How long could a person live on nothing but water and sugar?

Let’s say you are one of the few passengers invinted on the three hour madien voyage of a big cruise ship. The Skipper tells first mate Gilligan to fill the cargo hole up with lifesavers.

Well, a violent storm hits and you get washed ashore on an uncharted desert isle. There is a fresh water spring, but no vegetation, and no fish around the island. The ship washes up, too damaged to be repaired, but with the cargo hole intact. And you discover Gilligan, that stupid little buddy, interpreted “lifesavers” to mean Lifesavers candy. You now have more Lifesavers than you can eat in two lifetimes. Fortunately, there are many different flavors.

How long could the average person live in this scenerio?

Well, just to get the ball rolling, scurvy would start to be a problem after three or four weeks.

Sorry for the double-post.

The Master addresses a virtually identical question here, which is really: “how long could you live with sufficient calories but a nutritionally devoid diet?” It seems scurvy will indeed be your acute problem, although Cecil’s mention of a two-year survival period was surprising.

Nitpick: cargo hold

Note that Skittles provide vitamin C. If you stocked your hold with those instead of Life Savers, you might eliminate the scurvy problem and extend your lifespan considerably.

Is there a fire in that?



On a desert island you’d most likely die of exposure.

I wonder if a persons body fat would have anything to do with it (yes, I realize this doesn’t answer the question). Would someone with more excess to burn survive longer without proper nutrition than someone who was very lean? My guess is no…you’d succumb to scurvy just as quickly whether or not you could live on fewer calories. But that’s only a guess. I’d like to hear what an expert has to say.

Why? There’s the shipwreck of the Minnow to shelter inside. (And “desert island” means “empty island,” not “sahara-style island.”)

Normally, but Annie-Xmas specified “no vegetation” in the OP, so rocky or sandy… but not leafy.

Lifesavers used to have fruit flavours – so Vit C may depend on Gilligan’s purchases.

Given that Vitamin C is a water soluble compound, and that humans don’t really store vitamin Cto a significant extent would make my WAG that of the possible factors, bodyfat wouldn’t be a major one.

I’m still going to go with scurvy - would anything else kill (or debilitate) you faster?

There might be something about fat stores containing fat soluble substances that get liberated when the fat stores are consumed, but I am not sure. Vitamin C is definitely not going to be stored in fat, but Vitamin E, D and A might be.

Why does “desert island” mean “empty island?” I thought it meant that the island was like a desert…little vegetation or water.

Yeah, that was a callback to an old Kids in the Hall joke (“If I were stranded on a desert island with one book, one movie and one album, I’d probably die of exposure.”) I always took people saying ‘desert island’ when talking about a deserted island like Glligan’s as being a common mistake everyone politely overlooked (like people who say ‘presently’ when they mean ‘at present’ or ‘currently’).

Desert=deserted. In older usage you sometimes see forests and other wilderness refered to as “desert” because no one lives there.

So a desert island is an island with no inhabitants. Said island may or may not have very low rainfall. But note that tropical islands that have no reliable sources of fresh water are hard to live on. So islands that aren’t deserted probably aren’t deserts.

I guess that makes sense, since if you just dropped the -ed off ‘deserted’ and pronounced it as a “dessert island” people might think you meant the final stretch of the buffet table.

Incidentally I read that you can survive on bread, orange juice and bananas.

Or Guinness, Limes and Mushrooms?

As near as I can tell, not even the fruit flavors of Lifesavers have any vitamin C in them. Every search I’ve done for the nutritional value of any fruity Lifesavers has come up with no listing for vitamin C whatsoever, like so.

Seaweed has vitamin C:
So, assuming you are not shipwrecked on the Moon, you might be able to extend your scurvy-free time.