However, fast weight loss can be difficult to achieve and even harder to maintain. The Dukan Diet claims to produce rapid, permanent weight loss without hunger. However, you may wonder if this diet would work for you. This is a detailed review of the Dukan Diet, explaining everything you need to know.
The Dukan Diet is complicated, eliminates lots of healthy foods, may prompt health concerns due to its high protein content, and is probably not a long-term solution for weight loss.
What Is the Dukan Diet?
The Dukan Diet is a high-protein, low-carb weight loss diet that is split into four phases.
It was created by Dr. Pierre Dukan, a French general practitioner who specializes in weight management.
Dr. Dukan created the diet in the 1970s, inspired by an obese patient who said he could give up eating any food in order to lose weight, with the exception of meat.
After seeing many of his patients experience impressive weight loss results on his diet, Dr. Dukan published The Dukan Diet in 2000.
The book was eventually released in 32 countries and became a major bestseller. It reportedly helped people achieve rapid, easy weight loss without hunger.
The Dukan Diet shares some features of the high-protein, low-carb Stillman Diet, along with the Atkins Diet.
How Does It Work?
The Dukan Diet starts by calculating your goal weight — called your "true" weight — based on your age, weight loss history, and other factors.
How long you stay in each phase depends on how much weight you need to lose to reach your "true" weight.
These are the four phases of the Dukan diet:
Attack Phase (1–7 days): You start the diet by eating unlimited lean protein plus 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran per day.
Cruise Phase (1–12 months): Alternate lean protein one day with lean protein and non-starchy veggies the next, plus 2 tablespoons of oat bran every day.
Consolidation Phase (5 days for every pound lost in phases 1 and 2): Unlimited lean protein and veggies, some carbs and fats, one day of lean protein weekly, 2.5 tablespoons of oat bran daily.
Stabilization Phase (indefinite): Follow the Consolidation Phase guidelines but loosen the rules as long as your weight remains stable. Oat bran is increased to 3 tablespoons per day.
Foods to Include and Avoid
Each phase of the Dukan Diet has its own dietary pattern. Here's what you're allowed to eat during each.
The Attack Phase is primarily based on high-protein foods, plus a few extras that provide minimal calories:
Lean beef, veal, venison, bison, and other game
Poultry without skin
Liver, kidney, and tongue
Fish and shellfish (all types)
Non-fat dairy products (restricted to 32 ounces or 1 kg per day), such as milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and ricotta
Tofu and tempeh
Seitan, a meat substitute made from wheat gluten
At least 6.3 cups (1.5 liters) of water per day (mandatory)
1.5 tablespoons (9 grams) of oat bran daily (mandatory)
Unlimited artificial sweeteners, shirataki noodles, and diet gelatin
Small amounts of lemon juice and pickles
1 teaspoon (5 ml) of oil daily for greasing pans
This phase alternates between two days.
On day one, dieters are restricted to foods from the Attack Phase. On day two, they're allowed Attack Phase foods plus the following vegetables:
Spinach, kale, lettuce, and other leafy greens
Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts
Onions, leeks, and shallots
1 serving of carrots or beets daily
2 tablespoons (12 grams) of oat bran daily (mandatory)
No other vegetables or fruits are permitted. Other than 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of oil in salad dressing or for greasing pans, no fat should be added.
Is It Safe and Sustainable?
The safety of the Dukan Diet hasn't been studied.
However, concerns abound about high protein intake — especially its impact on kidneys and bone health (19, 20).
In the past, it was believed that high protein intake could lead to kidney damage.
However, newer research has found that high-protein diets aren't harmful to people with healthy kidneys (21, 22, 23).
That said, people who tend to form kidney stones could see their condition worsen with a very high protein intake (24).
Bone health won't decline on a high-protein diet, as long as you eat high-potassium vegetables and fruits (25).
In fact, recent research suggests that high-protein diets have a beneficial effect on bone health (26, 27).
People with kidney problems, gout, liver disease or other serious diseases should speak with a doctor before beginning a high-protein diet.
Keep in mind that the diet’s complicated rules and restrictive nature may make it hard to follow.
Although most people will lose weight in the first two phases, the diet is quite limiting — particularly on the "pure protein" days.
The diet also discourages high-fat foods which are potentially good for your health. Including animal and plant fats makes a low-carb diet healthier, more enjoyable and easier to follow in the long term.
The Dukan Diet is probably safe for most people, but those with certain medical conditions may want to avoid it. Its restrictions on high-fat foods may not be best for your health.
The Bottom Line
True to its claims, the high-protein Dukan Diet can produce fast weight loss.
However, it also has several features that may make it difficult to sustain long-term.
At the end of the day, it is a quick weight loss diet that works, but it forces you to avoid many healthy foods unnecessarily.