The Dukan Diet was developed in the 1970s, but it has seen a steadying rise in popularity since. There is not a lot of official research on the Dukan diet, but it has many factors that are worth a closer look. Some people may lose weight when following the Dukan diet, but is it healthy and safe?

High Protein, Low Carbs

The Dukan Diet is based on the idea that people do not have to count calories to lose weight. Instead, this diet focuses on limiting carbs and increasing protein. Many studies show that diets low in carbohydrates and high in protein are effective. What makes the Dukan diet different is that it has a lot of rules to follow, which might confuse some people.

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Attack Phase

The attack phase of the Dukan diet lasts between one and ten days, depending on how much weight you want to lose. Most people on the Dukan diet want to lose about 20 to 40 pounds and stay in the attack phase for five days.

This phase is all-you-can-eat protein, including meat, like lean beef and poultry, and vegetable protein, like tofu. It also permits any no-calorie drinks and requires 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran for fiber every day.

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Cruise Phase

In the cruise phase, you add back some non-starchy vegetables, like greens, zucchini, peppers, and cucumbers, and you must eat two tablespoons of oat bran every day. The diet also recommends alternating cruise days with attack days or doing five cruise days followed by five attack days until you reach your goal weight.

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Consolidation Phase

After reaching your goal weight, it is time for the consolidation phase. At this point, your body is still vulnerable to gaining weight, and the diet recommends a five-day consolidation phase for every pound you have lost. As such, for some people, this phase lasts quite a long time.

During the consolidation phase, you can have all the protein and vegetables you want every day, as well as one serving of fruit, two pieces of whole-grain bread, 1.5 ounces of cheese, and two tablespoons of oat bran. Every week, you are also permitted two servings of starchy food, one or two cheat meals, and three indulgent proteins, like roast pork or ham. Once a week, you must also have one attack day of pure protein.

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After the consolidation phase, you move into permanent stabilization. Six days of the week, you can eat whatever you want, and you must have three tablespoons of oat bran every day.

The seventh day is a very strict attack day when you must eat only pure lean proteins. This maintenance phase is meant to last a lifetime.

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Nutritional Abnormalities

Few studies have been done on the specific effects of this diet, but one study done in Poland focused on women following the Dukan diet.

The results show that protein intake in these women was excessive while carbohydrate intake was low. Intake of iron, potassium, and vitamins A and D were high, but folates and vitamin C were low.

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Weight Loss

Women in the study on the Dukan diet did lose weight. After about eight to ten weeks, the average weight loss was 15 kg or 33 lbs, but questions about its long-term effects remain.

Researchers concluded that following this diet for a long period could result in cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, kidney disease, and liver disease. This study also determined that the weight loss was likely due to a calorie deficit and not the specific requirements of the diet.

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Although there may not be a lot of direct studies on the Dukan diet, there are many on similarly low carbohydrate/high protein eating plans.

Many studies report that, in subjects who have lost weight, there is a reduction in total and "bad" LDL cholesterol, but moderate carbohydrate diets show better results. Researchers attribute this to the fact that moderate-carbohydrate diets contain about 40 percent less fat than low-carbohydrate diets, but this may not apply to the Dukan diet, as it is also low in fat.

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Insulin Sensitivity

Low carbohydrate diets like the Dukan diet are well known for reductions in fasting glucose and improving insulin sensitivity. Some studies show an improvement after only three or four days of eating low carbs.

These results indicate low carbohydrate diets may be a good option in the early phase for people at risk for insulin resistance and other obesity-associated morbidities, but it is unknown whether these effects persist after the carbohydrate intake increases.

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Length of Diet

Some researchers are concerned about the efficacy and safety of high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets, in part because these diets are not suitable for all people. Current research suggests they may significantly benefit obese people, improving both morbidity and mortality, but that they are only safe for short periods of about two months.

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