lifetime to ensure that the weight that was lost during the first two phases stays off for good. During this phase, there are only three rules:
The Dukan diet website provides a variety of products available for purchase, including oat bran muffin mix in vanilla and chocolate flavors, freeze-dried butternut squash, organic cocoa powder, oat bran bars, and supplements. The website also provides additional recipes, a newsletter, and forums where users can share success stories and advice. Dieters are also able to enroll in Dukan Coaching, which provides additional online tools and personalized content. As of 2018, Dukan and his dietitians offered live chat on his website.
This diet causes the body to burn fat by drastically limiting carbohydrate intake. Normally, the body burns a combination of fat and carbohydrates ingested during the day to provide fuel to the cells that support life and allow normal bodily processes to occur. When there are no carbohydrates available, the body releases more fat from its stores to provide this necessary energy. It is through this process that the Dukan diet suggests its high level of weight loss can be achieved so quickly. Running down carbohydrate stores results in the dramatic weight loss observed in the first few days. Stored carbohydrate (glycogen) is held in water, and for each gram of carbohydrate lost approximately 3 grams of water are also lost. A typical loss of 1.1 lb. (500 grams) of stored glycogen can result in a 2.2 lb. (2 kg) weight loss.
When fewer than about 20 grams a day of carbohydrates are eaten, the body begins to burn stored fat. This causes ketones to be released, which begin to build up in the body. When the body is breaking down stored fat in this way it is called ketosis, and some people refer to low-carbohydrate diets as ketosis diets for this reason. The buildup of ketones in the body can cause a variety of serious health problems including kidney stones, gout, and kidney failure.
The Dukan diet claims to allow for relatively rapid initial weight loss that helps dieters stay motivated and stick with the program. The diet suggests that people can reach their goal weight by staying at the cruise phase until it is achieved. The consolidation phase is intended to help the dieter avoid regaining the weight, a problem for many dieters who lose weight on any weight loss plan. The permanent stabilization phase is intended to provide a way of eating that will last a lifetime to ensure that the dieter keeps off the weight he or she lost.
The Dukan diet claims that it helps avoid many of the problems dieters found with the Atkins diet and similar high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets by insisting that dieters drink 1.5 quarts of water each day and by including oat bran. In his book, Dukan suggests that adding in extra water and carbohydrates will help alleviate the strain on the kidneys that can be produced by eating so few carbs.
The Dukan diet suggests that it is a lower risk diet than the Atkins diet because it focuses on lean meats instead of fatty meats. However, there are still many risks to undertaking a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. Such diets have been linked to an increased risk of gout, kidney failure, high cholesterol, kidney stones, and ketosis. It is possible that high-protein diets also can increase the risk of osteoporosis and certain types of cancer.
Common side effects of the Dukan diet are reported to include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, constipation, nausea, and weakness. These side effects are similar to side effects typically reported from other HPLC diets.
No research has been reported in peer-reviewed journals that looked specifically at the efficacy or safety of the Dukan diet. However, because of the popularity of the Atkins diet during the 1990s, some research has been done on low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets in general. This research has shown that these diets can increase the risk of kidney problems, gout, constipation, and other side effects. The evidence that researchers have found of the effect on cardiovascular health is somewhat mixed. Some researchers have found that such diets can decrease some of the precursors to high blood pressure, at least temporarily. Others have found that such diets increase the risk for serious cardiovascular problems. Many of these studies were done on mice and not humans, and often the human participants were followed for only a short period of time, so it is difficult to draw conclusions about the long-term effects of an HPLC diet. There is some research that suggests this type of diet may be beneficial for some individuals with epilepsy, although it is not completely clear what mechanisms could be causing this benefit.
The Dukan diet is not generally accepted as a healthy diet by the medical community. It falls far short of the recommendations made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It contains far more meat and far fewer fruits, vegetables, and grains than are recommended for a healthy diet. One of the main criticisms of HPLC diets is that they contain too much animal fat. While the Dukan diet does emphasize eating lean meats, which may improve this issue to a certain extent, it is still not generally accepted as a healthy diet.
See also Artificial sweeteners ; Atkins diet ; High-protein diet ; Obesity ; Protein ; Renal nutrition ; Sugar .
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Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 120 South Riverside Plz., Ste. 2000, Chicago, IL, 60606-6995, (312) 899-0040, (800) 877-1600, email@example.com, http://www.eatright.org .
Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 3101 Park Center Drive, 10th Fl., Alexandria, VA, 22302-1594, (703) 305-7600, Fax: (703) 305-3300, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.cnpp.usda.gov .
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