By Dr. Manny
To many people, trying new diets is a normal part of their lives. They go to work every day, spend time with family on weekends, and try a new diet for a while in hopes that it will help them lose weight. Unfortunately, these people don’t realize the health risks of some diets, including the Dukan Diet.
The Dukan Diet in Action
This relatively new diet comes from the thoughts and ideas of French nutritionist Dr. Pierre Dukan. Ever since the diet came out, over 1.5 million French women have adopted its plan, and the fad is expanding to other countries too.
The Dukan Diet’s main proponents include several phases that supposedly help people lose weight by eating mainly protein. Dr. Dukan has dubbed the diet phases the attack, cruising, consolidation, and stabilization phases. Those on the diet do not have to limit the amount of protein they eat, only the category of the food.
During the attack phase, dieters eat only proteins listed in the Dukan Diet plan for up to 10 days. They do eat a few tablespoons of oat bran each day, a high-fiber carbohydrate that expands in the stomach. Dieters also must exercise for at least twenty minutes each day.
Then, the person will move onto the cruising phase. In this phase, he will switch between eating protein only to adding vegetables with the protein. The dieter can eat as many vegetables as he wants, but he cannot eat vegetables high in starch.
Next, the dieter will move onto consolidation, in which he will slowly bring other foods back into his diet. In the final phase, he stabilizes his eating with little food restrictions except for a protein-only day once a week.
For good reason, many doctors are balking at the proposal of such an extreme diet. Cutting out all vegetables and fruits during the attack phase can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, severe fatigue, dizziness, bad breath, and constipation.
Despite these side effects, people like that they can lose weight quickly without counting calories. The diet forces the body to burn fat because it cannot use carbohydrates for energy. In addition, the Dukan Diet focuses on less processed foods which have less sodium, causing dieters to lose water weight as well.
During the attack phase, dieters can lose several pounds within a short time, an effect not usually recommended by nutritionists. In the long run, though, these people do not learn healthy, balanced eating habits, and many will return to their previous weight within a few years.
One particularly harmful risk of the Dukan Diet is the imbalance between protein and other macronutrients. The human body needs a balanced diet of at least 50 percent carbohydrates and about 30 percent protein.
Because diets like the Dukan Diet propose a high amount of protein, the body will have to burn the protein’s fatty acid for energy. A byproduct of burning this fatty acid is ketones.
The body must use insulin and other hormones to keep ketone levels from building up in the blood. If ketones build up enough without treatment, the high levels could turn into a life-threatening situation.
What to Learn from the Dukan Diet
Dieters should stay away from extreme diets, such as the Dukan Diet. They simply cannot exclude most major food groups without risking their safety. The body does need fruits and vegetables to maintain a healthy balance of essential vitamins and minerals.
On the other hand, people can use the main idea behind the Dukan Diet—that protein can help them lose weight. Lean meats and plant proteins leave the body feeling satisfied and promote healthy muscle tone. When trying to lose weight, dieters should eat these lean proteins, ensuring that they’re getting an adequate amount within normal dietary recommendations.
Those trying to lose weight should use caution when they’re selecting a diet plan. If a plan proposes extreme measures, as does the Dukan Diet, they should opt for a different one that encourages balanced nutrition. While these balanced diets might require more self-control over time, those using them will enjoy the lasting benefits of both weight loss and improved health.