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French diet guru could be struck off

27th March 2012

French physician and diet inventor Pierre Dukan is facing an ethics hearing following complaints made against him by the French physicians' governing body.

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Dukan's diet is believed to have been used by the Middleton family ahead of last year's April wedding between their daughter Catherine, now the Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince William.

The French National Order of Doctors and the Parisian Medical Council are accusing Dukan of breaking the ethical code laid down for French doctors by making "imprudent" statements having a potential impact on public health, and by practising medicine as a business.

The move comes after Dukan suggested an anti-obesity component to the French equivalent of A Levels, the Baccalaureat, which pupils could pass by remaining within "normal" body mass measurements, a statement which many fear could compound the pressure on youngsters to be thin, resulting in more eating disorders among teens.

Dukan has sold millions of books with his trademark no-starch diet and won a number of high-profile followers. But nutritionists say high-protein diets can be harmful to health.

The charges against him are based on his "Dukan Diet Cookbook", which he is currently promoting in the United States.

The medical councils say Dukan makes statements in the book which potentially damage public health, and that he uses his medical status to make money.

In January, Dukan recommended that French high-school students be awarded extra marks if they manage to maintain an acceptable Body Mass Index (BMI), which is calculated based on height and weight.

According to his lawyer, Dukan raised a genuine public health issue with the suggestion.

While the exact amount of money Dukan has made from his dietary ideas is not publicly available, his lawyer Isabelle Lucas-Baloup, argues that he has behaved no differently from any other physician with a public profile.

She said Dukan's summons to the medical councils to explain himself was not a condemnation of the man or his practice.

Dukan has previously said he hoped to motivate young people to lose weight with his high-school exam suggestion.

French nutritionists have already warned publicly that too much protein in the diet can result in kidney damage.

Dukan first published his bestselling diet book in 2000. It has sold millions of copies worldwide and been translated into 14 languages, a result that his supporters point to as evidence of the correctness of his views.

There is now a global industry in Dukan diet products and a fee-paying Internet site where people can subscribe to weight-loss programmes and advice, with around 30,000 subscribers.

His dietary advice and regimens are allegedly responsible for helping the Duchess of Cambridge and her mother, Carole Middleton, squeeze into their royal wedding clothes, and with helping singer Jennifer Lopez shed weight gained in pregnancy.

However, a survey of 5,000 "Dukanians" found last year that around 80% of dieters had put the weight back on again within three years of losing it.

Some have criticised the Dukan diet as raising a person's risk for cardiovascular disease, including diabetes and hypertension. Liver and renal functions could also be affected, nutritionists say.


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