Across the Pacific Ocean without sugar or other junk carbohydrates


I’ve received many emails about this: A Finnish couple is rowing across the Pacific Ocean in protest against sugar and other bad carbohydrates. Their “Fat Chance Row” goes from California to Hawaii, which they’re hoping to reach in August.

You won’t find any pasta-loading on this row – they are eating real food, such as “dried meat, nuts, coconut butter and dried fruit, things that will keep at high temperatures”.

USA Today: Couple test food and each other on row to Hawaii

The expedition’s webpage:

The words “Fat Chance” are from the title of professor Robert Lustig’s book about the dangers of sugar. The expedition is done in collaboration with his recently-launched organization Institute for Responsible Nutrition.

This is where the couple is now:



Top comment

  1. bill

    Yes. Thanks for pointing that out.

    Dr. Lustig disagrees with the LCHF way of eating.
    Yet, as he says on page 69 of his book, he cannot
    figure out how to lose the 45 pounds he gained
    during his residency.

    Whenever he talks about carbs in the book, his caveat
    is to accuse only the "refined carbohydrates".

    He doesn't get it and he is just muddying the waters.

    Reply: #13
    Read more →

All comments

  1. Ted Hutchinson
    While I'm certain the nutritionally bankrupt sugar/fructose sweetened beverages and industrially processed junk foods underlie the metabolic syndrome epidemic, we mustn't close our minds to other possible causes.
    This paper isn't produced by the HFCS lobby
    Misconceptions about fructose-containing sugars and their role in the obesity epidemic

    By focusing only on the sugar/fructose aspect we may be ignoring the fact Flour, sugar and processed foods appear to be important drivers of Western metabolic dysfunction, overweight and inflammation, and may prove to have a profound impact on or even be the initiators of metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, dementia diabetes.

    Replies: #2, #3
  2. bill

    Yes. Thanks for pointing that out.

    Dr. Lustig disagrees with the LCHF way of eating.
    Yet, as he says on page 69 of his book, he cannot
    figure out how to lose the 45 pounds he gained
    during his residency.

    Whenever he talks about carbs in the book, his caveat
    is to accuse only the "refined carbohydrates".

    He doesn't get it and he is just muddying the waters.

    Reply: #13
  3. murray
    Professor Richard Feinman makes a similar point, that converting from sucrose to starch may make things worse metabolically, assuming one is substituted for the other and there is a high carb level in the diet. Of course Feinman's observation is couched within a general admonition to reduce dietary carbohydrates (starch + sugar) dramatically from current levels. So if sugar+ starch = X and you reduce sugar and elevate starch so that sugar + starch = X, you may be worse off. However, and this is a huge however, reducing sugar and NOT increasing starch would be a good thing. The possibility that the fructose in sucrose (paired with glucose) is not as bad as some studies have suggested does not mean eating sugar is a good thing.

    This "fructose-absolving" hypothesis also comes up against data linking greater levels of dietary fructose-containing sugar (as opposed to starch) with obesity, fatty liver and addictiveness. It seems much research needs to be done to sort out how the gut handles sugars and starches in original food states versus processed sugars and starches (such as flours and oatmeal), but nothing so far that I've seen absolves fructose-containing sugar as a major culprit. The industry strategy has been to fund research to show fructose-containing sugar is not the absolutely worst culprit out there.

  4. Kat
    Well said, Bill.


  5. Mark John
    I suspect Dr Lustig is walking a tightrope with what he says and doesn't say.
    Better for him to be listened to by the mainstream rather than being dismissed for "extreme" views.

    Softly, softly, catchee monkey or perhaps:

    prudens qui patiens - he is prudent who has patience.

  6. Alain
    The only misconception about fructose-containing sugars and their role in the obesity epidemic is in their head.

  7. eddy
    limbs off in Fiji, diabetes rampant
    people are eating less fresh fruit , vegetables, fish

    Replies: #8, #17
  8. FrankG
    The article you link makes no mention of what Fijiians are not eating, or indeed what they are eating... was that speculative editorialising on your part eddy?
  9. FrankG
    It may well be that Fiji is now also under the thrall of the Profitable Western Industrial Diet but surely that is as much about what they are eating and drinking as not?

    No doubt a return to traditional, local, seasonal fare would reap great health benefits for all of us.

  10. FrankG
    WHO Bulletin - Pacific islanders pay heavy price for abandoning traditional diet

    "Replacing traditional foods with imported, processed food has contributed to the high prevalence of obesity and related health problems in the Pacific islands. Jane Parry reports. ..."

  11. FrankG
    Cultural Survival -- Feasting in Fiji

    "In Fiji it is customary to welcome anyone, even a foreign stranger, into the home to share a meal. A mat or cloth is placed on the floor of the home and several dishes along with staple foods are placed in the center. Families are usually large, and there are often several guests at a meal. Sitting cross-legged in a circle you traditionally eat with your hands and, save for a quick prayer of thanks, most meals lack formality and are filled with discussion and laughter.
    As with most island cuisines, Fijian food is heavily influenced by and dependent on what the ocean has to offer. Along with palolo, traditional dishes include a vast variety of shellfish, seaweed, octopus, sea cucumber, sea urchin, turtle, shark, and of course fish. Whether they be fillet-able or are painstakingly picked apart because they are just a few inches long, fish of all sizes are eaten. Many are so brightly colored you may feel you recognize them from your dentist’s waiting room aquarium. Most fishing is done with hand lines or spears, and the latter can be dangerous, as the best time to spearfish is at night when the fish are lethargic targets—and also when sharks feed. Along with staples from the sea, all rural families also forage for ingredients and maintain te te’s, or farms, where they grow dalo and cassava, a type of yam.

    Both dalo and cassava are starchy potato-like root crops that are served with every meal. Cassava has a dry consistency and can be boiled or fried. The new shoots of the plant’s leaves can be eaten but one must watch out for the mature leaves because they are poisonous. Dalo resembles a large light purple potato and is more moist than cassava; it too can be boiled or fried. The leaves of the dalo plant are eaten regularly but without being boiled for a long time they make your mouth and throat itch terribly for hours. Seafood, dalo, and cassava are not the only mainstays of the Fijian diet. Bananas, guavas, mangos, pineapple, breadfruit, cacao, and papaya are all available at certain times of the year. The other major staple of the Fijian diet is lolo, or coconut milk. At every meal one or two of the previous ingredients will be served soaked in coconut milk. Some other ingredients such as canola oil, soy sauce, curry powder, canned mackerel and ramen noodles can be purchased from Taveuni’s town, but the two-hour bus trip, the cost, and the lack of refrigeration means that the community still largely lives a subsistence lifestyle, one that is not as sustainable as it once was, due to over fishing."

  12. Ted Hutchinson
    This program is available in the UK for the next 20 days.
    The World's Best Diet
    We can see why the adoption of Western diet in the Pacific Islands has resulted in them now being regarded as the Worlds Worst Diet when combined with poverty, stress and pollution.

    I think just blaming sugar/fructose will be counterproductive.

    We have to consider all the different ways the diversity of our gut microbiome is being destroyed.

    Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity
    Ian Spreadbury

    Pacific islanders pay heavy price for abandoning traditional diet

  13. m
    I have said this so many times and I feel people don't truly understand how difficult it must be for someone to maintain their credibility whilst conveying a concept that criticises the mainstream way of thinking.
  14. erdoke
    The established medical regimen tries to strike back in South Africa:

    Low Carbohydrate versus Isoenergetic Balanced Diets for Reducing Weight and Cardiovascular Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

    I found it highly flawed mainly due to 2 reasons.
    1. Excluded RCTs include both ones having a disparity in energy intake in the intervention groups (13) and those administering energy intake ad libitum (8). It means they stick to the CICO concept and wanted to prove that there is no difference between "balanced" and LC diets when caloric intake is similar. It means they left out 21 out of 40 trials to support their initial goal.
    2. At the same time they comment: "Any dietary guidelines for health should be sustainable in the long-term, specifically in terms of ease of adherence..." What? Excluding the easiest to adhere to setups and advocate this during the conclusion section? This is a complete dismissal of the fact that a low carb + high fat diet is much more satiating even at lower caloric levels than a restricted calorie "balanced" diet.
    Too bad this study was started with an agenda.

    Replies: #15, #16
  15. FrankG
    ...especially given that a diet based on CICO is evidently NOT "sustainable in the long-term, specifically in terms of ease of adherence." Nor again evidently, is such an approach even effective for a great many people! :-P
  16. murray
    "Low carbohydrate" versus "balanced" diets? No bias here. All diets are "balanced" (using neutral connotation). How much alcohol in a "balanced" diet for children? Using a title that implies "low carbohydrate" is not "balanced" is a touchstone for analysis tainted by confirmation bias.

    A less insidious and more apt title would be "Stupid low carbohydrate diet versus enlightened diets--a demonstration of the power of confirmation bias."

  17. Paul the rat
    @ eddy
    so happens that I know personally people who work with Pacific islanders
    (I can not explain - again- why I am wasting my time on a troll)

    Reply: #19
  18. Joey B
    What about watermelon and cherries? I sure do enjoy stuffing myself with them now that it's summertime even though cherries cost a fortune.
    Have not gained an ounce actually lost 4 pounds! Not sure that every carbohydrate rich food automatically makes you gain weight. I would say that it's the entire diet in general and all the processed and take out crap that passes for food these days!
    Reply: #22
  19. Joey B
    So what is you're idea of an optimal diet?
    Reply: #21
  20. FrankG
    Optimal for you or for me? Is weight gain/loss the only criteria that matters?
  21. Murray
    When I was young we used to vacation in a region with cherry orchards. The farmers charged us 50 cents and we could go up into a tree and stuff ourselves. The farmers would sit back and watch us ... and chuckle. Yes, none of us gained weight from that.

    There is no question that avoiding processed food would enhance the health of the population immensely, assuming that by "processed" this would include any processing of grains, such as converting whole oats into oatmeal or milling in general.

    One large caveat to that, however, is that once a person does accumulate excess body fat, getting rid of it is a different metabolic task than avoiding fat accumulation in the first place. Plus, experience indicates that the most likely reason for the excess fat accumulation is continually exceeding carbohydrate tolerance and indeed, damaging the metabolism so as to reduce carbohydrate tolerance even further. People who do not gain weight on the common diet do not have evident carbohydrate intolerance, so using their absence of weight gain as a benchmark is misplaced.

    So stuffing with watermelon may be fine for the carbohydrate tolerant with genes for down regulated insulin pathways etc., but metabolic suicide for the carb intolerant. Consider the ethics of counselling watermelon gorging to someone who is metabolically injured in this way. Seems like counselling a recovering alcoholic with a bad liver to join you in a real bender because you do it every once in a while and seem to be doing just fine.

  22. ahaizoune
    Olive oil diet how to use it to lose weight easily?

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