The Dukan diet is a popular low-carb, protein-rich diet that is similar to the Atkins Diet. The diet is split into four phases and intended to lose weight quickly without suffering from hunger.
Despite its huge popularity, it is also a controversial diet.
According to health organizations, however, the Dukan Diet could be harmful to your health and It has no scientific basis (source).
Is the Dukan weight loss method a safe way to achieve your goal if you want to lose weight fast? And what exactly does the diet require? You will discover it in this article.
In this blog, you will learn, among other things:
- How exactly the Dukan diet works
- The most important benefits of the Dukan diet
- Which important macronutrient (wrongly) you should avoid in the Dukan diet
- Why I am not in favor of excluding certain food groups
- Dukan diet experiences from users
- The answer to the question “can the Dukan diet help with weight loss?”
What is the Dukan diet?
The Dukan diet is a low-carb and protein-rich diet that should lead to rapid weight loss without suffering from hunger.
There are four different phases in the Dukan Diet. You have different menu choices in each of these phases.
The creator of this diet is Dr. Pierre Dukan, a general practitioner, and nutritionist. He specializes in weight loss and weight management.
Dukan has been promoting his diet for over thirty years and became known to a wide audience after the publication of his book in 2000.
Dr. Dukan created the diet in the 1970s, inspired by an obese patient who said he could stop eating food to lose weight, with the exception of lean meat.
In the 70s, Dr. Pierre Dukan was dealing with an obesity patient. At that time, doctors and experts thought that extreme overweight could best be treated with smaller, low-calorie meals.
Contrary to what was customary at the time, he advised the patient to eat meat with as few fats and carbohydrates as possible, and in particular to drink plenty of water. The story goes that the patient lost 5 kilos of his body weight within a week, and Dukan had found his calling.
He devised the Dukan method for this, a food plan that he believes is based on how primitive hunter-gatherers used to eat.
The Dukan diet is based on four different phases, including the stabilization phase and the persistence phase. More about this later.
The diet contains 100 foods, of which 72 are from animals, and 28 are from plants.
The person can eat as much as they want, as long as they eat those 100 foods.
Lovers of animal products will love this diet; the Dukan diet is not suitable for vegans. There is an adapted version with meat substitutes for vegetarians.
The Dukan diet is based on the theory that eating a lot of proteins helps with weight loss because:
- Proteins are low in calories
- It provides a long-lasting feeling
- Digesting of proteins consumes more energy (and therefore also more calories)
By significantly limiting carbohydrate and fat intake, the body is forced to use fat reserves as the main energy source. Once this happens, your body becomes very efficient at burning body fat for energy.
After he noticed that many of his patients had achieved impressive results with weight loss thanks to his method, Dukan began recording his results.
After more than 20 years of research Dr. Pierre Dukan in 2000 his findings in his book “Je ne sais pas maigrir” (I don’t know how to lose weight), which became a bestseller.
Dr. website Pierre Dukan has nearly 30,000 paying subscriptions and 50 products with the ‘Dukan diet’ brand that are sold in various supermarkets and drug stores.
More than 7 million copies of the Dukan diet book have been sold worldwide. The book has been translated into 14 languages and published in 32 countries. The book was published in 2010 in the United Kingdom and in 2011 in the United States.
Discussions around the Dukan diet
Despite the popularity of the Dukan Diet, it has caused considerable controversy in recent years. For example, the Dukan diet was accused by British and French health organizations that it would be a risk to public health.
Eating animal protein could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, and affect liver and kidney functions and fertility.
Dukan, whose protein-rich diet would have helped the Duchess of Cambridge to fit in her wedding dress, was already confronted with disciplinary action on proposals to award extra points to school children who lose weight.
In 2013, Dukan had to pay damages and was banned from practicing as a general practitioner for eight days because he lied to patients in the 1970s about a diet pill he allegedly prescribed.
An ex-patient had suffered heart problems because of this, although the drug was only intended to treat diabetes. This diet pill was later withdrawn from the market.
The eight-day ban was purely symbolic because Dr. Dukan has not been a practicing doctor since 2013. But it was again a dent in the image of the famous nutritionist.
Why should you follow the Dukan diet?
Many diet streams are similar today.
However, we can state that the Dukan diet is not a typical low- carb diet.
The Dukan diet is different from, for example, the Atkins diet or the Paleo diet. These are low-carbohydrate diets where fats are not limited.
With the Dukan diet, absolutely no fats should be eaten, especially in the first phase.
Another difference is that the Atkins diet recommends shakes, bars, and other packaged food, but Dukan emphasizes 100 natural foods.
The advantage of the Dukan diet is that there is no calorie restriction and that you can eat as much of the permitted food as you want.
Why is the Dukan diet so popular?
The Dukan diet is loved by many people who want to lose weight because it causes weight loss, especially in the early days. Because in the first phase of the diet, there is a lot of deletion in carbohydrates, you can expect fast weight loss results.
This is because your body lacks an external source of glucose without carbohydrates and switches to glycogen stores (sugar stores). Glycogen retains water, so the disappearance of the glycogen also removes this water. This soon leads to weight loss.
After a few days, your glycogen reserves are exhausted, and your body is forced to use your fat reserves as an energy source.
If you follow a very restrictive low-carbohydrate diet of 50 grams or less per day, your body will switch to burning fat, and you don’t have to worry about replenishing your glycogen supply.
Although some people see this fluid loss as an argument against low-carbohydrate diets, retaining less fluid should be seen as an additional benefit.
By that, I mean that retaining moisture is a common ailment that doesn’t make you look better.
But the loss of fluid is not the main reason why you should follow your Dukan diet. Various studies have shown that low-carbohydrate and protein-rich diets cause more fat burning, in particular, the dangerous belly fat (visceral fat) in the abdominal cavity ( source, source).
Losing weight with a protein-rich, low-carbohydrate diet is therefore due to both fluid loss and fat loss.
The Dukan diet focuses on natural foods instead of eating ready meals. In addition to consuming certain foods, physical activities such as exercise and walking are encouraged.
There are several factors that contribute to the beneficial effects of proteins on body weight:
- Proteins are low in calories
Protein contains only four calories per gram compared to fat, namely nine calories per gram. You will be less likely to exceed your daily energy requirement by eating protein-rich foods.
This is the energy that your body uses and must compensate with food and drink. If you get fewer calories than you need in a day, it means that you will eventually lose weight.
- Proteins have a satiating effect
Eating protein-rich foods gives you a longer satisfying feeling, making you less inclined to get something to eat. Protein suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin and promotes the production of the saturation hormones GLP-1, PYY, and CCK ( source, source ).
Research has shown that proteins have a satiating effect and suppress appetite, leading to weight loss ( source ).
- Proteins have a thermogenic effect
It is scientifically proven that protein increases ‘t hermogenese ‘, which is the production of heat in the body.
In other words, it takes more energy to process protein-rich foods through the body than you would by eating fats or carbohydrates ( source ). This calorie-burning effect of protein can go up to 100 calories per day.
- Proteins stimulate fat burning
Because your carbohydrates and fats are considerably limited in a low-carbohydrate diet, your body is forced to use fat storage as a source of energy.
In summary, we can state that it is the combination of high protein and low carbohydrate diets that makes the Dukan diet so effective.
Losing weight successfully and maintaining your healthy weight is still a matter of energy balance. In that sense, calories still count.
However, a high-protein diet (which is low in carbohydrates) helps prevent the most significant side effect of limiting your daily calorie intake.
And the most significant side effect of losing weight is .. HUNGER!
Because you suffer less from hunger attacks, it becomes a lot easier to maintain the Dukan diet (or any other low-carb diet that is high in protein) in the long term.
Lose weight with the Dukan Diet
Because of the many benefits of low-carb and protein-rich diets, it is not surprising that the most successful diets on the market are based on this principle.
Decreasing drastically in simple carbohydrates and increasing your protein intake is incredibly important when it comes to losing weight and lowering your fat percentage.
However, the Dukan diet differs from many related high protein diets in that it limits both carbohydrates and fat. It is a high-protein, low-carbohydrate, and low-fat diet.
Unfortunately, not much specific research has been done on the Dukan diet.
However, a study of Polish female participants who followed the Dukan diet showed that the women ate about 1000 calories and 100 grams of protein a day, losing 15 pounds in 8-10 weeks ( source ).
Now you may wonder why fats have been removed from the Dukan diet?
For that, we have to go back in time ..
It is probably due to the fact that saturated fats were held responsible for a long time for increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
In the early 1980s (the period in which Dr. Pierre Dukan began to develop his method), fat was demonized, and people tended to eat a lot of carbohydrates.
But the reason for limiting fats in a low-carbohydrate, high-protein for weight loss does not yet seem to be based on science.
A 2007 study shows that people who ate fat during a low-carb, protein-rich meal burned on average nearly 70 calories more than the participants who also avoided fat ( source ).
In the first phase of the Dukan Diet, you eat relatively little fiber, even though you are supposed to eat a portion of oat bran daily. This portion of a few tablespoons contains less than 5 grams of fiber, which is a very small amount of fiber and does not provide the health benefits of a fiber-rich diet ( source ).
Other good dietary sources of fiber, such as nuts and avocados, are also not included in the Dukan diet because they are considered too high in fats.
Four Phases of the Dukan diet
Everyone who starts the Dukan diet will be confronted with four different phases.
These four phases consist of two weight-loss phases and two maintenance phases.
Before you start the Dukan diet, you will be asked to calculate your ‘real’ weight. You can best compare this by calculating your BMI ( Body Mass Index ).
This so-called ‘Dukan calculation’ is done, among other things, based on your weight and height to see what your current physical condition is.
How long you stay in each phase depends on how much weight you have to lose to reach your “real” weight.
These are the four phases of the Dukan diet:
Phase 1 – Attack phase
The first phase of the Dukan diet can take up to ten days, depending on the weight you lose. You start the diet by eating as much protein as you want (there is no calorie restriction), plus a tablespoon of oat bran a day.
Oat bran is the only carbohydrate source that is allowed in this phase.
Because oat bran contains a lot of fiber, so a large part of the carbohydrates cannot be broken down and digested. This makes oat bran less carbohydrate-rich than other carbohydrates.
Oat bran also helps in suppressing hunger because it can set up considerably in the stomach.
Animal proteins can be eaten from any beef, fish, chicken, eggs, soy and curd cheese, but it must be low in fat. Eating processed meat is not recommended. Neither can fruit and vegetables be eaten in this phase.
This is remarkable as eating enough fruits and vegetables is essential to get essential nutrients and stay healthy. Vegetables also contain hardly any calories and do not obstruct the weight loss process.
During the first phase of the Dukan diet, you should lose weight quickly and not go hungry by eating lots of animal protein. This should have a motivating effect to continue with the diet.
It is recommended to drink at least 1.5 liters of water every day and to walk for at least 20 minutes a day.
Authorized foods in phase 1:
- Lean beef, veal or rabbit (the food must contain less than 5% fat)
- Chicken and turkey
- Ham (low in fat)
- All fish species (except canned in oil or sauce)
- Tofu and tempé
- Eggs (maximum 2 per day)
- Low-fat dairy products (maximum 950 ml per day)
- Seitan (a meat substitute made from wheat gluten)
- Small amounts of lemon juice and pickles
Phase 2 – Cruise phase
The cruise phase lasts 1 to 12 months and is the longest phase of the Dukan diet. The purpose of this phase is to help the user achieve his or her goal weight gradually.
The aim is 1 kg of weight loss per week, although this also depends on the personal factors of the user (such as body weight, gender, muscle mass, etc.). This phase continues until you reach your goal weight.
In this phase, you continue to eat lean proteins that help you lose weight and 32 specific non-starchy vegetables are added to the diet, such as spinach, lettuce, etc. These vegetables can be eaten unlimited every other day.
The oat bran is screwed up to 2 tablespoons per day. Eating fruit is not permitted during the second phase. In addition, you are expected to walk briskly for at least 30 minutes a day to burn maximum fat.
Authorized foods in phase 2:
* On the even days, the users of the diet should limit themselves to the foods of phase 1. On the odd days, the following vegetables may be added.
- Spinach, kale, lettuce and other leafy vegetables
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Onions, leeks and shallots
- 1 serving of carrots or beets per day
No other fruit or vegetables are allowed. Apart from 1 teaspoon of oil in salad dressing or for greasing pans, no fat may be added.
Phase 3 – Consolidation phase
The consolidation phase is the third phase of the Dukan diet. This is the time when that strict dieting should have paid off. You have reached your goal weight but you run the risk of the well-known ‘yo-yo effect’ if you do not pay attention to what you eat.
This phase is therefore designed to keep your healthy weight under control and to prevent weight gain.
It is the transition period between strict diets and the return to normal food. The advantage is that you can now add more tasty products to your diet that were prohibited during the previous phases.
According to Dr. Dukan is the risky period to regain weight after dieting about ten days for every kilo lost. This is also the time that you are expected to stay in the consolidation phase. So if you have lost 10 pounds, you have to stay in phase 3 for 100 days.
You may eat small amounts of carbohydrates at this stage, but they should never form the basis of your diet.
During the consolidation phase you are encouraged to combine all foods from the attack phase and the cruise phase. The following foods may also be added.
Key rules of phase 3:
- Stay in phase 3 for at least 10 days for every kilo lost in the previous phases
- Eat as many vegetables and proteins as you want
- Fruit (1 serving of fruit per day, such as 1 medium-sized apple, orange, pear, peach, kiwi or plum)
- Eat 2 slices of whole grain bread per day
- Eat a portion (40 grams) of hard cheese per day
- Eat lamb and pork twice a week at most
- You can eat a cheat meal twice a week (so eat anything you want)
- Hold for 1 day where only lean proteins may be eaten
- Eat 2 scoops of oat bran per day
- Walk for at least 25 minutes a day
- Drink plenty of water (1.5 liters)
Phase 4 – Stabilization phase
Stabilization phase is the final phase of the Dukan diet. When you have achieved this, you deserve a pat on the back. You have managed to lose weight and hold out. Do not make the mistake of thinking about eating everything again because you have lost so much weight.
The final phase is perhaps the most important phase and comes down to following a series of rules for life.
They should ensure that you never gain weight again and at the same time lead a healthy and satisfying lifestyle.
People can basically eat whatever they want, but are supposed to follow simple rules:
- Take a brisk walk of at least 20 minutes a day
- Never take escalators or the elevator
- Eat 3 scoops of oat bran every day
- Eat protein only 1 day a week (as in the attack phase)
- You can use artificial sweeteners, vinegar, sugar-free chewing gum and herbs
- You are advised to take vitamins and minerals
You should see the stabilization phase as a long-term planning that will become part of your lifestyle.
Benefits of the Dukan diet
There are a number of reasons why the Dukan diet has become so popular.
In addition to millions of people, celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Gisele Bündchenen have tested the diet.
Even Kate Middleton and her mother would have followed the diet to lose weight for the royal wedding.
Below I describe the most important benefits of the Dukan diet:
# 1: Fast results
Following a diet is not easy, the lack of results ensures that many people eventually drop out.
With the Dukan diet, people can lose weight quickly in the initial phase of the diet, which can be very motivating. This encourages people to continue with the diet.
# 2: Don’t count calories
Another advantage is that food does not have to be weighed and that calories are not counted. There is no limit on how much you can eat. Eating protein-rich foods also ensures that you will not be hungry because they have a satiating effect.
# 3: Limited choice of foods
The limited choice can make meal planning easier. Having a list of permitted and non-permitted foods makes the diet easy for everyone to follow and understand.
# 4: Processed food is not allowed
In contrast to the Atkins diet, the fat and salt intake in the Dukan diet is considerably reduced. Processed meat and sugary are also not permitted.
Both are good health habits to maintain
# 5: Movement is encouraged
To lose weight successfully, you must do something that you can sustain in the long term. In addition to eating healthier, Dukan encourages walking.
Walking is by far the simplest and most natural form of exercise. Running requires that you use many muscle groups. If you don’t feel like leaving your house, try the treadmill.
Walking is just as healthy as a good diet. It keeps your body healthy and your mood cheerful. It also improves your memory. In short, enough reasons to go hiking for half an hour every day.
Disadvantages of the Dukan diet
Just like almost every diet, the Dukan diet also has its disadvantages. This makes it difficult to maintain the diet in the long term.
Below I have listed the biggest disadvantages for you:
# 1: Nutrient deficiency
The Dukan diet is not entirely without health risks. The diet is very limited, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
The diet discourages eating fruits and vegetables. Foods that are known to be important for optimum health. Because of this you miss certain essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber that our body needs).
A study found that women on the Dukan diet had a vitamin C and folate deficiency (vitamin B11) after 8-10 weeks ( source ).
At the end of the week, you see fast results with weight loss, but the Dukan diet forces you to avoid unnecessary amounts of healthy food.
# 2: Too much meat
The Dukan diet is based on how primitive hunter-gatherers used to live. The only question is whether our distant ancestors ate as much meat in prehistory as the Dukan diet recommends.
There are different visions about what people ate, but in my opinion, they were (vegetables), fruit, nuts, seeds, fish and sometimes some meat.
Animal protein sources, in particular unprocessed lean meat, generally contain proteins of the highest quality ( source ). Vegetable foods often lack one or more amino acids, making it difficult for humans to get all the essential amino acids
But research has shown that the healthiest diet is an ‘almost vegetarian’. With the emphasis on ‘almost’ because fully vegetarian can slightly increase the risk of premature death ( source ).
I do not recommend eating meat on a daily basis not only for health reasons, but also for animal welfare and environmental considerations.
I advise against processed meat anyway because it is full of controversial e-numbers, preservatives, chemical additives and unhealthy fats. This has been proven to be associated with all kinds of chronic diseases ( source , source ).
# 3: Huge amount of proteins
Proteins indeed play a crucial role in getting a lean body and staying on weight. Higher protein intake increases metabolism and leads to a reduction in appetite. But don’t overdo it.
Consuming more than 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day is considered excessive.
Eating large amounts of protein can lead to constipation, especially if you significantly limit your carbohydrate intake. A 2003 study shows that 44% of the participants who participated in a protein-rich diet had to deal with constipation, or obstruction of the intestines ( source ). This is because protein-rich diets that limit carbohydrates are generally low in fiber.
I recommend that you never get more than 50% of your protein diet from animal protein. That is because the kidneys have to remove organic acids from animal protein, while this is not the case with vegetable protein sources.
If you suffer from constipation, it may help to skip the initial attack phase (in which you only eat proteins) and go directly to the constant weight-loss phase, in which you also eat some vegetables (fiber).
# 4: Expensive foods
The Dukan diet is based on more expensive food products such as meat, fish and hammer bran. These foods are very pricey. Organic products and meat from the keurslager are even more expensive.
Following the Dukan diet can be an expensive way to lose weight.
# 5: Low fat no better for losing weight
Both carbohydrates and fats are avoided in the Dukan diet.
It has long been convinced that – in particular – saturated fat was the main cause of cardiovascular disease. But new studies show no connection between the intake of saturated fat and cardiovascular disease ( source , source ). For saturated fats it applies that they are in any case not unhealthy if they are eaten in moderation.
Healthy fats such as monounsaturated fatty acids (including in avocado and nuts) and omega 3 fatty acids (including in fatty fish) help in the fight against obesity. Healthy fats reduce the cortisol level, stimulate fat burning and suppress the feeling of hunger ( source , source , source ).
There are also sufficient indications that you will not lose any more weight in the long term if you exclude healthy fats from your diet. In fact, most studies conclude that low-carb diets work better than low-fat diets ( source , source , source ).
Is the Dukan diet dangerous?
The main criticisms of the Dukan diet is that it is very radical, especially in the first phases, and excludes important food groups.
By avoiding fruit and vegetables you can get a shortage of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fiber that contribute to good health.
What you need to know is that unfiltered toxins (toxins) are stored in the fat cells when the liver can no longer properly process them.
Before your body can break down fat, it must first be released into the blood by the fat cells. Once in your bloodstream, the triglycerides (fat molecules) are used as fuel.
But fatty tissue, or body fat, is also where our body stores toxins to keep them away from the bloodstream and away from the organs and working muscles.
When the fat cells decrease in size to provide the required energy, toxins are also released which must then be excreted.
But without sufficient nutrients with an antioxidant effect (a deficiency that can arise as a result of not eating fruits and vegetables during the first phase of the Dukan diet) our body cannot naturally detoxify.
This leads to an accumulation of free radicals that can cause headache and nausea in the short term. In the long term, a shortage of fruit and vegetables is even more dangerous.
The free radicals then get free play and cause damage to cells and tissues, resulting in chronic inflammation.
A diet that is only aimed at certain food groups is therefore not sustainable in the long term. You want to follow a diet that will help you lose weight in a healthy way, without yo-yo effect.
Therefore, focus on learning healthy habits instead of temporary diets. Otherwise, following a strict diet is no more than tackling symptoms (such as being overweight and type 2 diabetes ) associated with an unhealthy lifestyle. When you then return to your old diet, you will see that you get back part of the old weight quickly.
Healthy habits are forever, diets are only temporary!
I advise people with kidney and liver problems to start the Dukan diet anyway because of the high intake of animal protein and a lack of fruit and vegetables (in the first phase).
The Dukan diet is also not suitable for vegetarians and pregnant women. Are you unsure about starting this diet because of a certain disease or condition? In that case, always contact your doctor first.
Dukan diet experiences
Curious about the customer experiences with the Dukan diet? Both positive and negative reviews can be found on the internet.
Here are some experiences from customers about the Dukan diet:
I have gone through all phases of the diet and they proved to work extremely well to lose weight. Unfortunately, they are not effective in staying slim. I lost more than 20 kilos in 3 months and then went into the stabilization phase for about 6 months as Dukan calls it. During this time I kept my goal weight. Needless to say, I was very satisfied with the outcome of this diet at the time.
Unfortunately, the final phase of the diet was not a success. A protein day a week was not enough for me to maintain my healthy weight. Within a few months I was back on top.
My advice to people who are interested in the Dukan diet and want to stay slim: NEVER switch to the fourth phase of the diet. If you do this, chances are that you will be back. Just like that was the case with me. – Frederic M.
Started the attack phase 6 days ago. I didn’t think I’d ever lose weight again. Whatever I have tried, my body refuses to lose weight.
I was therefore concerned that this diet would not work either. But for now I am very positive!
I have now lost 1.5 kilos and hope that many more may follow! Do I recommend this diet? Hell yes! – Dori
I am now in the cruise phase and have lost 4 kilos. What I find particularly annoying is that the Dukan diet is incredibly limited. You constantly eat the same type of food. Because of this I started to find it difficult to follow the diet. I really started to have trouble eating so much meat and protein.
My wash blood pressure is also very low and often have a headache and little energy. Because I was worried I went to my doctor. My doctor advised me to stop the diet because he thought it was very healthy. – Leonie
Conclusion Dukan diet
Due to the restrictive nature of the diet, it is important to first contact your doctor if you have a health problem. Although most people lose weight mainly in the first two phases, the Dukan diet is generally rather restrictive.
Especially on the days when you can only eat lean proteins. The maintenance phases include carbohydrate-rich foods such as bread and starch, but discourage many healthy foods with healthy fats.