The Dukan Diet: Is It As Good As They Say?

You may not be clued in yet, but the latest diet craze to hit the world of wanna-lose-fat-wanna-lose-it-fast is the Dukan diet. Celebrities like J-lo swear by it, French women have apparently been doing it for years, Doctors are endorsing it, and the Herald Sun Body and Soul just gave it a 2 x double-page spread. But this is no flash in the pan. The Dukan diet (designed by medical doctor Pierre Dukan) has slowly but steadily risen to fame over a couple of decades, and is most well-known in France. And it promises up to 20kg of rapid and lasting weight loss.

The Dukan diet is basically a(nother) high-protein, low-carb diet, but with some pretty specific rules. Now as you know, I’m a follower of mostly Paleo eating, so on first glance Dukan’s wonder-diet seems like it would fare well on my check-list.

Hold that thought for just a moment while I quickly outline the diet for you.

Phase One: Attack

For 1-10 days (the choice is yours, but aim for longer is suggested if you have more weight to lose) you eat nothing but lean animal protein. Fatty and farmed meats are off the menu. You may eat no other food, and absolutely minimal oil – even for cooking. Herbs, spices, seasonings are okay.

Phase Two: Cruise

In the Cruise phase you get to introduce vegetables. That’s nearly all veg except potato, but starches in general are to be minimised. In this phase you alternate a protein-only day with a protein and veg day.

Phase Three: Consolidation

The goal here is to teach your body to adapt to a new set point. You get to add some fruit, dairy, and even starch. You also get two celebration meals (cheat meals, definitely an important part of any structured fat loss regime) each week.

Phase Four: Stabilisation

In this phase it is assumed that your body now knows how to stay lean; that you’ve changed your set point. You get to eat whatever you want (the assumption being you’ll stick, for the most part, with your new and healthier habits), the only rule being that on Thursdays you must have a protein only day – for the rest of your life.

Whilst following this diet you are also encouraged to perform at least 20 minutes of moderate exercise (like walking) each day, and are allowed a tablespoon or more of oat bran fiber each day.

Kat’s Review

Truth be told, this is one of the better diets I’ve seen reviewed in a mainstream publication, or touted as the ‘next big thing’. But there are a few fairly glaring holes that I’d like to address.

Firstly, I believe that where there is protein there must be fat. Jonny Bowden talks about this in his book Living the Low-Carb Life. He cites a year-long study in which a protein-only diet was compared with a protein and fat diet. The diet high only in protein led to constant illness, fatigue, lethargy, gout, and even mental upset. Weight loss occurred, but at an extreme cost. The diet high in both protein and fat resulted in an ideal outcome – both weight loss and excellent health and vigour. In nature, fat always occurs with protein and I fully believe our bodies need fat in order to lose fat and be healthy. In fact, fat deficiency has been said to kill more people than breast cancer each year!

My second issue with this diet is that whilst vegetables are introduced after the initial phase, they are not given much importance. Any basic reading in the field of paleo nutrition will teach you that a vegetable (fiber) free diet is a sure recipe for disaster. Fiber binds to toxins (fats) as they leave your fat cells, and drags them out of your body, and it’s also necessary to a healthy intestinal system among other things. One tablespoon of fiber is not enough to deal with all that meat, regardless how good and grass-fed it is!

Thirdly, the idea of reaching a new set point in such a short-time is not realistic. Charles Poliquin teaches that with a good BioSignature protocol, you can in fact switch your metabolism over to being lean for life no matter what you eat, but it takes at least 18 months of eating clean and being lean for that to happen. Definitely worth the wait I’d say!

Aside from that, I actually do agree with much of Dr Dukan’s advice. Unlimited protein is fine for anyone who is eating a diet low in sugar and carbohydrate, and (in that case) will not lead to weight gain. And limiting carbohydrate 100% for just a few days is not going to have much of an adverse effect (truth is your need for carbohydrate for survival and health is actually zero), so in terms of forcing you to emphasise protein it’s not a bad idea. But 10 days would be pushing it in my opinion. I’d suggest no more than 2 protein-only days – definitely with fiber added – and then alternating green-veg-only days with days where you can have a few other coloured veg, rather than alternating all veg with no veg. I can’t over-emphasise how important it is to eat fat if weight loss and true health is your goal. One thing which I really didn’t like was that the diet outed avocados (yet included starchy pumpkin!) I’d suggest fat from nuts and seeds (in small amounts), coconut oil, organic meat fat, olive oil, and definitely avocado as absolutely essential to good health, along with a good omega-3 supplement of course!

The long and short of it

All in all, you could definitely add just a few tweaks to the Dukan Diet and use it as a foundation for kick-starting correct eating habits and breaking the carb cycle.

Have you or anyone you know actually tried it? I’d love to hear from someone who has!


10 responses to “The Dukan Diet: Is It As Good As They Say?”

  1. Sue says:

    Kat, I bought the book and I am trying it. Regarding the fibre you are taking 1.5 tbs of oat bran in the attack phase and then 2 tbs in the cruise phase. I am not doing low fat as is suggested in the book. Though, my fat is lower than I normally would do on a low carb diet.
    In his book you understand why its low to no fat – he is fat phobic and believes in the cholesterol causes heart disease etc. Also, he allows sweeteners which can be okay in limited quantities but not aspartame which he sees as benign. Real shame.

    Overall, I think the diet looks good. A lot of people seem to be getting excited over it.

  2. Kat Eden says:

    Thanks Sue, I appreciate you commenting on that! I figured he was probably in the anti-fat camp. A real shame, as I think a lot of people are jumping on board this diet … they’ll definitely be getting results, but (IMO) those results would be so much better – and healthier – with a few smart fat and fiber/veg changes.

    I’ll be interested to hear about your progress πŸ™‚

  3. Sue says:

    Extract from book, p. 18
    “Lipids (fats) are the absolute enemy of anyone trying to be slim as they represent, for every living species, the most concentrated form in which surplus energy is stored. Eating fat means you are eating an animal’s fat reserves, which, in theory as in practice, stands every chance of increasing your weight.”
    “Since the Atkins diet appeared, opening the way for lipids by demonizing carbohydrates, many diets have adopted this sensationalized point of view which served its promoter so well. It was quite clearly a major mistake, and for two reasons: cholesterol and triglyceride levels rise dangerously, some people paying for this with their lives; and mistrust of fats is gone and once gone it makes any form of stabilization impossible.”
    p.19 “For those who want to be slim or, in particular, for those who are trying to lose weight, lipids represent every danger possible”.
    (From The Dukan Diet Book).

    Very disappointed after I read that.

    • Kat says:

      Wow. Definitely. Funnily enough, I just read a great blog that summarizes the whole fat fallacy perfectly, and includes all the relevant research. It’s at lean, under diet mythology ancel keys fat fallacy

  4. Catherine says:

    I have just received the book and was also amazed to read that about the fat. The other thing that made my jaw drop was his attitude to aspartame. He says it’s ‘harmless’ and even recommends it for pregnant women.

    Having said that, I might just try the inital stage of the diet to see whether it’s do-able. I can imagine that all that protein without fat gets old pretty fast. I am looking forward to eating yogurt again though! πŸ™‚

  5. Kat Eden says:

    Wow, I didn’t know about the aspartame. I think the key is – like anything- to take it with a grain of salt.

  6. Vicki says:

    My husband and I both started the diet 8 days ago after reading it in the Body & Soul magazine from the Sunday paper. Hubby is a massive meat eater so thought this would be great for us to try. So far we have lost 5.5kg each and we don’t seem to get hungry very often,so that’s great! I am missing my bread/pasta etc but as for sweet things. I make a baked custard or junket for a dessert when the pangs hit. Have just managed to buy the book and looking forward to trying some of the recipes but now desparately searching for non fat fromage frais/non fat creme fraiche that are in a lot of the recipes. All in all this has been an easy diet for us both to stay on and with quick results we now have the motivation to keep trying.

    • Kat says:

      That’s so great Vicki, definitely keep me updated! Be sure to add some good fats though, steering clear of fat altogether can be quite dangerous to your health!

  7. karolina says:

    There are so many theories on diet and weight loss. Fat no fat who really knows the truth. It is so confusing!