Dukan Diet – Is It Safe To follow
The promise of quick weight loss without the feeling of hunger, so commonly associated with diets, is very tempting; this is what the Dukan diet claims to offer if you follow its regime. Developed by the doctor Pierre Dukan, his diet has been a hit in France and amongst a number of celebrities. However, what does this Dukan diet really involve and is it safe to follow?
The new Atkins diet?
The Dukan diet is based on four phases, which follow on from each other and is based on the theory that successful weight loss can be achieved with a very high protein intake (found in meat, fish, eggs and dairy foods), whilst severely limiting carbohydrates (the most common sources are bread, potatoes, pasta, rice and other cereals). You might think that this sounds suspiciously similar to the Atkins diet, but is in fact a lot stricter; in the early stages virtually no carbohydrates are allowed in the Dukan diet – even low carbohydrate vegetables, which the Atkins diet would allow – with the exception of a small helping of oat bran. The Dukan diet also restricts fat intake, so the fried eggs and steak famous on the Atkins diet are out; instead it encourages low fat sources of protein such as fat free dairy foods and lean meat.
The science behind the Dukan diet
Proteins are more difficult to digest, so remain in the stomach for longer, promoting fullness; this also means more calories are expended in their digestion. Carbohydrates meanwhile are rapidly digested and raise levels of the hormone insulin, which signals the storage of fat. Fat in the diet also needs to be restricted, as per gram it has the most calories of the nutrients and high intakes are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Why the Dukan diet may not be good for our health
In the short term expect to experience side effects such as bad breath, weakness and difficulty sleeping – this is due to the body switching to fat as its main fuel source, which generates ketones. Constipation is also likely when carbohydrates are restricted due to reduced fibre intake, which is linked with an increased risk of health conditions such as bowel cancer and diverticular disease over time.
Although research has not been carried out into the long term implications of the diet, it is far from balanced, so is likely to result in nutritional deficiencies and store up health problems for the future. As wholegrains, fruit and vegetables are limited, intake of important vitamins and minerals are reduced, which are not only required for maintaining normal body functions, but antioxidant vitamins convey protection against cancer and heart disease. Regularly consuming oat bran is also not recommended, as it contains substances called phytates, which bind to iron and zinc from the foods that we eat and inhibit their absorption. While the diet recommends taking a vitamin and mineral supplement to compensate for its restrictive nature, it is best to obtain nutrients from food, as they tend to be in a more available form for the body and it is difficult to overdose when they are obtained from natural sources.
The high protein intake of the diet may also be a danger. As the body can only utilize as much protein as it needs, excess is removed from the body via the kidneys, so regularly consuming large amounts of protein can put a strain on the kidneys. High amounts of protein in the diet have also been linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis, as the acidic conditions created by excess protein is thought to trigger the loss of extra calcium from the bones to neutralize conditions.
The Dukan diet may help you lose seven pounds in the first five days, but such rapid weight loss is not associated with long term success. The very restrictive nature of the eating plans means it is difficult to adhere to for any length of time, with the temptation to slip back into old ways. When weight is lost quickly, it tends to be regained once previous dietary habits are resumed; the Dukan diet does not encourage a balanced diet and portion control, so makes it difficult for people to make informed choices about their normal eating habits.
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