The Dukan Diet
The Dukan Diet involves eating high protein foods and a restricted diet to generate rapid weight loss. There is some scientific evidence for this approach, although there are negative side effects associated with the process.
The Dukan Diet was developed in 2000, and involves users eating a high protein diet. Dieters are to consume only protein-rich foods for several days, before introducing more vegetables to their diet, slowly transitioning back to a more balanced diet. While there is some clinical evidence to support the use of a high protein diet to aid weight loss, there are health risks associated with restricted high protein diets, and many users may find this diet unsuitable depending on pre-existing medical conditions. Any user who experiences negative effects may wish to seek professional medical advice.
What is the Dukan Diet?
The original Dukan Diet was created by Pierre Dukan in 2000. It involves four different dietary regimens which are to be used at different times depending on the dieters needs. These four diet ‘phases’ are known as the Attack Phase, the Cruise Phase, the Consolidation Phase and the Stabilisation Phase.
The Attack Phase focuses on eating primarily protein-rich foods in order to burn off weight as quickly as possible over a short period of time. Dieters are allowed to consume as much as they want, provided their foods are high in protein. There are 68 foods which are high in animal protein that are approved for eating during this stage. This phase is to be used for between two and five days, in order to lose between 10 and 30 pounds. In some cases, dieters may choose to extend the diet for seven days in order to lose more weight, although this is not recommended.
The Cruise Phase is intended to help users continue their weight loss in a steady and healthy fashion. In addition to being able to eat the 68 animal protein foods from the first stage, dieters are also allowed to eat unlimited amounts of an additional 32 non-starchy vegetables, making a full 100 approved foods. These foods should be alternated regularly throughout the period during which this diet stage is attempted, and should be combined with thirty minutes of brisk walking per day.
The Consolidation Phase is for dieters who’ve already seen significant weight loss success, and lasts five days for every pound of weight that has been lost. It involves the reintroduction of ‘fun foods’ in limited amounts, giving dieters more control over the variety of foods that they eat. This includes fruit, bread, cheese and other starchy foods, plus a celebration meal every week which can be anything the dieter chooses, but in limited amounts. This stage also involves eating primarily protein-rich foods every Thursday and 25 minutes of brisk walking exercise every day.
Finally, the Stabilization Phase is to be used afterwards to ensure that weight does not fluctuate. This involves one day of pure protein-rich foods per week, plus eating three tablespoons of oat bran every day. Dieters are encouraged to always walk up and down stairs rather than using lifts, and additional coaching is available for £1 per week.
How does the Dukan Diet aid Weight Loss?
The Dukan diet works very similarly to previously popular high-protein diets such as the Atkins diet – it is designed with the expectation that a high protein diet will encourage weight loss and help the dieter to rapidly lose weight.
Protein has several effects on the human body. Firstly, it is very filling, meaning that after consuming protein, the body typically will experience a reduction in appetite. For this reason, many dieters choose to rely on protein to fill their stomachs and avoid hunger pangs during period of fasting.
Secondly, protein is believed to be useful in exercise to help protein synthesis within the muscles – this is the process by which the body builds lean muscle mass and burns off fat. Protein is useful in helping the body to undergo greater stress, helping to make exercise more effective and helping the user to burn off calories at a faster rate.
These protein synthesis effects are typically not felt when the user is not undergoing regular intense exercise. As the Dukan diet expects dieters to only undergo light exercise daily, it is unclear how much benefit to their exercise efforts will be felt as a result of a high protein diet.
Clinical Studies on the Dukan Diet
There has been some research conducted into the effects of high protein diets, but not all studies have produced comparable results.
One study from 2008 looked at the effects of a high protein diet on healthy female participants. Seventy nine participants underwent an intensive 12 week weight loss course, followed by a 52 week course on either a high protein or high carbohydrate. The results were then compared. It was found that an increased protein dietary intake resulted in improved, sustained weight loss. What’s more, lipid glucose and insulin levels all improved, moving further towards healthy levels, suggesting that a high protein diet may have notable benefits for several areas of weight loss and healthy living.
A 2013 study looked at the effects of a high protein diet on overweight and obese female participants. 60 women, aged between 20 and 65, were placed on either a high protein or an energy restricted diet for a period of three months, during which they were regularly weighed and measured. It was found that those participants who were on a high protein diet enjoyed lower cholesterol and blood pressure, although they did not enjoy a drop in blood sugar levels that was enjoyed by the energy restricted diet. The study concluded that there may be marginal benefits to a high protein diet, but concluded that the best results combine both protein and low energy diet to ensure that the body is not taking in too many calories and thereby damaging weight loss efforts.
Side Effects associated with the Dukan Diet
In spite of its popularity, the Dukan diet has received some criticism from medical bodies, who argue that there is limited scientific evidence to suggest that a restrictive protein diet is medically safe.
While in small doses, protein is considered safe, there are some potential health risks associated with excessive consistent consumption – hence why the Dukan diet advises users not to exceed a week’s pure protein consumption. Some reported side effects of excessive protein consumption include liver damage the development of diabetes, osteoporosis, kidney dysfunction and the development of an irregular heartbeat.
In addition to these serious effects, some less damaging effects of ingesting some forms of protein include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, skin rashes and other ailments. These effects are normally felt more commonly in users who consume excessive amounts of protein, particularly in the form of whey protein shakes.
One primary problem associated with an extended period of protein-only dieting is that the body may not receive all of the nutrients and vitamins that it requires in order to function properly. Users can often be left feeling feint or unwell, and extended periods of not taking in enough vitamins can cause the body to react as if it is undergoing starvation, regardless of the level of high protein foods the body is consuming. For this reason, it is crucially important that the body gets a suitable source of vitamins and minerals, and users who are considering the Dukan diet may wish to supplement their diet with additional vitamin and mineral supplements.
Due to its potential effects on blood sugar levels and insulin levels, those with diabetes or blood or heart diseases should be careful when undertaking a high protein diet. Any dieter who experiences negative side effects may wish to speak to their doctor or other health professional before continuing to follow a restrictive food diet.
Those on heavy medication for a variety of conditions, particularly mental illnesses, may find that the change in blood sugar, may alter the way that their body reacts to medication, and therefore should be careful when undertaking this diet.
Periods of rapid weight loss can be very hard on the body physically, and it is unknown at this time whether there are any long term health risks associated with extended periods of rapid weight loss due to high protein intake.
Due to physical demands on the body, those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should be careful when undertaking any strict diet. The Dukan diet’s restricted calorie and vitamin regime will be unsuitable for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding as it may cause damage either to the child, or to the mother, who may be deprived of the sustenance that she requires.
The Dukan Diet involves a high protein intake for a short period of time, before introducing a variety of more varied foods. While there is scientific evidence to support the consumption of protein for weight loss, there are various side effects associated with periods of rapid weight loss, as well as high protein consumption over an extended period of time. For this reason, dieters who rely on the Dukan diet should be careful to watch for negative symptoms, and those with heart or blood diseases should seek professional medical advice before undergoing this dietary regime.
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