The Atkins Illusion

by Tracy Rohland

Many Americans are obsessed with weight loss. Millions of dollars are spent each year on weight loss programs, diet books, diet foods, miracle drinks, and surgeries in order to get our bodies to shed those extra pounds. With the latest resurgence of the popular Atkins diet, also known as the "low-carb diet" or the "protein diet", millions of people are emptying their pocketbooks to jump on board. These high-priced “low-carb” foods, which include “nutrition” bars and ready-to-eat meals along with tons of meat, cheese and dairy products, deny the body proper nutrition. Dr. Atkins has successfully convinced many people that carbohydrates are the enemy, when in fact the body needs carbohydrates more than any other food. While it is important to limit simple carbohydrates like white flour and sugar, complex carbohydrates like whole grains are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which are crucial for good health.

There is also a real danger in excessive protein consumption, which is at the heart of the Atkins diet. Dr. John A. McDougall, author of "The McDougall Plan", and "McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss", said the body of a healthy adult man uses less than 20 grams of protein a day. When an individual consumes large amounts of protein, the body does not have the means to store the excess and so it is eliminated by the liver and kidneys. The elimination of this protein overworks these organs, causing damage to organ tissue and proper function. For individuals who already suffer from kidney problems, such as diabetes, the increased stress from a high-protein diet can have serious consequences.

Additionally, the kidneys use minerals from the body to help eliminate this excess protein. The most important mineral that is sacrificed in this process is calcium. Calcium deficiency leads to osteoporosis later in life. McDougall cites a case study of the Bantu tribe in Africa versus a group living in the United States. The Bantus subsist on a low-protein vegetable-based diet and have virtually no cases of osteoporosis, while a genetically related group of people studied in the United States who consumed the typical American diet rich in meat and dairy, had high osteoporosis rates. Native Eskimos who consume a diet extremely high in protein from sea life have the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world.

When a person eliminates carbohydrates from his diet, he also eliminates fiber. Fiber is a crucial part of the human diet and it is not found in animal-derived foods. Fiber binds to toxic substances in our bodies and washes them out of our system. It allows for rapid movement of food through the intestines, preventing harmful bacteria from building up due to constipation. Fiber also binds to cholesterol, explaining why a high-fiber diet is associated with healthy cholesterol levels and lower heart attack rates. Fiber is also important in regulating blood sugar by encouraging carbohydrates to be absorbed at a slower rate, which keeps the blood sugar levels balanced. Overall, a person on a low-carb, high-protein diet puts himself at risk for kidney stones, osteoporosis, heart attack, and constipation among other complications.

How can we stay healthy and lose weight? According to McDougall’s research, the diet that best supports health and healing for humans is a pure vegetable diet based around starch foods, with the addition of fresh fruits and vegetables. Carbohydrates provide the most efficient and available source of energy for our bodies. They are plentiful in vitamins, minerals, fibers, proteins and essential fats. To deny the body the carbohydrates it needs is irresponsible and dangerous. Eating a variety of whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruit, along with eliminating (or at least limiting) one’s intake of saturated fat and cholesterol-laden foods, is an effective way to promote weight loss while providing for the body’s needs.

Footnotes: 

Facts from this article were taken from:

  1. McDougall, John A. The McDougall Plan. New Win Publishing, Clinton, NJ. 1983.
  2. McDougall, John A. The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss. Penguin Books USA , New York, New York. 1994.

Weight Loss the Ayurvedic Way

by Brent Hewinson

The term Ayurveda is slowly becoming a household name. Pronounced Aa-yer-vay-da and originating from India, it is said to be the world’s oldest healing science. As more people turn to natural solutions for their health problems, the popularity of Ayurveda continues to grow.

There is much skepticism about the myriad of fad diets that come and go, so it is wise to turn to ancient wisdom that has stood the test of time. We see more and more evidence that crash diets are no solution for long term weight loss. For starters, we see that the weight lost on such diets is often quickly put back on once the dieting stops. And there is also evidence that some crash diets can have detrimental side effects to our health, sometimes long term.

So what we should be looking for is a holistic solution that allows us to lose excess weight and keep it off, while also improving our overall health. The Ayurvedic approach is the perfect answer.

The Ayurvedic system can be applied to every person’s body type (unlike some diets that may help certain individuals, but cause problems for others) and it is an overall health system that works towards wellness physically, mentally and spiritually.

Ayurvedic healing and weight loss is generally done on an individual level, with a plan being tailored to the individual, however there are some guidelines that are helpful to everybody.

Here are some tips that are applicable to people of all body types who are trying to reduce their weight.

If you want to go on a diet:

  • A mild, long-term plan is more natural than crash diets.
  • Winter is not a good time for dieting because the cold can lower one’s resistance and body heat.
  • Reducing or Lightening therapy is helpful, with a light diet, fasting, digestive (spicy) herbs and mild laxatives.

To lose excess weight and maintain a healthy body weight:

  • Do not overeat – especially cold, oily and heavy things.
  • Do not sleep right after eating.
  • Do not eat late at night.
  • Avoid refined sugars.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks.
  • Cook with spices like cayenne, tumeric, black pepper, ginger and rock salt.
  • A teaspoon of grated ginger with a pinch of rock salt is a good appetizer.
  • A teaspoon of ghee with rice aids digestion.
  • Avoid drinking water immediately before or after meals as it will slow digestion.
  • Excess consumption of water may produce obesity.
  • Avoid eating substances prepared with wheat like cakes, pastries.
  • Avoid eating meat products, they slow digestion and cause heaviness.

Aside from the above suggestions on eating habits, we should also look at our overall lifestyle. Naturally we need to have regular exercise to maintain a healthy body, and we should also try to reduce stress, as stress is often the cause of bad eating habits. Stress can be reduced by various relaxation and meditation techniques, and a calmer mind will give us more willpower to control our eating and lifestyle habits.

Footnotes: 

If you are interested in looking further into the Ayurvedic health system, and how to lose weight according to your particular body type, check out the different books on Ayurveda at our Down to Earth stores.

The Vegetarian Diet - A Hopeful Alternative

by Angie Smith

With today’s growing trend of unhealthy lifestyles and health issues like obesity, heart disease, and breast cancer, it is no wonder that the availability vegetarian products are on the rise. Most supermarkets have started carrying items like soymilk and vegetarian alternatives to meat because all types of people, not only vegetarians, are interested in buying them. Family physicians have promoted eating more fruits and vegetables for years, but it is the growing number of deaths which are diet-related that has now prompted many people to begin to change their eating habits.

In a recent article by ABC News, the correlation between an increased amount of body fat and cancer of the breast was shown to be high. Studies have brought to life how the average American diet is excessive in calories and fat, especially saturated fat, which you find in all meat and dairy products. It went on to say that a diet high in fat or calories that results in an increase in body fat may promote breast cancer by increasing levels of hormones, which in turn raises estrogen levels. High estrogen levels are a trigger for breast cancer because it is an “estrogen dependent” cancer.

Most diets that contain more plant products are usually lower in fat because of the elimination of all of the saturated fat that comes from meat. While fat is an important part of everyone’s diet as a source of energy, most fat should be consumed from unsaturated sources, like avocados. So in general, women who follow these diets tend to be thinner and have less potential for the synthesizing of estrogen in fat tissue, and in turn they have less potential for breast cancer.

The article went on to talk about how emphasizing of a vegetarian-type diet could not only help to reduce the chances of breast cancer by helping to reduce body fat, but could also increase a person’s intake of necessary vitamins and nutrients. If a person were to increase the amount of complex carbohydrates they ate, for example, they would be increasing their intake of fiber, vitamins, minerals and nutrients known as antioxidants, and antioxidants are believed to help in the prevention of many cancers.

In another article by ABC News, Cyril Kendall, PhD, a research associate in the department of nutritional science at the University of Toronto, spoke about how beneficial a vegetarian diet was in the fight against heart disease, which is the number one killer in North America . She pointed out the fact that if we were to look at the human evolution over the past 10 million to 15 million years, we were predominantly vegetarian. She said that the great apes of present day are for the most part eating a vegetarian diet, and that in turn humans were designed for basically a fruit, nut and vegetable diet.

Kendall said that they conducted a study to see how diet affects a person’s percentage of LDL, or the “bad” cholesterol in the body. They had one group eat a diet that was low in saturated fat and cholesterol and included about seven servings of fruit and vegetables per day along with some key foods like raw almonds and sources of soluble fiber. And then they compared it to a healthy diet which included statins, which are cholesterol reducing drugs. In both cases, a significant reduction of LDL was observed in two weeks and proved how powerful a person’s diet can be in maintaining their health. But she noted that a person would have to continue the mostly vegetarian diet if they wanted to keep the levels of LDL low because they can shoot up as quickly as they come down.

Footnotes: 

Sources:

Haran, Christine."Eat like an Ape," 2003 Healthology, Inc. 2003 ABCNEWS Internet Ventures.

Grossman, Fran R.D., M.S., C.D.E., C.D.N. 2001 Healthology, INC. 2003 ABCNEWS Internet Ventures. "Reducing your risk of breast cancer: How your diet affects your risk."

"How many adults in the US are vegetarian and vegan?" 2016 Vegetarian Resource Group.

Reverse Obesity by Adopting a Plant-based Diet

Obesity continues to be a huge problem in Hawaii and the United States as a whole. Last month, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported survey results for 2007 showing that 25.6% of Americans are obese, up nearly 2 percent from just 2 years ago.1

Happily, the CDC also reports that residents of Hawaii make up one of the top five leanest states in the nation—with an obesity rate of 21.4 percent.2 However, this means one out of five residents are too fat. If you count among them, there is reason to be concerned. Research indicates that as weight increases, so does your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

How do I know if I am obese?

Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above. BMI is calculated using height and weight. For example, a 5-foot, 9-inch adult who weighs 203 pounds would have a BMI of 30, which puts this person into the obese category. A BMI from 25 to 30, is considered overweight, while a healthy BMI is in the 20 to 25 range. To determine your BMI, there is a free online calculator you can use at www.halls.md/body-mass-index/av.htm.

How do I lose weight and keep it off?

While you may be able to lose pounds quickly on the latest fad diet, to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight usually requires long-term changes in daily eating and exercise habits. The key to losing weight is that you must use up more calories than you take in. Switching to a vegetarian, plant-based diet is a great way to reduce calories and help you lose excess weight. Research by the Mayo Clinic has shown that, on average, people who follow a vegetarian diet eat fewer calories and less fat than non-vegetarians. Vegetarians also tend to have lower body weight relative to their height than non-vegetarians.3

Small changes can add up to big benefits

Dr. William Dietz, Director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity makes a good point, "We need to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables, engage in more physical activity and reduce the consumption of high calorie foods and sugar sweetened beverages in order to maintain a healthy weight." The good news is that even a modest weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight (e.g. going from 200 to 190 pounds) can improve your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar levels and decrease your risk factors for chronic diseases related to obesity. Simply switching to a vegetarian, plant-based diet and getting a little exercise can easily achieve that kind of weight loss. So don’t get discouraged, losing weight doesn’t have to be difficult. If you are overweight or obese, be sure to check out this month’s Health Tip for some healthy and effective ways you can lose weight.

Footnotes: 
  1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, News Release: “Latest CDC Data Show More Americans Report Being Obese,” July 17, 2008: https://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2008/r080717.htm
  2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Report: “U.S. Obesity Trends 1985–2010, https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/downloads/data/obesity-trends-map_1985-2010.pdf
  3. Mayo Clinic.com, “Vegetarian Diet: will it help me loose weight?”: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/...

How to Avoid Gaining Weight at Christmas

by Tracy Rohland

Winter is here and holiday treats are on their way in abundance. During this time, it is not uncommon to worry about the numbers on the bathroom scale gradually increasing. So, this season do not let your weakness for Christmas cookies and pumpkin pie get the better of you by following a few suggestions to help you stay healthy

  • A vegetarian diet is the best place to start. By sticking to a vegetarian diet, you will avoid a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol.
    • Use vegetable broth instead of chicken or beef broth in your gravies and soups. Instead of turkey or ham, try a main dish of grilled seasoned tofu or a hearty vegetable stew. There are also turkey alternatives such as Tofurky and Un-Turkey. Our recipe section on the website has some great holiday recipes.
  • Make a variety of vegetable side dishes. Think beyond steamed green beans and mashed potatoes and experiment with apple-beet salad, baked basil-eggplant, curried vegetables or sautéed butternut squash with shitake mushrooms.
  • Be sure to include a raw salad. It will help fill your plate as well as your stomach and will aid in digestion. Make it festive by using a variety of greens and adding walnuts, cranberries and apples.
  • Avoid white-flour rolls loaded with butter. Instead, make your own whole wheat rolls and top them with cranberry-orange relish.
  • When dessert comes around, the important thing is portion control. Take less than your eyes want and eat slowly. Resist that second piece of Pecan Pie ala mode. It is okay to indulge a little so long as you do not go overboard. For dessert, try a lighter version of the classics – see our recipe page for ideas including No-Bake Pumpkin Pie, Tofu Cheesecake, and Apple-Apricot cobbler.
  • Be sure to stay properly hydrated. Carbonated drinks, alcohol, and coffee all lead to dehydration so it is important to drink plenty of water or herbal tea to make up for the loss.
  • Finally, do not forget about exercise. When you have a little free time, grab your water bottle and take a long walk, a bike ride or do some yoga.

It is up to you to maintain your health over the Christmas season. It is natural to gain a couple of pounds over the winter because your body is trying to preserve itself for the cooler temperatures ahead. Just as things in nature are hibernating, closing and going inside, your body does the same. But do not be a victim of holiday excess – stay active and check out Down To Earth’s website for great recipe ideas.

The Skinny on Healthy Fats

by Tracy Rohland

Many people are concerned about their intake of saturated fats from vegetarian foods such as nuts and seeds, coconuts, and avocados. While it is true that a high intake of saturated fat is linked to increased risk of heart disease and arteriosclerosis, it is important to understand that there is a difference between saturated fats from animal sources versus saturated fats from vegetable sources.

Vegetable fats are always a better choice than animal fats because they usually also contain poly and mono-unsaturated fats which help lower LDL (bad cholesterol). Fatty acid-rich vegetables also contain fiber and phytonutrients (nutrients only found in plants). Nuts and seeds are rich in protein as well as vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium, phosphorous and potassium. They are also a good source of anti-oxidants. In general, including some fat in a meal helps a person to feel satiated and thereby avoid overeating. Best of all, because cholesterol is only found in animal products, plant-based foods contain absolutely no cholesterol.

Tropical oils such as Coconut and Palm oil have been used in natural medicine for healthy immune system, the thyroid, and the heart. Coconut oil also has been used to stabilize blood sugar levels and help prevent symptoms of hypoglycemia.

Avoiding excess amounts of any saturated fat is a good practice, but remember that some saturated fat is critical for maintaining health. Saturated fats from plant sources are a key component to a healthy lifestyle.

Eating Fats, Eating Healthy

by Tracy Rohland

There are many diets on the market that turn people away from all fats because they are considered bad. But good fat is a necessary part of a healthy diet. Your body needs fat to maintain its vibrancy. Fat protects your body, keeps your cells properly functioning, and is critical for the absorption of many essential vitamins and minerals. The goal is to incorporate beneficial fats into your diet and eliminate the harmful fats. A low-fat vegetarian diet, rich in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, is the perfect option for health and wellness.

Healthy fats come in the form of mono and poly-unsaturated fatty acids and can be found in a variety of organic, cold-pressed vegetable oils, and in foods like avocados, olives, and a variety of nuts and seeds. Harmful fats are found in most processed food, fried food, meat and eggs. By eliminating the sources of detrimental fats and instead using healthy fats, you are on your way to a healthier lifestyle.

Fruits Not Fries

by Tracy Rohland

There is little shock in the fact that America has become a “fast food culture.” The abundance of fast food restaurants across the nation is leading many people to clogged arteries and added pounds. So, while fast food restaurants can not be blamed for the whole obese epidemic in the United States today, they certainly can take responsibility for being a big part of the problem.

The cheap price and convenience of fast food makes it difficult to avoid, and their “kid-friendly” advertising insures that youngsters become devoted customers at an early age. According to an article by Jeffrey Zurlinden, about 96 percent of American school-aged children recognize Ronald McDonald, second only to Santa Claus. Equally alarming is the fact that almost every American child eats at a McDonald's® at least once a month.

It is easy to say, “Stop eating fast food,” but to those who have gotten into the habit of eating fast food regularly, it is easier to say than do. Below are a few suggestions for making the transition easier:

The key to success is to PLAN AHEAD. If you know you are going to be out for the day, bring snacks like fresh or dried fruits, carrots and celery, nuts, and whole grain crackers to hold you over until you can get home for a real meal. If you need more than a snack, pack a sandwich of lettuce, tomato, sprouts, avocado, cucumber and cream cheese on sprouted bread. Play around with different combinations of the above, add tofu for some extra protein, and sprinkle with olive oil and vinegar if cream cheese is too heavy. For an even easier sandwich, make a peanut butter n’ jelly with quality peanut butter (the ingredients should be nothing more than peanuts and salt) and naturally sweetened jelly (NO refined sugar) on whole wheat or sprouted wheat bread. Everything should of course be organic whenever possible. Bring your own water bottle and drink lots of water throughout the day.

Of course, there are times when eating out is unavoidable. In such cases, there is still no excuse to order the super sized cheeseburger, fries, and coke meal. Nearly all fast food places have salad and/or fruit bowl options. Order a green salad with either light dressing or no dressing (lemon juice, salt and pepper, or oil and vinegar make great alternatives to fat laden dressings). It you are in a metropolitan area, there is likely to be a Subway sandwich shop where you can get a tasty veggie sandwich on wheat bread for under $4. Also look for a Jamba Juice or other smoothie store where you can get a healthy smoothie and a snack or sandwich for lunch. Always be on the lookout for vegetarian and health food cafes, like Down to Earth, as these usually offer nutritious and delicious options. If you are eating breakfast out, steer clear of fast food. Even if it is the last thing on earth, NEVER eat one of those excessively processed French toast, egg and ham and cheese muffins or, heaven forbid, the “low-carb bowl.” Bagel and smoothie shops offer great breakfast options on the go. An even better option is to stop into a grocery store and get a banana and plain cultured yogurt.

If Americans are going to reverse the growing problem of obesity, fast food consumption must be reduced. Once the habit is broken, it is really quite easy to avoid eating fast food. You will find that your body feels better and that you lose the desire for fatty greasy food. It is also easier on the pocketbook when money is spent on fruits, vegetables, and healthy breads that can make many meals, rather than on a single meal that your body is not going to appreciate. Be good to your body as well as your finances by remembering that fruits go a longer way than French fries.

Packing a Healthy Lunch for School

by Tracy Rohland

According to a 2004 report by the Institute of Medicine, the past three decades have seen the childhood obesity rate more than double for preschool children aged 2-5 years and adolescents aged 12-19 years, and more than triple for children aged 6-11 years. Currently, approximately nine million children over 6 years of age are considered obese.

Statistics like this can be scary to nutrition-savvy parents who are concerned with their children’s health. When children are at home, parents generally have control over what goes into their mouths, but what about when they go to school or day care? It can be a big challenge to ensure that a child maintains healthy eating habits even when away from home.

Most school lunches are loaded with refined sugars, saturated fats, sodium and artificial additives. Packing a lunch for your child (or helping them pack it) is the best way to avoid these negative nutritional influences. The trick is to prepare a nutritious meal that is also fun and tasty so your child won’t be tempted by the lunch line junk foods. Following are some tips to get your ideas flowing:

  • In addition to a main course, pack a variety of snacks that are tasty, colorful and low-calorie.
  • Luxuriate in vegetables, include a fruit, and avoid too many refined carbohydrates.
  • Many healthy items, such as carrots, celery, nuts and fruit, now come in convenient single-serve packages.
  • If your child won’t eat plain vegetables, try including a dip or topping such as nut butter or natural cheese.
  • Pack baked chips or soy crisps instead of greasy potato chips.
  • Focus on whole grains in sandwich bread and crackers.
  • A whole wheat veggie wrap is a great main dish that your child can help stuff with their favorite ingredients. Top it with a light sauce of omega-rich vegetable oil like olive oil or flax oil mixed with a bit of soy sauce and nutritional yeast.
  • A burrito is another convenient and healthy meal. Fill a whole wheat tortilla with whole beans and grilled vegetables.
  • See below for a delicious Mock-Tuna sandwich spread recipe.
  • Grill some tofu the night before to make a sandwich or eat with crackers.
  • Pack a bottle of water for during the day and organic milk or 100% juice for lunch. Don’t overdo the juice however, as even 100% juice contains a lot of sugar.
  • For dessert, pack something naturally sweet like all-natural fruit leather, whole wheat graham crackers, or a fruit & nut bar.
  • Finally, maintain a healthy relationship with your child by including a nice note telling them you love them and wishing them a fun day!

Down to Earth is your source for delicious, all natural and convenient lunch foods. We have kid-friendly snacks free of chemical preservatives, refined sugars, and trans-fats. Everything you need, always at affordable, down to earth prices.

Footnotes: 
  1. Childhood Obesity in the United States: Facts and Figures. INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES FACT SHEET • SEPTEMBER 2004

10 Tips to Healthy and Effective Weight Loss

by Tandis Bishop

A low-fat vegetarian diet abundant in whole foods, combined with regular exercise, is the basis for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Below are ten tips to keep in mind while trying to achieve your optimal weight:

  1. Replace animal products such as meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and whole fat dairy with whole grains, vegetables, and legumes.
  2. Eliminate the refined carbohydrates from your diet such as white flour, white sugar, corn syrup and white rice. Replace these with whole grains such as brown rice, oats, wheat berries, quinoa, barley, and sprouted whole wheat breads.
    • Refined carbohydrates are about four times higher in calories than in whole foods; therefore more calories are consumed when eating refined food. Carbohydrates in their pure (refined) form are about four calories per gram. But carbohydrates in the whole form such as brown rice are about one calorie per gram.
  3. Consume foods in their whole form such as whole grains and whole vegetables, rather than in a processed form. Plant foods in their whole food form contain the fiber, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals that processed food normally lacks. The result is better digestion, absorption and utilization of the food eaten.
  4. Replace calorie-dense beverages such as soft drinks, fruit juice, beer, etc. with water. Sugar-free beverages such as Diet soda should also be avoided as these have been linked to higher obesity rates and weight gain.1
  5. Eat whole fruits in moderation. Limit intake of tropical fruits such as mangoes, bananas, and pineapples as they are higher in simple sugars and are higher in calories. Better choices of fruit include berries, citrus fruits, apples, grapes, etc.
  6. Limit intake of processed foods such as baked goods, canned meats and packaged food. These foods tend to be laden with sugar, fat, and refined flour.
  7. Reduce your intake of fat in general, including vegetable oils, to about 10% of your daily calories. This means cooking with less or no oil, having less oil in your salad dressing, etc. Vegetable oils are also high in calories and can easily be consumed in high amounts.
  8. Eat a fresh green salad everyday. Leafy greens are high in calcium and fiber.
  9. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, 2 -3 times a week. Exercise will increase your metabolism (the fire in your body that burns calories) so you can even burn calories while you sleep.
  10. Understand that this is a lifestyle change as opposed to a fad diet. In order to lose excess weight and keep it off, you must gradually change your eating habits; this is not an overnight process. You can go at your own pace. The closer you are to following these standards, the easier it will be to lose excess weight.
Footnotes: 

Down to Earth is here to help you in reaching your weight-loss goals. Take advantage of our free monthly vegetarian cooking classes and quarterly vegetarian nutrition classes (Visit www.downtoearth.org for more details). References:

  1. CBS NEWS Article: “Can Diet Soda Make You Gain Weight?” Jan 4, 2007 http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/01/04/earlyshow/contributors/emilyse...

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