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The Dukan diet–Why It’s not Healthy for All of Us

With the media all over the British Royal wedding 2 weeks ago, talks on a new FAD diet, the Duakn diet, were everywhere. Presumably followed by the new bride and her mother to shed away pre-wedding pounds, the French low-carb, low-fat, high-protein diet made it to the US with the release of the book in April.

What is the diet?

On the diet you eat unlimited amounts of lean protein. No carbs. No fat. No fruits. On some days, you can eat veggies–and not all veggies. You can look up the details elsewhere.

I was interviewed for my expert opinion by ABC on the diet. After editing the report, my opinion didn’t come across the way I intended it to be. Watch the clip and tell me what you think, then read below to see what I have to say about it!

Click to see HERE.

Why I don’t like the diet?

  1. It’s not nutritious and not balanced. You can’t have beans and lentils, sweet potatoes, bananas, grapes, and nuts, all of which are excellent sources of various nutrients.
  2. Eating unlimited amounts of lean protein is not risk-free. Lean protein still has fat, and if you eat too much—and you will because you don’t get to eat anything else—the fat grams will add up. Too much fat can hinder weight loss and increase cholesterol and triglycerides.
  3. It has immediate side effects. Eat too few carbs and you’ll get mood swings, headache, dry mouth, and bad breath. When you barely eat any fiber, expect to be constipated. You can lose productivity with not enough carbs and calories. What else will you lose? The fun factor in your meals and a healthy relationship with food.
  4. If you’re still determined to live through the short-term nuances of the diet, read some more. The diet is very restrictive and difficult to sustain long enough to see all the weight go away. After few weeks or even days, you will realize how difficult and impractical it is and quit. Then the weight you lost will bounce back. You lost muscles as you lost weight, but gained it back all as fat when you regained the weight. Ouch.

The diet highlights oat bran. What is it?

If there’s one good thing to say about this diet, it would be oat bran–the outer husk of the oat grain. It’s high in fiber and minerals and might help lower cholesterol. Great, but there’s a problem. You eat 1.5 tablespoons a day in the first phase and graduate to 3 tablespoons a day on the last one. Three tablespoons of oat bran have 2.5 grams of fiber, and to put it into perspective, we need about 25 grams of fiber a day. Oat bran in not enough. You still need veggies, fruits, beans, and whole grains.

My take home message:

The best diet is the one you can follow for a long period of time and preferably forever, and that’s why I vote for healthy, balanced, and realistic lifestyle changes that don’t strip the fun away from food. There’s no fix that fits all. We all have different preferences and taste buds, and our bodies don’t all work exactly the same way.

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{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Salma May 13, 2011, 3:36 am

    Great point of view, I agree with you, this diet is definitely not a balanced, healthy way of eating. People don’t understand- that you WILL gain the pounds back once you get off the diet. I wonder if Dr. Dukan mentions in his book whether this diet is meant to be used for a short period of time or not.

    Btw, you looked great in the video!

  • amena May 16, 2011, 9:49 pm

    Glad I finally saw the clip – You look great and it totally looks like they cut you off during editing.

    When you cut out an entire food group and parts of others, of course it will result in some weight loss – but as you said, it is really more efficient to learn healthy eating so you can develop a long-term relationship with it!!

  • Selene May 20, 2011, 6:35 am

    This diet is for people who have tried and failed at living a ‘healthy, balanced, and realistic lifestyle’. I have tried for years to curb my sugar and carb addiction, but i still keep going back for more. This diet allows your body to adjust to not eating sugar and carbs in a healthy manner. Maybe you should try it? it really isn’t that hard 🙂

  • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD May 20, 2011, 10:06 am

    Salma: Thanks for comment. According to the diet, you need to spend 3 days in second phase for each pound you want to lose, and then 5 days in the third phase for each pound you lost. It can take months.

    Amena: Thanks for the comment. Healthy long-term relationship is what I’d go for. And yes, they did edit the clip.

    Selene, Thanks for stopping by and leaving me a comment. I’ve done so many similar diets as a teenager and I can’t do it anymore. I can’t have a list of forbidden foods–why torture myself and crave the forbidden when there are more balanced ways to eat healthy? I like carbs and I notice that I crave them a lot when I’m tired, overworked, or not getting enough sleep, so I try to work on these issues instead.

  • Nicole, RD May 24, 2011, 2:10 pm

    After Dr. Oz talked about this diet on his show I’ve been wanting to post about it. You did a great job and I agree with all that you said! What a hot topic right now.

  • Terry July 8, 2011, 9:03 pm

    I’m diabetic typ2 90 lbs overweight want to know if the daken diet is safe for me to go on. I do not take insulin I take 2pills. Am insulin resistent

  • J November 21, 2011, 3:36 pm

    Although I basically agree with the fact that it is probably not healthy to cut out some things in your diet. i have followed this diet since April and lost 85 lbs. It was not difficult for me to follow and I just did a check blood test to ensure my numbers were ok after a heavy protein diet and am pleased to say that all is fine. It is of course a personal decision but between taking a few months restricting yourself to some food and being way overweight I wonder which is less healthy.

    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD December 10, 2011, 3:43 pm

      Thank you for leaving me a comment J. I’ve heard more bad experience that good from people who followed the diet. I’m glad your lab values are normal. Restrictive diets that are very low in calories tend to lower metabolic rate, which means your body gets to store more calories when you re-start eating normally again. I hope this isn’t the case for you. Stay healthy.

  • wendy December 7, 2011, 8:43 pm

    i enjoyed reading your opinion on the dukan diet, i’ve been in the attack phase for 4 days and although i have lost weight there has been that persistant niggling in my mind about rebound dieting. I so agree with you and therefore have stopped the dukan diet right now . A balanced diet is so much better for our bodies, fruit .. vege… whole grains …everyday !

  • wendy December 7, 2011, 8:44 pm

    i meant to say rebound weight gain 🙂

    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD December 10, 2011, 3:40 pm

      Good luck Wendy with your journey. It’s more about respecting your body and giving it what it needs. Nourishment. Diets that make people deprived do more harm than good. Thank you for stopping by! ‘

  • Christine January 10, 2012, 9:43 am

    I tried the diet for 8 days. It was awful. I was moody,not sleeping,constipated and gained a kilo. It’s not for me!! I need a balanced diet with 5 healthy fruit and veg as well as grains. I’m off it now and back to healthy eating plan and feel so much happier. I also lost weight. I hated it the Dukan diet. I felt so unsatisfied and became instantly obsessed with unhealthy thoughts about good nutritious foods. Never again will I put my body through this shock.

  • Dave January 30, 2012, 7:07 pm

    Hi – I started the Dukan diet on July 25, 2011, and in 3 months/3 weeks I lost over 50 lbs and went to my target weight. I felt good throughout. It’s now been 2 months since I reached my target, and I’m still keeping the weight off. I really like this diet. I’m in the 3rd phase right now, and I am introducing more foods back into the diet. For me, this diet has been a blessing.

  • Melissa August 21, 2012, 2:05 pm

    The dukan diet is ridiculous, no food group should ever be eliminated from your diet. My friend started with this diet and it turned into anorexia as she pushed herself to eliminate more and more foods. Drastic weightloss is not safe.

    • Nour Zibdeh September 23, 2012, 9:02 am

      I’m sorry to hear about your friend. Sadly, that’s the case for many people in the US and every where else. I wish celebs who follow drastic crazy unhealthy diets realize the damage they can cause. In good health.

    • Asherah March 7, 2013, 9:50 pm

      Dead right. Everything in moderation. I like my Sunday evening ice cream.

  • Asherah March 7, 2013, 9:46 pm

    Too expensive. Too much cooking & preparation involved. There are two of us in our house and I’m the only one trying this diet. My husband, Phil has phenylketonuria, which means he cannot metabolise a protein called phenylalanine. So no proteins for him!! I’m getting NO SUPPORT, whatsoever, so it’s really pointless for me to follow it. Foods come in bulk packs, so not really feasible for one person. My sister & husband are on it but, all I’m gettings is “you got to go on Dukan”, but then, no support at all.
    My ankle seized up the other day. I did a high protein diet years ago and the same thing happened. Now it’s happened again. The phases are interesting, but not really for me. I have noticed some good changes – less burping, no food after-taste and no gassiness. But I’m from a Macedonian Romani/Greek background and I can’t have the foods I was bought up with.
    Bad effects are – Mood swings, ankle seizing up, wobbly knees and vertigo-like symptoms.

    • Nour Zibdeh March 8, 2013, 3:17 pm

      Thank you Asherah for the comment. I’m not a fan of the diet. It seems like you might need a plan that’s tailored to you, that also takes into consideration your lifestyle and health habits. You can check my weight loss services if you’re interested in virtual weight loss coaching (http://www.nourition.com/services/weight-loss-coaching/) or try to find a dietitian local to you who can help you. Good luck! Nour

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