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Low carb athlete raises 200,000 dollars for no-sugar campaign by rowing 45 days

Find out how an athlete raised $200,000 dollars by rowing.
Find out how an athlete raised $200,000 dollars by rowing.
Photo by Tim P. Whitby

Known as an endurance athlete and entrepreneur, Sami Inkinen believes in the benefits of high fat, low carb sugar-free diets for health, fitness and weight loss. And he decided to do more than foster his own well-being with his diet. Sami and his wife, Meredith Loring just completed a 45-day journey across the Pacific to raise money for a campaign about nutrition, reported Grind TV on August 14.

The couple became the fastest duo to complete the journey known as the Great Pacific Race. They undertook the feat to raise more than $200,000 to help publicize the dangers of consuming high carb, high sugar diets, which are associated with cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

"We are using this as a platform to raise awareness and raise funds against sugar and for whole-foods-based nutrition," said Sami. He partnered with the Institute for Responsible Nutrition, headed by Dr. Robert Lustig of the University of California, San Francisco.

Sami and Meredith used a high fat low carb diet to fuel their journey. He estimated that his food intake consisted of nine percent carbohydrates, 70 percent fat and 21 percent protein.

"The interesting and somewhat surprising thing to me was that all our food cravings went away with a real-food-based diet that is low in carbs," said Sami. "I thought we’d be dreaming about foods, especially high-carb treats, all the time on the boat."

But they had no problems. "And once we finished 45 days later, the only thing we craved was a huge glass of icy sparkling water. We only had dinner six hours after arrival," Sami added.

In an exclusive interview, Sami revealed that he believes sugar and processed carbohydrates "are behind our childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemic." His own diet eliminates any form of sugar or grains in accordance with that principle.

During the row, the couple ate freeze-dried meat and vegetables, nuts and nut butter. It sufficed to power them through even the initial weeks on the ocean, which were challenging, he added.

Sami revealed his top tips for following a whole foods-based low carb diet. "Shop at the perimeter of the grocery store," he said. In a typical store, the outside aisles contain fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, fish, poultry, meat and dairy, while processed products such as bread, cereal and cookies reside on the inside aisles.

In addition, he recommends avoiding restaurants and fast food places, which make it difficult to control the quality and quantity of your meals and snacks. "Cook at home," stressed Sami.

As for the high fat content of his diet? Enjoy healthy fats such as nuts, says Sami. Avoid sugar and processed carbohydrates rather than fearing fat.

For those who are dubious that sugar is as dangerous as Sami and Dr. Lustig claim, several new studies prove their views. Sugar is linked to conditions ranging from cancer to depression, and it's also addictive, reported WKYC News on August 15.

"Sugar is highly addictive," warns Cleveland Clinic Dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick. "We know that sugar lights up areas of the brain that are similar to the same areas that are lit up by heroin or cocaine."

Overcoming sugar addiction isn't easy for those trying to win at weight loss. To help, Kristin suggests following Sami's suggestions and eating unprocessed protein or healthy fats such as avocado.

"A new study shows avocados actually helps to boost satiety. Satiety means we feel satisfied, we're not going to be hungry. We have that satisfaction, so we don't need to eat more," she explained.

One challenge with eliminating sugar, however, is its ubiquitous presence. From your morning cereal to your noon crackers and soup to your dinnertime pasta, sugar is hidden in various forms in many foods. In an exclusive interview, Dr. Lustig revealed that he feels that corporations are at fault for this situation.

Dr. Lustig blames the government for being "complacent and complicit with the food industry in altering the food environment to our detriment." He recently participated in a film called "Fed Up" attacking the food industry and warning about sugar.

The response to the "Fed Up" film has been 80 percent positive and 20 percent negative, Dr. Lustig revealed. "The 'hatefuls' are people who are entrenched in their "calorie is a calorie" mantra (e.g. many dietitians), professional detractors who like to stir up animus for their own gain, people covering for the food industry, and people who are so hooked on sugar and processed food that they can't see their way clear."

The question: What will it take to halt the onslaught of processed foods loaded with sugar, salt and trans fats? "The food corporations don't care what they sell," said Dr. Lustig. He agrees with Sami that it's important to cook your own meals.

Companies will not change without pressure, says Dr. Lustig. "That pressure will have to come from business, insurers, government, or the people," he added.

Slowly but surely, he has noted changes. "We're seeing small efforts in each of these stakeholders to change the paradigm. Hopefully over the next couple of years, those outcries will grow louder," he added.