If you read up on dieting trends, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of the Dukan diet. Some celebrities have used this four-stage diet with great success, but unfortunately many of us mere mortals have reported more lackluster results. So what is the diet and its history? Let’s give you a rundown of the basics and what people have reported.
The Dukan Diet by Dr. Pierre Dukan was published in France in 2000 under the name Je Ne Sais Pas Maigrir (I Don’t Know How To Get Slimmer) and quickly became a bestseller. Dr. Dukan has since published 19 other books, turning the findings of his 20+ year career as a Parisian doctor treating obesity into a franchise. The Dukan Diet was published in the UK in 2010 and in Australia in 2011, and has achieved similar popularity in these countries.
You can do the Dukan diet either with a virtual coach or on your own. For a fee you can even talk to Dr. Dukan! The diet consists of four phases: attack, cruise, consolidation, and stabilisation. Let’s take a look at what each phase entails, and then we’ll take you through what other medical professionals have to say about this regimen and its efficacy.
The Attack Phase
During the first week of the Dukan diet, the dieter is allowed to eat only animal protein foods like meat and low fat dairy. Dr. Dukan has a list of 68-72 high protein foods (the numbers differ with each source) he has deemed acceptable to consume in this initial period. Unlike many other diets, which are based on restricted portions and low calories, Dr. Dukan says you can eat as much as you like of any of these foods. The reason behind this is because foods high in animal proteins kick-start your metabolism, enabling you to burn calories quicker (the lower your metabolism, the easier it is for you to gain weight).
The Attack stage normally lasts no longer than a week. One person who said their experience with the diet was successful was assigned a 2 day attack period  by their virtual coach. He was also forbidden from consuming alcohol, carbonated drinks, salt, or anything with carbs, like bread.
The Cruise Phase
In your second week you’re continuing to eat animal protein, with vegetables allowed on some days. Some dieters report they are allowed to eat vegetables every second day, while others report the Cruise phase consists of protein and vegetables every day and one protein only day.
The Dukan Diet website says that the amount of time you spend in the cruise phase is 3 days for every pound (2.2 kilograms) you want to lose. Similar to your animal protein list, Dr. Dukan allows you to choose from a list of 28-32 approved vegetables and no others (again, numbers differ among sources).
The Consolidation Phase
In the consolidation phase, the protein and vegetable diet is maintained, with small allowances of fruit, cheese and bread allowed. You are also allowed “celebration” meals. The consolidation phase is 5 days (2.2 kilograms) for every pound you want to lose.
The Stabilisation Phase
This final stage lasts for the rest of your life: it consists of eating only protein once a week, oat bran every day, and 20 minutes of exercise. Doesn’t sound that hard does it? Unfortunately, it’s this part of the diet that causes most people to fail. The first exhaustive research done into the Dukan diet cited that 2/3 of the people on it could not maintain this strict, unbalanced regimen.
It’s not difficult to understand some of the criticism the Dukan diet has faced. The regimen is impossible for vegetarians to follow. Its strict protocol on what you can eat and on which days you can eat it is difficult to adhere to for many people. A recent American survey of the 25 most popular fad diets listed Dukan as the 24th, citing the diet’s lack of potassium as unhealthy.
A frequently reported side effect of the Dukan diet is that the protein only phase, prohibiting you from eating vegetables and fruits, leads to severe constipation.
In March 2012, Pierre Dukan himself came under attack for the ethics of his diet enterprise. The Ordre National des Médecins (National College of Physicians) in France accused Dukan of practicing medicine “like a business”, a violation of the nation’s established ethical code .
Does It Work?
The big question that prospective dieters have when it comes to any fad diet like the Dukan is of course, “Does it work?” A survey of 5,000 people who had done the Dukan found 80 percent regain all the weight within three years. The National College of Physicians concluded that the diet was putting the public’s health at risk, stating the diet puts one at high risk of fluctuating weight, which can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, and diabetes.
While only more research can shed light on whether the Dukan diet is worth its risks, until then it’s likely best to proceed with caution.