Booster Shots

Oddities, musings and news from the health world

Category: weight loss

Book Review: 'Eat Your Way to Happiness' by Elizabeth Somer

February 27, 2010 | 10:14 am

Battling the blues? Put down that Prozac prescription and head for the pantry, says Elizabeth Somer, author of the new book "Eat Your Way to Happiness." It's time for a diet makeover.

Changing what and how you eat can dramatically improve your life, without the negative side effects of antidepressants, writes the registered dietitian and frequent morning TV show guest.

Somer says people who followed diet advice she gave in her 1995 book, "Food & Mood," have told her they've seen their energy increase, their memories improve, their PMS symptoms vanish, their extra weight drop off and even their depressions lift. (She emphasizes that people should always seek medical help for depression that lasts more than a month or is accompanied by other symptoms.)

In her new book, she shares some of their stories and offers updated nutritional information.

Included in "Happiness" is advice we hear from many quarters today: Eat a good breakfast; cut back on sugar, white flour and saturated fats; choose real food over processed food most of the time; exercise daily. But she also goes further, quantifying what we should aim for and including research to back up her claims.

For example, Somer writes that sugar today makes up 25% of calories in most American diets -- much of it coming from processed foods. But a diet in which even 9% of calories are from added sugar is a red flag for weight and health problems, she says, and too much sugar offers a temporary "high" that can end in fatigue and depression. The good news is that cutting back can bring immediate weight loss, mood improvements and increased energy. She says we should aim for no more than 6% of our calories from added sugar -- 30 grams, or 7 1/2 teaspoons, a day on a 2,000-calorie diet. (This doesn't include the sugar found in naturally sweet foods such as fruit.)

Somer lists a dozen "super mood foods" to include in our diets whenever possible. Nuts are in the No. 1 spot, and she recommends an ounce a day to raise metabolism, take the edge off hunger and help regulate blood sugar. Other must-eat foods include soy (a memory booster, she says), milk and yogurt, dark leafy greens and dark orange vegetables, broth soups (which help dieters feel satisfied on fewer calories, a secret to permanent weight loss), legumes, citrus and tart cherries (they contain melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep).

She spells out potential brain- and mood-boosting benefits of eating omega-3 fats, especially DHA, found in fatty fish ("Prozac from the sea"). She also goes into the downside of eating fatty fishes -- the mercury they may contain -- and gives DHA-fortified alternatives.

Somer offers tips for how to eat to sleep better (one is to eat a light dinner no less than three hours before bedtime) and work with, rather than fight, cravings. She discusses supplements, beverages and the right vices in which to indulge (good news for dark chocolate lovers). She outlines an ideal diet -- think fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, milk and soy, lean protein. Her book also includes recipes and a two-week kick-start diet plan.

-- Anne Colby

Photo: "Eat Your Way to Happiness," Elizabeth Somer, Harlequin, $16.95


Book Review: 'You: On a Diet'

Book Review: 'The 10-Minute Total Body Breakthrough'

Book Review: 'The Big Breakfast Diet'

Book Review: 'The Mayo Clinic Diet

Book Review: 'Denise's Daily Dozen'

Book Review: 'You: On a Diet' by Dr. Michael F. Roizen and Dr. Mehmet C. Oz

February 20, 2010 | 10:41 am


In the battle of the bulge, most dieters relying on willpower alone are destined to lose the fight, according to the recently revised and updated bestseller "You: On a Diet." 

There are just too many small obstacles that collectively are enough to defeat us, say authors Dr. Michael F. Roizen and Dr. Mehmet C. Oz. To name a few: We're hard-wired to want sugar, salt and fat; our bodies store fat to protect against famine; our moods subject us to cravings; many of us have desk jobs; junk food is ubiquitous; and our car culture has reduced the exercise we get.

It's like trying to battle a powerful storm in a rowboat, the authors say. "A rowboat will get clobbered in a perfect storm no matter what measures it takes. But if you know the factors contributing to the storm and can track the storm to avoid it in the first place, you can beat it."

Using text and illustrations liberally laced with topical, sometimes silly humor and puns, Roizen and Oz try to help readers do just that. In their 530-page hardcover book, they explain the scientific theories behind digestion, fat, metabolism and emotions. And they outline a diet and activity program that they say can end yo-yo dieting and help people lose weight permanently.

The well-known doctors start off with a two-week plan that they say will take up to 2 inches off your waist. That waist measurement is what they say people should be focusing on. That's because weight stored around the waist is the biggest predictor of obesity-related health problems. (The ideal waist measurement, they say, is 32 1/2 inches or less for women, and 35 inches or less for men.) 

What secret dieting weapons do they share? One is the permission to stop beating yourself up when you slip -- something they say is an inevitable part of the process. The key is to get back up and do a "You-turn," as they call it, rather than slide back into a pattern of unhealthy eating.

They suggest changing your environment instead of trying to fight hardwired behavior. For example, choose a fish restaurant rather than a burger place when eating out. Keep fruit in your pantry instead of chips. When the urge to overeat strikes, head out the door for a short walk and contemplate what's driving the cravings. And consider your friends' habits, which can influence your own. Meet friends for breakfast at a juice bar rather than the pancake house. Schedule a walk instead of coffee and dessert. 

To improve the odds of success they suggest making dieting "automatic" by limiting the variety of foods you eat to minimize temptation and by choosing foods that are quick to prepare. And make exercise easy (they recommend at least 30 minutes of walking and five minutes of stretches a day, plus additional strength-building workouts three times a week). They also emphasize the importance of eating regular meals because undereating slows down the metabolism.

The other important tool in your arsenal is your mind, they say. The authors discuss at length the role emotions play in regard to self-image and eating habits. They urge dieters to take back the power that food holds over them and to seek power elsewhere --  in spirituality, in work, in relationships. 

It's easy to see why this book -- and their larger "You" series it's a part of -- has been so successful. (The original edition of "You: On a Diet," published in 2006, sold upward of 3 million copies.) There's something in it for everyone, and the authors make the tough medicine go down easily with their breezy writing style, tips, quizzes, factoids and "myth busters." The revised edition includes more than 100 new recipes, a new section on emotional eating, updated research on the biology of fat and answers to reader questions they've received since the first edition came out.

Here's one factoid: You can lose 10 permanent pounds and 3 inches off your waist every year just by cutting back your food intake by 100 calories a day, according to the book. Something to keep in mind when you're eyeing that candy bar or bag of chips at the checkout counter. 

-- Anne Colby

Photo credit: "You: On a Diet: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management," by Dr. Michael F. Roizen and Dr. Mehmet C. Oz, Free Press, $26.99


Book Review: 'The 10-Minute Total Body Breakthrough'

Book Review: 'The Big Breakfast Diet'

Book Review: 'The Mayo Clinic Diet'

Book Review: 'Denise's Daily Dozen'

Book Review: 'The 10-Minute Total Body Breakthrough' by Sean Foy

February 13, 2010 |  9:00 am
10-Minute Total Body Breakthrough cover It’s an appealing idea. Work out vigorously for 10-minute periods and burn more calories and get in better shape faster than with much longer sessions of moderate exercise.

Too good to be true? Not according to personal trainer Sean Foy, who has developed an exercise program that he says can do just that.

After working with clients who struggled to find time to incorporate longer workouts into their daily lives, Foy looked for faster ways to get the same benefits. He became interested in interval or “burst” training, which he says has been shown to maximize the metabolism and burn body fat long after the exercise session is over and can be more effective than more leisurely workouts. 

In “The 10-Minute Total Body Breakthrough,” Foy takes readers through the “fast fitness" exercise program he came up with. His 4-3-2-1 workout, as he calls it, is made up of four minutes of high-energy aerobic training that alternates periods of intense and moderate activity, three minutes of resistance exercise, two minutes of core-strengthening exercises and one minute of stretching and deep breathing.

Foy leads off the book with chapters that function like a pep talk: He sells the concepts of exercise and eating right, shows success stories and directs readers to find their motivation and set goals. He looks briefly at nutrition and talks about building healthful meals.

He then launches into his exercise program. He starts by outlining fitness tests that readers can do themselves to determine how fit they are and how vigorously they should begin exercising. Think of the kind of testing you might get from a personal trainer at a gym -- a one-mile endurance walk, a push-up test, a flexibility test, a blood pressure reading.

His program offers three levels of intensity, each with four workouts. At the back of the book, the workouts are repeated in handy tabbed cutouts that can be flipped to mix and match exercises.

This is an exercise book truly designed to use while exercising. It’s spiral bound, which makes it easy to lay on a table or the floor to reference while doing the workouts. Step-by-step exercise directions are clearly written and pictures are captioned to tell exactly what each part of the body should be doing with each move.

But exercise and diet are only part of what Foy covers. In some ways, the book’s “Total Body” title is selling it short. Foy makes clear that the mental, spiritual and social aspects of fitness are just as important in his program as exercise and diet.

A list of questions prompts readers to evaluate things such as their stress levels, relationships, family life and self-esteem. A “daily instructions” section coaches them on how to “move” (exercise more), “fuel” (eat better), “renew” (rejuvenate mind and body) and “connect” (attend to social and spiritual needs) each day. Foy calls this section the "heart and soul" of his program.

One day’s “connect” instruction, for example, is to forgive someone who may have offended or hurt you. Another day’s “renew” directive suggests buying some soothing music. There are inspirational quotes and “journal” spaces for each day to jot down thoughts and notes. The instructions cover 28 days for each of the three levels.

Will most readers be able to start and maintain a program like this on their own, with just a book to guide them? After all, the appeal of a personal trainer is having someone there to nudge and motivate you to work out and push harder. But Foy has at least laid out a game plan for getting started.

-- Anne Colby

Photo credit: “The 10-Minute Total Body Breakthrough” by Sean Foy, Workman Publishing, $22.95


'The Big Breakfast Diet'

'The Mayo Clinic Diet'

'Denise's Daily Dozen'

Book Review: 'The Big Breakfast Diet' by Daniela Jakubowicz

February 6, 2010 |  2:27 pm

Big Breakfast Diet cover 

With its cartoon book cover and high-concept premise, "The Big Breakfast Diet" looks and sounds like a gimmick. Eat a breakfast of up to 3,000 calories -- loading up on protein, sweets and starches -- and watch the pounds disappear? Uh, right.

But first impressions might be deceiving. Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz, a specialist in endocrinology and metabolic disease, developed the eating plan while treating patients with thyroid disorders, Type 2 diabetes and other health conditions associated with weight gain.

To test her theories, she and a team of researchers conducted an eight-month study with 94 overweight women, comparing weight loss in one group on her big-breakfast diet with a second group on a low-carbohydrate diet. Women on her diet lost an average of nearly 40 pounds, she says, while women on the low-carb diet ended down about 9 pounds on average after losing more and gaining some back.

Jakubowicz’s premise is that it’s not what you eat but when you eat it that matters. She says overweight people often eat out of sync with what their bodies need -- which is more food early in the day and less at night.

The main component at breakfast should be protein, she says, and lots of it. Her diet calls for 2 cups of milk or soy milk and yogurt at breakfast, as well as additional protein. She suggests options such as an egg white scramble, a lean steak or a chicken breakfast burrito. Protein eaten in the morning builds muscle mass, provides energy, increases alertness and maintains the body’s glucose levels for hours, she says.

Also mandatory is a moderate amount of carbs and fat, including a breakfast sweet. She says that a morning sweet, such as a chocolate doughnut or a piece of apple pie, satisfies cravings and keeps the body’s levels of serotonin at an even keel throughout the day.
 And eating starches in the morning increases energy rather than fat reserves because of how the body processes insulin, she says.

All this food, she says, should be consumed before 9 a.m. (10 a.m. in fall and winter).  Lunch should be eaten by 2 or 3 p.m., even if you’re not yet hungry, and be limited to vegetables, protein and fruit. Dinner is minimal – ideally nothing, or just vegetables, a small amount of lean protein and maybe some fruit.

Follow this plan, she says, and the excess weight will melt away and stay off. And you will be spared the afternoon and evening cravings for sweets and starches that plague many a dieter.

Jakubowicz says you can eat even 3,000 calories a day and lose weight, as long as you eat in sync. For the fastest weight loss, however, she recommends a fairly spartan 1,100 to 1,450 calories daily: 600 to 850 or so consumed at breakfast, 350 to 400 calories at lunch and 150 to 200 calories at dinner. 

Of course, most overweight people would lose weight on 1,100 calories a day. But on her diet, she says, they won't get hungry or crave carbs at night and be tempted to abandon the plan. She says the large amount of protein consumed early in the day keeps dieters satisfied through the evening. 

The main drawback to the big-breakfast diet would seem to be the fact that people eat not just to satisfy hunger or cravings, but as a social activity. And dinner is when they typically gather to break bread. Sure you can order up a vegetable platter or salad while others are noshing on pesto pasta and pizza, but it takes commitment.

Jakubowicz claims, however, that the results you get on the diet will be enough to make you stick with it.

She offers a recipe for a vegetable-packed stew to eat at dinner, and for those who need more flexible options, recipes for dishes such as goat cheese and baby spinach salad, spicy Thai beef and sauteed shrimp and peppery red cabbage.

-- Anne Colby

Photo: "The Big Breakfast Diet: Eat Big Before 9 a.m. and Lose Big for Life," Daniela Jakubowicz, Workman Publishing, $11.95.


Corned beef for breakfast?

'The Mayo Clinic Diet'

'Denise's Daily Dozen'

Corned beef for breakfast? Try it, you might lose weight

February 2, 2010 |  5:03 pm

A while back we reported on a study presented at an annual meeting of the Endocrine Society that showed that people who ate a sizable breakfast lost more weight and kept it off compared with those who ate a small breakfast. The idea was that eating a heavier meal in the morning that was high in quality carbs and protein would control cravings and tamp down one's appetite later on in the day.

Emqpt2gyThe researcher who presented that paper, Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz, clinical professor in endocrinology and metabolic disease at Virginia Commonwealth University, recently came out with a book based on that study: "The Big Breakfast Diet: Eat Big Before 9 a.m. and Lose Big For Life" (Workman Publishing). In it she goes into the physiological reasons why a bigger breakfast is ultimately healthier (it stimulates the metabolism and releases serotonin, which helps regulate appetite) and gives tips on how to adjust to consuming a larger breakfast for those who can't stomach eating first thing in the morning. Suggestions for lunch, dinner and snacks are also included, as are foods for vegetarians.

The book provides recipes for such Big Breakfast Diet staples such as the Smoothie (yogurt, whey protein, fruit) and a hearty vegetable stew that Jakubowicz recommends eating if hunger pangs strike during the day or evening. There's also a country-style egg white scramble, plus suggestions for breakfast sandwiches with choices such as turkey, roast beef, smoked lox and--wait for it--corned beef.

Some of the foods may seem unorthodox to those used to grabbing a doughnut and coffee on the way to work, or who have been eating some form of cereal since they had teeth. But in many parts of the world breakfast is a complete 180 from how most Americans eat--an Israeli breakfast, for example, typically includes fresh vegetables, cheeses, bread and eggs.

While we can't guarantee you'll lose weight, there are a number of studies showing that those who eat breakfast on a regular basis are generally leaner, or, if overweight, have more success losing weight. Just step away from the Pop-Tarts.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

Book review: 'The Mayo Clinic Diet'

January 30, 2010 |  9:00 am

MayoClinicDiet Some dieters want to drop a few pounds to look better in a bathing suit. Others are trying to undo years of bad eating and exercise habits and are in need of education. Still others seek weight loss on a doctor’s orders to avoid serious illness, such as heart disease or diabetes.
All of these people may find things to like about “The Mayo Clinic Diet,” a new book from the respected medical institution. But those in the last two groups could find its program –- the first diet developed by Mayo Clinic -- especially helpful.
There are no claims to magic fat-burning ingredients in this book, no nutritional supplements to buy. “The Mayo Clinic Diet” offers sound, health-focused information on how to eat better, move more and change ingrained habits that contribute to overweight and obesity.

The book leads off with "Lose It," a quick-start plan to help dieters drop 6 to 10 pounds in two weeks. In this phase they add five habits (such as eating a healthy breakfast), break five habits (eating in front of the TV) and adopt five bonus habits (keeping food and activity records). The second phase, "Live It," is a lifetime plan designed for weight loss of a pound or 2 a week until the desired weight is reached and can be maintained.
The book offers the usual good dieting and exercise advice, but it goes further. 

Mayo Clinic proposes its own healthy weight pyramid, making fruits and vegetables the foundation and putting exercise at the center. (Studies show that people who lose more than 30 pounds and keep it off for five years exercise an hour each day, mostly by walking, according to the book.) 

One chapter gives strategies for getting through weight-loss plateaus and relapses. Another is devoted to sticking to the diet when eating out and includes suggestions on how to eat at ethnic restaurants (avoid the fatty spareribs at Chinese restaurants; go for the hot and sour soup). A photo spread on portion control shows common foods eaten at breakfast, with pictures illustrating typical serving sizes compared with Mayo Clinic-suggested servings (8 ounces of orange juice versus 4).

There's an illustrated guide to reading nutrition labels and a checklist of warning signs for when to stop exercising (pain in an arm or the jaw, an irregular heartbeat). An endocrinology specialist, one of several Mayo Clinic professionals who contribute essays to the book, explains in easy-to-understand language some of the science behind nutrition and weight control. 

"The Mayo Clinic Diet" is written in a conversational, no-nonsense tone. It's colorful and graphically pleasing with lots of photos, sidebars and tips in bite-size chunks. Also available is "The Mayo Clinic Diet Journal," to use for tracking goals and progress.

-- Anne Colby

Photo: “The Mayo Clinic Diet,” Mayo Clinic, Good Books, $25.99 hardcover. Not pictured: “The Mayo Clinic Diet Journal," Mayo Clinic, Good Books, $14.99 plastic comb binding.


Book review: 'Denise's Daily Dozen' by Denise Austin

Book review: 'Denise's Daily Dozen' by Denise Austin

January 23, 2010 |  7:00 am


How's your New Year's diet coming along? If you find you're slipping back into bad habits and the pounds aren't coming off, Denise Austin's new book, "Denise's Daily Dozen," might be just the jump-start you need to get going again.

Austin's book promises big, saying that on her three-week diet and exercise program you can lose up to 12 pounds in just two weeks.

The secret? Consuming just 1,200 to 1,300 calories a day for women (1,500 to 1,600 for men) in the first two weeks of the diet, doing at least 12 minutes of exercises each day and walking (or running, biking or swimming) 12 miles a week.

It takes commitment to follow any weight-loss program, especially one with such a strict caloric intake, but the fitness guru uses her trademark upbeat approach to turn it into something that sounds almost fun. Each day's exercises are different (Monday is a "cardio fat blast," Sunday a yoga stretch workout) and are performed for only a minute apiece, so boredom is not an issue. Austin sells the pleasures of healthy eating and shares easy ways to get more active.

Her well-organized book divides up chapters by days of the week and offers nutritionist-devised menus (with simple recipes conveniently nearby); shopping lists; weight-loss testimonials; practical and inspirational tips; illustrated cardio, toning and flexibility workouts; and additional moves to tame tension, work abs and boost metabolism.

As the title suggests, things come by the dozen in this book: a dozen foods to eat daily (three servings each of vegetables, fruits and proteins, two of grains and one of a healthy fat); a dozen meals you can make in 12 minutes; a dozen ways to boost motivation, get better sleep, eat more fiber, get past cravings, soothe sore muscles, relax.

The idea is that the program will help you form healthier habits that you can then incorporate into your daily life. But will you? Austin gives you everything you need to do it. The rest, of course, is up to you.

-- Anne Colby

Photo: "Denise's Daily Dozen: The Easy, Every Day Program to Lose Up to 12 Pounds in 2 Weeks," Denise Austin, Center Street/Hachette Book Group, $16.99. Credit: Center Street/Hachette Book Group

Heart and stroke patients warned against use of weight-loss drug Meridia

January 22, 2010 | 11:07 am

The FDA has issued a new warning on the weight-loss drug sibutramine (marketed as Meridia or Reductil), cautioning patients with a history of heart disease or an elevated stroke risk that use of the drug could further boost the likelihood of cardiovascular events. The agency's advisory comes in the same week that the European Union's European Medicines Agency recommended a ban on the diet drug, prompting its maker to withdraw sibutramine from the European market.

Sibutramine, a prescription weight-loss medication on the U.S. market since 1998, is a combination drug that increases the availability in the brain of serotonin and norepinephrine--a class of drugs also used as antidepressants and known as SNRIs. It is thought to aid in weight loss by helping to curb the appetite and enhance a patient's sense of fullness.

The FDA's latest advisory notifies physicians that the agency has found an increased risk of heart attack and stroke in people taking sibutramine who have a history of heart attack, angina, heart failure, stroke or transcient ischemic attacks. Other groups warned against sibutramine use are those with a history of heart arrhythmia or peripheral artery disease, or uncontrolled high blood pressure--all conditions that put patients at greater risk of stroke.

The warning will likely affect a substantial segment of patients taking sibutramine, since obesity is closely associated with many of those conditions. It's based on the results of a study conducted by Abbott Labs, maker of sibutramine, that found that 11.4% of subjects with the underlying conditions and who took sibutramine had a cardiovascular event. By comparison, 10% of subjects taking a placebo did so. The FDA's been contemplating the new data since November

The label accompanying sibutramine prescriptions will now list those as conditions that should prompt a physician to consider a different therapy for a patient's weight loss.

Unfortunately, there is little else--particularly pharmacological--that has been shown safe and effective for long-term use by the overweight and obese. Currently, the FDA has approved for long-term use only sibutramine and the fat-blocker orlistat--marketed as Xenical and more recently in over the counter form as Alli. For short-term use, it has approved phentermine, diethylpropion and phendimetrazine. A new crop of weight-loss drugs is moving toward FDA consideration in the coming months and years.

In a recent L.A. Times story, a researcher called the pharmacological prescriptions for weight loss "lousy," and said that fact has focused increasing attention on the use of gastic bypass and other forms of bariatric surgery as the most effective means of weight loss now available to the obese. Meanwhile, despite a dearth of evidence that they work, there's plenty of money being made by the makers of weight loss supplements, as a recent L.A. Times story showed.

-- Melissa Healy

'Your kid is obese' diagnosis might now come with help

January 18, 2010 |  3:22 pm

ScalesVision test? Check. Dental exam? Check. Routine physical? Check. Obesity screening? Um...

If it wasn't on the keep-your-kids-healthy list already, it should be. Because now there's something to be done about it. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended that not only should children be screened for obesity beginning at age 6 but that -- this is key -- they should be referred to an intervention program if they're too heavy.

The task force is getting tough.

Before, it had simply recommended that kids be screened. But the members weren't quite sure what constituted an effective intervention. And this is not a group to make recommendations without evidence.

Today, the task-forcers know what works: moderate- to high-intensity programs that provide counseling on diet, physical activity and behavior, not just one or the other.

Here's the recommendation statement from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, plus the rationale behind the updated recommendations, what constitutes a "comprehensive program" ... and much more.

As for what defines "obese," that determination is based on body-mass index. Here's more on BMI in children and teens from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And a BMI calculator for children and teenagers.

If you want to do something about what you've been trying to think of as baby fat before the next checkup, consider the agency's resource page. It includes links to exercise recommendations (one hour a day), even a portion-control game.

Don't laugh. The information is useful and, considering that it's supposed to rain all week, the game itself might look like a good option by Friday.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Step right up, kids. 

Credit: Hartford Courant

Does your diet require a Ph.D.?

January 12, 2010 | 11:09 am

Food Dieting is hard. But should it be mind-boggling? No, say the authors of a new study on dieting. The more complex the diet, they found, the more likely people are to give up on it.

Researchers at Indiana University and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, compared the diet of women following two very different diet plans and found the diets with complex rules and regulations discouraged people from continuing on the plan.

The study involved 390 women who were assigned to either a diet called Brigitte, a popular German recipe plan that provides a shopping list for dieters, and Weight Watchers, which assigns points to foods and requires dieters to keep track of their points. The two diets ". . . strongly differ in objective rule complexity and thus their cognitive demands on the dieter," the authors wrote.

"For people on a more complex diet that involves keeping track of quantities and items eaten, their subjective impression of the difficulty of the diet can lead them to give up on it," Peter Todd, a professor in Indiana University's department of psychology and brain sciences, said in a news release.

The rules of a diet should be easy to remember and follow, the researchers said. The study was published online this week in the journal Appetite and will appear in print later this month.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Spencer Weiner  /  Los Angeles Times


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