Martina M. Cartwright

Martina M. Cartwright Ph.D., R.D.

Food For Thought

The Dukan Plan: A Diet Fit for a Princess?

10 Things to Consider About the Royal Diet

Posted Apr 28, 2011

Tomorrow millions will watch willowy Kate Middleton walk down the aisle to marry her Prince Charming. The impending nuptials have many obsessed with all things Royal including the bride's pre-wedding diet. Rumor has it Kate's svelte physique is due to the Dukan Diet, the latest miracle weight loss plan that promises rapid weight reduction. The buzz is Kate has shed so much weight Dukan-ing that her engagement ring had to be resized! So, does the Dukan Plan deliver a figure fit for a princess?

The Dukan Diet was created 30 years ago by French physician Pierre Dukan and is very similar to the high protein Atkin's diet. Dukanites (my own term for Dukan followers) adhere to the following four stage meal plan: Attack, Cruise, Consolidation and Stabilization. The first stage, the "Attack" phase, AKA: the Protein Phase or Shock phase lasts for 5 days. During this phase, one can eat any quantity of a select list of 72 high protein, non fat items such as skim dairy products and lean meats. A minute amount of oat bran and buckets of water are allowed. This phase is designed to shock and awe the metabolic rate and jump start weight loss. While "attacking," it is forbidden to eat anything outside the accepted list of foods. After 5 fat free days, one sails into the "Cruise" phase which introduces some, but not all vegetables into the menu. Cruising means one will have "protein-only days" and days in which the protein-rich foods can be combined with a selection of 28 non starchy vegetables. More oat bran and water are included during the "cruise." Phase III, the "Consolidation" phase, begins "at the moment of reaching your dream weight and lasts for 10 days per kilogram lost (or 5 days for every pound)." []. Phase III allows two slices of bread, a serving of cheese, a serving of allowable fruit like an apple and two servings of starchy carbs a day. Also included are two weekly celebration meals. Celebration is right...these feasts permit wine and dessert...but careful! The diet warns that one must learn to "pay for binge eating." Interestingly during this phase, grapes are banned but red wine is ok. Hmmm. The final stage, or the "Definitive Stabilization" phase let's one make their own rules and eat anything for 6 days a week, with one "protein only" day.

The diet itself is easy to follow. No calorie counting, a specific list of foods that are readily available and no special supplements. The plan encourages regular meals, including breakfast and recommends being more conscious of sugar consumption...all good points to consider. And it isn't surprising that Dukanites lose weight. Protein and fat cause a feeling of fullness and temporarily suppress the appetite; couple that with the rapid loss of water-loving glycogen, the storage form of glucose, and one will experience a quick weight loss of water, not body fat. As with all high protein, low carb diets, the body will start making ketones, which are highly acidic and can lead to bad breath. Another characteristic of these diets is the minimal fiber content however, in the Dukan plan, this may be tempered by the addition of oat bran. Nevertheless, some followers of Dukan complain of constipation. And as with all high protein diets, anger, moodiness and insomnia are not uncommon due to depletion of carbohydrate dependent serotonin production. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, calmness and well-being, is influenced by dietary carbohydrate. In situations of carb depletion, the body makes less serotonin and one ends up with a possibly skinny, yet cranky individual...with bad breath and constipation.

The reality is that the Dukan plan will trigger weight loss because of its low calorie nature and shedding of water weight. In the short term, most healthy individuals will probably not experience serious health consequences, however, as with any diet, it is important to discuss with a qualified healthcare practitioner, especially if one has a nutrition sensitive disease like diabetes.

So, is the Dukan diet based on scientific fact or fiction? Consider the 10 red flags of junk science:
1. Recommendations that promise a quick fix
2. Claims that sound too good to be true
3. Simple conclusions drawn from a complex study
4. Recommendations based upon a single study
5. Dramatic statements that are refuted by a reputable scientific organization
6. Recommendations based upon studies without peer review
7. Recommendations based upon studies that ignore differences among individuals or groups
8. Dire warnings of danger from a single product
9. Lists of "good" and "bad" foods
10. Recommendations made to help sell a product, or by the manufacturer itself

Diets like Dukan that promise quick weight loss and pepper their plans with words like "never," "forbidden," "strict," "eliminate," and "allowed" are difficult to follow in the long term. Further such plans are not nutritionally balanced since the dieter is deprived of fruits, veggies and whole grains that provide a plethora of nutrients and other beneficial phytochemicals which have been scientifically proven to reduce risk of certain deadly diseases. Dukan is short on science but high on the "celebrity" factor (its speculated that the plan is followed by the likes of J. Lo and Nicole Kidman)....celebrity doesn't equal credibility. So, when choosing a weight loss plan you can live with long term, you can Dukan, but why? There are plenty of scientifically proven weight loss regimens that include reasonable portions of all foods. "Preserving the health by too strict a regimen is wearisome malady." François Duc de la Rochefoucauld