All the dire warnings I have gotten about the Dukan diet have turned out to be wrong

by Marshall Brain

Since starting the Dukan Diet, I have received a great deal of advice in the comments as well as in person and over the phone. Apparently there is a lot of interest in diets and dieting, and there is a great deal of conventional wisdom around them.

The funny thing about the Dukan diet is that there is a perception of danger. Almost all of the unsolicited advice I have received has been negative, but at least in my personal experience with the Dukan diet, it has been wrong. You should consult your doctor before starting any weight loss program, and your mileage may vary, and if you have problems or concerns you would be well-advised to stop any diet you are trying, but I thought I would address some of the things I have heard and compare them to my reality.

1) You will feel weak, lethargic, sleepy all the time

This is supposed to be an effect from the lack of carbs, and this is a very common warning. I have not experienced this at all.

2) You will be unable to do any exercise

This piece of advice is the reason I started writing this article. A friend of mine and I were talking yesterday evening, and I was told I would not be able to exercise because I would be so weak. So I mentioned that during that same day I had ridden my bike 22 miles and walked 3 miles with Leigh. I do not feel “weak” at all, and I have no problem exercising. Maybe it is different for other people, I don’t know. I have seen absolutely no effect on exercise from the Dukan diet. I take that back – I have seen one effect. If you weigh 227 pounds and you eliminate 30 of them, it seems to be much easier to walk and ride up hills. It feels a little like having helium balloons attached to your body.

3) You will go into ketosis, your breath will stink, your urine will stink, etc.

I’ve heard this a lot. I’ve read it a lot. Here is a typical article from a generally reputable source:

What is Ketosis?

But there is one type of ketone molecule, called acetone, that cannot be used and is excreted as waste, mostly in the urine and breath (sometimes causing a distinct breath odor).

I have not experienced this at all, nor has Leigh or the children complained (and believe me, if there were a problem they would not be shy about complaining). I am getting roughly 50 grams of carbs a day from things like cottage cheese, yogurt, vegetables and oat bran. Apparently, for my body, that staves off the acetone effect.

4) Your kidneys will fail

5) You will get kidney stones

Here’s another reputable source sounding the alarm about kidney failure:

Weight Loss: High Protein, Low Carbohydrate Diets

I have to assume that this article is referring more to the Atkins diet because it says, “What’s more, the plan doesn’t permit a high intake of fruits and vegetables, recommended by most nutrition experts because of the numerous documented health benefits from these foods.” The Dukan diet promotes vegetable consumption.

Kidney failure is obviously a huge concern, as are kidney stones. I was sent a link about one woman who had stones 30 days after starting the Dukan diet. I’ve looked around for alternative interpretations and found things like this:

A low-carbohydrate diet may prevent end-stage renal failure in type 2 diabetes. A case report

An obese patient with type 2 diabetes whose diet was changed from the recommended high-carbohydrate, low-fat type to a low-carbohydrate diet showed a significant reduction in bodyweight, improved glycemic control and a reversal of a six year long decline of renal function. The reversal of the renal function was likely caused by both improved glycemic control and elimination of the patient’s obesity.

And this:

A Low-Carb Diet Shown to Reverse Type 2 Diabetes

According to a study from Duke University, a very low-carb diet (20 grams or less a day) gave participants better blood sugar control and more effective weight loss than participants who followed a low-glycemic reduced calorie diet. After 6 months, the low-carb group had lower hemoglobin A1c results, lost more weight, and 95% were able to reduce or even totally eliminate their diabetes medications.

Would Duke University put people on a super-low-carb diet like this if it were guaranteed to cause renal failure and kidney stones? That is hard to believe. I am obviously not a doctor and you should not listen to me, but articles like these (plus the fact that millions of people use the Atkins diet and Dukan diet) lead me to believe that these kidney fears may be overblown.

6) You will hit a plateau and be unable to lose weight

I am two months into this and 30 pounds lighter and I have not experienced a plateau. You can look through my posts and see 60 days of consistent weight loss. This one has not been true for me.

7) Your metabolism will change so you burn far fewer calories, and you won’t lose any weight

See point #6.

8 ) Without carbs your body will start eating your muscles

You can find this warning on the official web site for the Washington State Potato Commission:

Carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel source. Muscles prefer them and the brain relies on them. In fact, carbohydrates are so crucial to the body that if you severely cut them from your diet, your body will begin to breakdown muscle and other protein-containing tissues-your heart and other vital organs-in order to make them.

Yikes! As best I can tell that is complete hyperbole. See the Duke study mentioned in item #5 – the statement seems to be completely untrue.

9) Without carbs your brain will stop functioning

See #8 – completely untrue as best I can tell. Some, however, have suggested that my brain was not functioning to begin with.

10) If you lose weight, your skin will hang off of you and you will look like you are wearing a “loose suit.”

This article is typical:

Lose weight, gain a ‘loose suit’ of skin?

I am sure that if you weigh 600 pounds and lose 450 pounds, this is a problem. But having lost 30 pounds, I have not noticed any such effects. Mike Huckabee lost 110 pounds, going from this to this. He seems OK. I have mentioned elsewhere that I guess I could go on a weight-training binge and fill the extra space with muscle if it becomes a problem. We will see.

Conclusion –

Let me repeat – I am simply recounting my own personal experiences with this diet. I am not a doctor. It may not work at all for you. Maybe you start the Dukan diet and you spontaneously combust two days later – if so that is your problem, not mine. But in my experience, I have not seen any of the problems that were predicted.

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