The Dukan Diet is a high protein low carbohydrate diet created by Dr. Pierre Dukan that promises to be the secret to not only shedding the pounds but sustaining your dream weight for life by following four phases.
However, many medical experts believe that it’s too restrictive and unmaintainable.
What Is the Dukan Diet?
The Dukan Diet was introduced in 2000 by Dr. Dukan, a French doctor who specializes in weight loss management. It gained notoriety when Kate Middleton reportedly adopted the diet to prepare for her 2011 wedding to Prince William.
Instead of reducing portion sizes or counting calories like most diets, it encourages you to eat more high-protein foods.
In the first two phases, 100 foods are allowed to be consumed in endless quantities until the goal weight is met, while the last two phases focus on creating healthy habits for life by following three simple rules.
Dr. Dukan claims that through the four phases, a realistic weight is attained, but most importantly, maintained for life. The Dukan diet shares similar features to both the Atkins diet and the Ketogenic diet because of carbohydrate restriction and is based on the theory that a high protein diet squashes hunger and accelerates calorie burn.
How Does the Dukan Diet Work?
The Dukan diet begins by calculating your “True Weight” or realistic goal weight, which is derived from multiple factors, including your weight history, gender, and age. It is the foundation of the weight loss plan.
The diet plan is made up of four phases that permit different foods. Phase one and phase two aim to banish the weight and the second maintain the weight loss. How much weight you need to lose to reach your true weight dictates the duration of each phase.
The diet starts with the attack phase to “jump-start” weight loss; this phase is the strictest but has the shortest duration, ranging between two to seven days.
The diet consists of one thing: protein, to be consumed in endless abundance through a list of 68 animal proteins. Six to eight glasses of water, one and a half tablespoons of oat bran to keep you fuller for longer, and 20 minutes of walking are prescribed per day.
The cruise phase switches and re-introduces 32 non-starchy vegetables to be consumed on alternative days, topping the food base up to 100.
The rule of the second phase is simple: alternate between protein-only days and protein and vegetable days while continuing to drink water, increase oat bran consumption to two tablespoons, and 30 minutes of walking. This phase lasts until the true weight is reached.
The focus shifts from weight loss to maintenance during the consolidation phase, and the food group expands from lean protein and veggies to the addition of fruits, bread, and cheese every day.
It also includes one serving of starchy foods and two celebration meals per week. What is a celebration meal, you may wonder? A meal with an appetizer, entrée, dessert, and glass of wine. Water consumption remains, and oat bran increases to two and a half tablespoons a day. The transition phase lasts five days for every pound lost.
The Stabilization phase is the final phase of the Dukan Diet.
There are no food restrictions but instead three non-negotiable rules. Have protein only Thursday as the insurance policy, consume three tablespoons of oat bran per day, and choose to take the stairs whenever possible. The duration of this phase is indefinite.
The Diet Plan
Attack Phase Menu
- Scrambled eggs
- Oat bran
- Chicken breast
- Filet of steak
- Lean ham
- Cream cheese
Cruise Phase Menu
- Omelet – eggs, bacon, tomatoes, spinach, peppers, and mushrooms
- Oat bran
- Pork and prawn salad – tomatoes, lettuce, kale, spinach, beans, and cucumber
- Salmon with roasted pumpkin and steamed vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and eggplant
- Carrot and cucumber sticks
Consolidation Phase Menu
- Grilled – eggs, tomatoes, bacon, and mushrooms
- Oat bran
- Chicken sandwich
- Pork stir fry on rice – beans, carrots, peppers, and broccoli
- Piece of fruit
- Hard rind cheese
Dr. Dukan originally published a Dukan diet book, which is readily available to purchase in multiple countries and languages; now he has expanded into an online coaching program via the Dukan Diet website starting at $29.95 per month. For personalized weight loss coaching, daily monitoring, access to the slimming apartment, and coaching tools, the coaching price varies depending on your profile, targeted weight loss, and phase duration.
Health Benefits and Drawbacks
The ultimate health benefit of the Dukan Diet is rapid weight loss, and it may be the answer to a quick body transformation. In a 2015 study conducted on 51 women following the Dukan diet plan over eight to 10 weeks, the scales indicated an impressive average weight loss of 15 kilograms per participant.
This major weight loss is linked to the increased protein intake over the recommended dietary allowances, causing an increase in the feeling of fullness while burning more calories.
Studies do support high-protein, low-carb diets promoting the greatest amount of weight loss in the short term. However, they do question how easy it is for people to stick with the diet long-term.
The elimination of processed foods for whole foods (foods that are in their natural state) is the next benefit. Processed foods are typically stripped of nutrients and instead loaded with salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats. The Dukan Diet also does not restrict portion sizes allowing the dieter to consume as much as they want within the permitted food list.
Despite the Dukan Diet being relatively new on the scene, studies have indicated some potentially serious long-term negative health impacts of the diet. The study above on 51 women who experienced rapid weight loss came with harmful health effects, including increased risk of kidney and liver damage, osteoporosis, and heart disease. Further research has linked the relationship between a high protein diet and kidney disease.
Dukan is not backed by any scientific studies or long-term research on the safety of the diet. The strict restrictions to avoid eating from the four food groups that build the foundation of a balanced and nutritious diet lead to nutritional deficiencies, and the complicated rules make it difficult to follow.
The Bottom Line: Is Dukan Diet a Healthy Way to Lose Weight?
To sum up the Dukan diet in three words, it would be unhealthy, unsustainable, and complicated.
It’s too restrictive and discourages a large number of nutritious foods. It is not surprising to read that multiple medical professionals have voiced their disapproval.
Meagan Morris is the editor in chief of Celebribody. She's veteran health and wellness editor with over 15 years of experience. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic, Yahoo Health, Cosmopolitan, SELF, and Women's Health, among others. She spends most of her time writing, but her favorite part of the day is spent under a barbell doing squats.