Like never before, the house of carbohydrates is under fire, and for good reason, as high protein regimens such as the Dukan Diet have attracted ever increasing amounts of adherents. Ever since the low fat craze took off thirty years ago, food processors added massive amounts of simple sugars to make up for the lack of flavor, adding a troublesome compound to our bodies that we are only now beginning to understand. Throwing fuel onto the fire was the recommendation from dieticians and nutritionists of the period that we find a way to consume between 6 and 11 servings of carbs per day, making it the base of food pyramid of the day.
Fast forward to the present, and these shifts have been largely responsible (1)
One newcomer to the low carb lifestyle scene that you might have heard of recently is the Dukan Diet. What exactly is the dukan diet? (2) The Dukan Diet is a variation of the well-known Paleo diet, which advocates for people to restrict themselves to eating foods that were consumed by humans during the days of hunter/gatherers. The Dukan diet goes as far to list one hundred specific foods (3) (72 that are derived from animals, and 28 that come from plants) that adherents are only allowed to consume, excluding any foodstuff that is not on that specific list.
As admirable as it is for people to give up simple carbs in favour of consuming foods that are more wholesome and nourishing, the public furor surrounding carbohydrates is inducing people to run into the arms of certain dietary regimes that may not be the best option for them. While we feel that the Dukan Diet falls into this category, we also realize that it does have its strong points, and people will ultimately make their own decisions on what they feel is best for themselves.
Before deciding to go with the Dukan Diet, there are ten things you should actively consider before committing yourself to this plan. Let’s review each in detail below…
1) The rules surrounding this diet are very complex and multi-faceted, making it easy to make mistakes or get frustrated with the process.
In the Dukan Diet, there are four different phases (4), each of which have have a laundry list of rules that need to be followed to the letter, lest you undermine the mechanics of this dietary regimen. First of all, in the seven day attack phase, you can eat protein ONLY … except for 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran (the only carb allowed for its satiety properties.
The cruise phase equates its length to the number of kilograms that you need to lose (20 kg = 20 weeks), and allows some foods that are tolerated … unless you gain weight, then they’re not. You have to alternate days where you eat only lean protein, and ones where a mix of vegetables and protein are allowed, with this sequence needing to be maintained throughout this phase’s duration.
The consolidation phase allows the reintroduction of some simple carbs, with one piece of fruit, two slices of whole-wheat bread, and one portion o- … lost yet? It’s reasons like these that most dieters fail to keep up with specialized fad diets like this. If you’re incredibly disciplined, knock yourself out. Those that get confused at endless subsets of rules may want to try something more straightforward.
2) The Dukan Diet is very difficult for vegetarians/vegans to adhere to, due to its heavy emphasis on animal protein sources.
The attack phase of the Dukan Diet requires a virtual 100% commitment to eating protein-heavy foods – and nothing else (except for oat bran). If you’re not hot on the idea of eating nothing but tofu, soy and oat bran for up to ten days, you’re going to have a rough initiation to this dietary regime.
3) Love fruit? Kiss them goodbye for a long while (and if you like bananas … forever)
In this diet scheme, fruit is heavily vilified due to it containing a relatively high amount of naturally occurring sugar. In addition to not being able to have it in the roughly week-long attack phase, they are also wholly excluded (5) (except for rhubarb and goji berries) in the often months-long cruise phase. Can you go without your daily apple for 3-4 months? What about bananas? Well, if you’re serious about adopting the Dukan Diet, you had better hold a memorial service, as bananas are FORBIDDEN, the odd cheat meal notwithstanding.
4) Very few peer-reviewed studies have been performed on practitioners of the Dukan Diet, casting doubt on the creator’s claims of weight loss.
All things considered, the Dukan Diet is a new arrival in the dietary arena. As such, there have been precious few studies that have been performed and/or completed on the efficacy of this discipline (6). While the same could have been said of other dietary approaches when they arrived on the scene, it is a point worth considering when going for a diet that hasn’t been proven to work.
5) The composition of the Dukan Diet is unbalanced, falling short of what nutritionists say is a diet required for optimal cardiovascular health.
Many cardiac health advocates have expressed grave concern with respect to this diet, as it focuses very heavily on foods that are high in cholesterol and triglycerides (7). Moreover, excessive amounts of sodium are taken up during the course of following the Dukan approach, putting you at risk for high blood pressure.
6) The Dukan Diet is not compatible with a regime that is required for diabetics to retain a healthy level of blood sugar in their system.
While you might think that restricting simple carbs might be good for diabetics, they also have difficulty keeping their blood sugars at a minimum level as well as below maximum levels. The lack of almost all carbs in the attack phase, and the strict limitation of sugars in other phases could put unwitting diabetics in a dangerous position (8) as their lack of blood sugar could send them into insulin shock.
7) Not drinking sufficient amounts of water (read: probably more than you drink right now) during the Dukan Diet can put your kidneys at risk.
Protein is a much more difficult compound for your kidneys to synthesize than fat or carbs. When you slam your body with the massive amounts of meat that are prescribed by the Dukan Diet, there exists the very real possibility that you might put your bodies’ filtration system under such stress that you might end up damaging them (9). If you end up going ahead with this diet, drink all the water they tell you to drink plus more.
8) Are you ready to deal with headaches, a lack of energy, constipated bowels, and halitosis (bad breath)? Because these are all side effects of the Dukan Diet.
Due to the lack of balance in the Dukan Diet, there are some side effects that will raise their ugly head (10) as you push forward with this regimen. The lack of carbohydrates will leave you lethargic, your stool will get hard and constipated with the lack of bulk provided by fibre, and to top things off, your breath will begin to stink due to the mass breakdown of fat instead of carbs.
9) The Dukan Diet is excessive in its sodium intake, falls well short of recommended fiber, and misses the mark for several other vital nutrients and minerals.
As mentioned earlier, the levels of sodium in the Dukan Diet are sky high in the attack phase, with an eye-popping average of 3,900 mg of salt per day, posing serious cardiovascular risks (11). However, there are many other areas of concern, as this diet falls well short of daily targets for potassium, vitamin D, fibre, and healthy fats.
10) If you have a history of gout in your family, then don’t follow the Dukan Diet.
If you’re steadfast and determined to giving this diet a try after reading through all this, then at least do yourself a favor and look into the past medical history of your family. If many people throughout your family network have shown signs of developing gout, a condition which is adversely affected by excessive protein consumption (12), then the Dukan Diet will NOT help your cause. It will make things worse. So if you are high risk for developing this condition, do not follow this diet!