What is the Dukan Diet. Protein in service of weight loss

In words of formal classification the Dukan Diet is a low-carbohydrate, medium-fat and protein rich diet. In fact, the  core of the Dukan’s method has been build around the protein. As far as the diet’s food list is concerned, the said nutrient is the key to successful weight loss. So far, while still easy to follow, Dukan’s plan has proven to be very efficient.

The Low-frustration Diet

People who have successfully followed the Dukan Diet report that, in their opinion, it’s not only the menu that places the Dukan’s plan in a favorable light. Throughout his career as a nutritionist and eating behavior habits specialist Dr Dukan developed a mind-changing method that works not only because of the low levels of carbohydrates or fats one consumes but thanks to low level of frustration that dieters experience. The regimen imposes no restrictions to the amounts of food you eat (as long as you stick to the menu) and ensures, through its thoughtful phasic construction, quick results to drive one’s motivation.

“It’s efficient, it’s simple, there’s no hunger,” says Dukan. “It’s a low-frustration diet.”
Source: The Toronto Star, Published On Fri Apr 15 2011

The Phases

Dukan states that his method’s driving force is protein. The diet is build around the four main stages:

Phase I: Attack

A rapid kick-off; intense and stimulating weight loss. The plan starts with the attack Phase which ‘surprises’ the body and brings about encouraging weight loss. More here: Phase I Attack Menu in Detail and here: Phase I: Attack Duration and Expected Weight Loss.

Phase II: Cruising

A steady weight loss until the optimal body mass is reached. After the first Phase, the plan continues with a stage of an alternating rhythm of eating protein rich foods in turns with low-carb, healthy vegetables. More here: Phase II Cruise.

Phase III: Consolidation

A high-protein menu is a part of the 3rd Phase of the treatment as it helps establishing and consolidating the newly acquired weight. More here: Phase III Consolidation. An in-depth review.

Phase IV: Stabilization

Lifelong stabilization of the ideal weight. According to Dukan, choosing to eat only proteins one day a week for the rest of your life will let you keep the lost weight off for good. For the price of this little sacrifice you get the possibility of eating whatever you want for the remaining 6 days of a week and, still, stay fit and slim.

Each one of the above-mentioned stages has its own rules and goals but what they all have in common is the protein rich food that, depending on the phase, the diet’s menu is entirely or partially composed of.

Science behind the Dukan’s method

In his books, Dukan spared readers most of the complex scientific details on how the protein causes the weight loss. Nevertheless I did some research on my own and can now shed some light on the matter.

It seems that scientist agree that the nutrition based on high protein, low-carbohydrate food is pretty effective. Eating protein and reducing the amount of carbohydrates in the same time makes you feel less hungry (a psychological benefit; you don’t need to fight your own instincts) and drives the body away from using glucose as a fuel (that’s a metabolic benefit; finally, your body will switch its power cord to the right socket). Instead, the body starts using fat as a source of energy causing so called ketogenesis. This energy is then used to convert protein into glucose.

There’s an informative (maybe too scientific for some, though) article by Michael R. Eades, M.D. on metabolism and ketosis on but here’s an excerpt that illustrates the point:

If, instead of starving, you’re following a low-carb diet, it gets even better. The protein you eat is converted to glucose instead of the protein in your muscles. If you keep the carbs low enough so that the liver still has to make some sugar, then you will be in fat-burning mode while maintaining your muscle mass, the best of all worlds.

Moreover, according to new studies eating high protein, low carbohydrate food is among the most effective forms of nutrition that promote weight loss while reducing hunger.

Dr Alex Johnstone from Aberdeen’s Rowett Research Institute seems to share that opinion:

The high-protein, low carbohydrate diet appeared, at least in the short-term, to produce a feeling of “being full” in these obese men and suggests this diet can influence appetite and the motivation to eat.  The control of our appetite is centred in the brain and so we are using PET scan technology to look at the metabolism in our volunteers’ (…)

Dukan Diet’s good publicity

Apart from the scientific point of view, Dukan has been given good publicity recently. Let me quote a few recent headlines and news reports where the on-line media and newspapers wrote at length about a number of celebrities who successfully turned to the Dukan’s method to shed their extra pounds:

The Dukan diet, popular in France and with celebrities reportedly including Gisele Bundchen, Jennifer Lopez and, possibly, Kate Middleton

The book has sold 10 million copies worldwide, but didn’t really make an impression on North America until Carole Middleton (…) Dr. Pierre Dukan sent her an autographed copy of his book. Mention of the diet has also been linked to Kate Middleton, Jennifer Lopez and Gisele Bündchen (…)

The buzz of the Dukan diet — France’s diet du jour — is reaching new heights here in the US (…) It’s got its list of famous fans. Jennifer Lopez and Gisele Bundchen (…) and there’s speculation that It bride-to-be Kate Middleton is following her mother’s Dukan dieting footsteps (…)

So basically, this is what I’ve learned about the Dukan Diet so far.

Browse this site for reviews, tips and analyses. If you think I might have got something wrong I encourage you to comment. Anyway, no matter whether you agree or disagree or just want to say thanks or hello, your comments are always welcome.

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