Should teens get extra points for being thin? Dr. Pierre Dukan, the French founder of the controversial Dukan Diet, thinks so. The diet guru is now facing an ethics hearing for suggesting that high school students in France be rewarded for not being overweight.
In January, Dukan — whose high-protein, low-carb diet is said to be followed by celebrities like Kate Middleton — suggested that France’s baccalaureate exam, a test that 17-year-olds have to take to finish high school and go onto college, include an anti-obesity option that students may pass by staying within a recommended weight range, the BBC reports.
Health professionals were outraged by the comment, and now the French College of Physicians says Dukan has violated the country’s medical ethics code, which states that “a doctor must be aware of the repercussions his views can have on the public.” According to the College, Dukan’s statements could be harmful to girls who are already overweight or are struggling with eating disorders like anorexia.
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“Everything about this is wrong,” Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, told ABC News. “It’s wrong because it invites eating disorders. It’s wrong because weight has nothing to do with academic performance… and the notion that weight is a behavior that should incentivized is just wrong. Weight is an outcome. We should incentivize things people can control.”
In a second complaint, the College of Physicans accuses Dukan of prioritizing moneymaking over medicine, breaching another part of its ethics code, which states that medicine cannot be practiced like a business. Dukan has sold more than seven million copies of his diet books, which have been translated into several languages and have spawned a website providing paid-for weight-loss programs.
This isn’t the first time Dukan has met with controversy or fallen under suspicion. Last year, Dukan lost a libel case against fellow nutritionist Dr. Jean-Michel Cohen, who described the Dukan Diet as dangerous, saying that only the “slimming industry, doctors, pill salesmen, publishers and newspapers” benefited from it, the Guardian reports.
If found guilty, the BBC reports that Dr. Dukan could be removed from the French medical registry. The hearing will occur in the next six months.
“I think the Dukan Diet is a discredited Atkins diet with a French accent,” said Katz.