Category Archives: Latest Research

Health Latest Research Lifestyle

Tired? How Chronic Sleep Issues Affect The Brain

No matter how many hours you’ve been in bed, you find yourself continuing to hit that snooze button to get a few more winks in before you have to start your day. You drink multiple cups of coffee just to get by, and you dream of your bed at 2pm. You toss and turn all night. You have trouble falling asleep. You have trouble staying asleep. You’re an insomniac.

If any of these issues describe you, you may have chronic sleep issues. Chronic sleep issues seep into your daily life, causing fatigue, daytime sleepiness, clumsiness, issues with weight, and has now been linked to a decline in cognitive function.

 

A new study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows that lack of sleep increases amyloid beta, a protein linked to Alzheimer’s. Researchers posit that when levels of this protein are frequently high, they may collect into plaques in the brain. The brains of Alzheimer’s patients are dotted with these plaques, which likely impair with adjacent neuron function, causing long term damage.

The amyloid beta protein is a byproduct of normal brain activity, and is eliminated throughout the day. At night, the brain produces much less of the protein, reducing the chance for build up. Without proper rest, the brain continues to produce the protein at a rate that accumulates over time.

Researchers point out that the occasional all nighter isn’t something to worry about. The concern is the long term sleep disturbances and sleep issues that are keeping you from getting enough sleep regularly. They also point out that further studies are needed to determine if eradicating sleep problems reduces risk of Alzheimer’s.

However, if you find that you’re not getting adequate rest, we can help. Our doctors can work with you to identify the reason for your sleep issues, and help you get better sleep. Your brain needs it! Call us at 604-575-7275 or contact us to book a consultation.

Read the study here.

Latest Research Lifestyle

Boost Brain Power in just 10 Minutes

A new study shows that just 10 minutes of exercise can measurably improve your brain power. If you have trouble with focus, or have a “foggy brain”, this could help you.

While there is a lot of research on the multitude of benefits from long-term and prolonged exercise, Researchers from Western University, have discovered that even a short 10 minute burst of exercise can improve cognitive function, particularly in decision-making, problem-solving, and focus, at least temporarily.

Young healthy adults participating in the experiment were subject to 10 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise, and then assessed, with immediate results. A control group that did not exercise showed no marked improvement in cognitive function.

The results preliminary, but may be important in the research of elderly patients with dementia, especially if they are not very mobile.

About to write a test, write your dissertation, go into a meeting, or just need to focus? It can be as simple as putting on your runners, and doing jumping jacks, skipping, or power yoga. All you need to do is get that heart rate up for 10 minutes. Try it and tell us if it worked for you!

Read the full study here.

Latest Research Lifestyle

Zinc Lozenges Work Well to Reduce Cold Symptoms

UnknownA previous meta-analysis (combined results of many studies) has found that zinc lozenges reduce the duration of common cold symptoms. The majority of these studies showed significant positive benefits and the few that did not show any benefits had all involved too low of a zinc dose.

Recently, a review was done on three trials that distinguished between the effect on different cold symptoms. The results of these trials found that nasal discharge, congestion, sneezing, scratchy/sore throat, cough and muscle aches were all significantly reduced. The throat and cough symptoms were the most reduced. Only headache and fever duration were unaffected.

This result is not surprising. It would be expected that the tissues receiving the highest doses (the lozenges would dissolve in the oral cavity) would receive the most benefit. The doses used in these studies were quite high so please consult your naturopathic physician to determine an effective nutritional plan to prevent colds.

 

Latest Research Lifestyle Nutrition

Cold and Flu Prevention, Naturally

Are you getting the flu vaccine? It’s a common topic of conversation this time of year. Some of us may be forced to get it because of work. Others are concerned about the side effects? Many of us question its effectiveness.

A recent review of all the available studies (69 studies involving over 70,000 people) that compared the flu vaccine against placebo or no vaccine showed a very small effect on preventing the flu – about 70 people need to be vaccinated to prevent one case of the flu. These studies also showed no positive benefit in reducing work absences or hospitalizations. Similar reviews with children and the elderly revealed no benefit in preventing the flu. So why are we rushing to get the flu vaccine? I’m not sure. There are isolated smaller studies that do show small benefits in populations at risk, such as infants, the elderly, and those with health conditions, plus the small benefit mentioned above. Overall though, the evidence for the flu vaccine is not very good. Don’t get me wrong! I’m not against vaccines at all. Vaccination is an important tool for the prevention of illness – just maybe not this one.

What about the side effects? For the most part the side effects of the flu vaccine are minimal, harmless but common: mostly local soreness, redness and swelling at the injection site and flu like symptoms (fever and muscle aches). Considering the small benefit and common side effects, I am resistant to recommend this vaccine.

Fortunately, we have many proven and safe alternatives available that, in additional to flu prevention, prevent and treat the common cold. Nutrients such as zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D and probiotics have been shown by numerous studies to reduce the likelihood, length and severity of flu and cold symptoms. These nutrients do this with minimal or no side effects at all – they are extremely safe supplements. There are also lifestyle and dietary factors that reduce the likelihood of cold and flu symptoms. And for added and more immediate protection, when you are feeling vulnerable or just noticing a lot of illness around you, we offer an injectable version of these nutrients along with an injectable homeopathic alternative to the flu vaccine. To learn more about preventing the cold and flu naturally, schedule and appointment with your Village Health Clinic physician.

 

Jefferson T, Rivetti A, Di Pietrantonj C, Demicheli V, Ferroni E (2012) Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 8:CD004879. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004879.pub4

Demicheli V, Jefferson T, Al-Ansary LA, Ferroni E, Rivetti A, Di Pietrantonj C (2014) Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 3:CD001269. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001269.pub5

Jefferson T, Di Pietrantonj C, Al-Ansary LA, Ferroni E, Thorning S, Thomas RE (2010) Vaccines for preventing influenza in the elderly. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2:CD004876

Singh M, Das RR. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD001364. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001364.pub4

Hemilä H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD000980. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4

Hao Q, Lu Z, Dong BR, Huang CQ, Wu T. Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD006895. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006895.pub2

Latest Research Lifestyle Nutrition

Five Ways to Help your Children Prevent the Cold or Flu, Naturally

1)   Sleep. The research is fairly clear – reduced sleep results in impaired immune function. Sleep is the body’s way of maintaining and repairing the body and its functions, in particular the immune system. Because of their high metabolic rates, children are even more sensitive to the negative effects of sleep deprivation. During cold and flu season, stick to a regular routine and limit activities in the evening to allow children a reasonable bedtime.

2)   Fluids.  The body is made up of 70% water. Our tissues, including our immune system, depend on it to function. Fluid intake also helps the kidneys to filter out the toxic byproducts of infections from the body.

3)   Limit sugars.  The amount of sugar found in 2 cans of soda has been shown to significantly impair our immune cells’ ability to kill bacteria and viruses. Sugar’s negative effect on the immune system start within 30 minutes and last for up to 24 hours after consumption. Limit added sugars in your foods to <10 grams per serving and limit fruit juice consumption to less than one cup/day.  Ideally, eat fruit rather than drink it and consume more complex carbohydrates found in whole grains and vegetables.

4)   Nutrition. There are numerous studies showing vitamin C and zinc can reduce the severity and duration of cold/flu symptoms. Increase consumption of vitamin C with fruits and veggies and zinc with nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains. For children, consider a 500 mg chewable vitamin C and a 10 mg chewable zinc lozenge per day. Adults can easily double or triple these doses. Omega 3 fats such those found in fish and nuts and vitamin D from sunshine and fortified foods are also important for proper immune function. If you don’t think your children are getting enough of these fats, consider a chewable or liquid fish oil supplement with at least 500 mg of EPA and DHA daily. With Vitamin D, most of children and adults in our temperate climate do not get enough so consider giving your children 600 – 1000 IU day and 2000 IU for adults during the winter cold and flu season.

5)   Probiotics.  Recent studies on children have shown that beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus Acidophillus not only reduces the severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms but also prevent infection. This beneficial effect is likely only achieved in higher dosed preparations containing billions of bacteria per dose. For children, consider a powdered probiotic supplement as this can easily be added to beverages, cereals or smoothies with little change to no change in the flavour.

Latest Research Lifestyle

Exercise Before School Reduces ADHD Symptoms in Children

Children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) may benefit from exercising daily before school. A resent study by US researchers published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology showed reduced ADHD symptoms in the classroom and at home with exercise.

The study involved over 200 elementary school children ranging from kindergarten to second grade with either normal behavior patterns or symptoms of ADHD. The children were randomly divided into two groups that either participated in about 30 minutes of daily moderate to vigorous physical activity before school or sedentary classroom-type activities. After twelve weeks, all children in the physical activity group demonstrated improved attention, less mood swings and improved social behavior, including the children with ADHD symptoms.

In practice, I frequently recommend more vigorous exercise activity for my patients with ADHD and consistently see benefits in behavior. Hopefully, we will see more studies showing the benefits of physical activity in the treatment of ADHD and other conditions, and ultimately have physical activity, and perhaps less drug treatment, incorporated into the conventional treatment approach to these conditions. At the very least, all schools should incorporate more physical activity into the school day.

Hoza, B., et al. A Randomized Trial Examining the Effects of Aerobic Physical Activity on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms in Young Children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s10802-014-9929-y

Latest Research Lifestyle

Low-Carbohydrate Diet Results in Greater Weight Loss than Low-Fat Diet

In a recent study, 150 obese adults were directed to either consume a low-fat (<30% calories from fat) or a low-carbohydrate (<40 grams per day) diet. All participants were provided with recipes, dietary counseling, and meal-replacement shakes/bars to ensure that they adhered to the diet. After 12 months, the low-carb group had lost about 8 pounds more than the low-fat group even though the caloric intake was the same between the groups. The low-carb group also saw the greatest improvement in body composition (body fat percent), cholesterol levels and inflammatory markers.

At the Village Health Clinic, we specialize in helping people lose stubborn extra weight. Utilizing a comprehensive approach, we identify the underlying medical, dietary, and nutritional factors that interfere with weight loss. We create a complete dietary, nutritional, and lifestyle plan specific for you that leads to not only dramatic short term weight loss but long term maintenance without feeling deprived. If necessary, we incorporate more aggressive strategies involving nutritional protocols, vitamin injections or hormone therapy (HCG or thyroid support) to facilitate weight loss. Ultimately, your new diet and nutritional plan lead not only to weight loss but more energy and well being – and a new you.

 

Ann Intern Med. 2014;161(5):309-318. doi:10.7326/M14-0180

Latest Research

Researchers beginning to understand link between gut bacteria and mental health

By Sharon Oosthoek, CBC News

Mounting evidence that gut bacteria affect mood and behaviour has researchers investigating just how much power these tiny microbes wield over our mental health.

“Many people with chronic intestinal conditions also have psychological disturbances and we never understood why,” says McMaster University gastroenterologist Dr. Stephen Collins.

Now, scientists such as Dr. Collins are starting to come up with answers.

Our lower gastrointestinal tract is home to almost 100 trillion microorganisms, most of which are bacteria. They are, by and large, “good” bacteria that help us digest food and release the energy and nutrients we need. They also crowd out bacteria that can trigger disease.

‘Many people with chronic intestinal conditions also have psychological disturbances and we never understood why.’–  Gastroenterologist Dr. Stephen Collins

But when things go awry in our guts, they can also go awry in our brains.

Up to 80 per cent of people with irritable bowel syndrome experience increased anxiety and depression. And those with autism — a syndrome associated with problems interacting with others — are more likely to have abnormal levels of gut bacteria.

Dr. Collins and fellow McMaster gastroenterologist Premysl Bercik have done some of the seminal research into the bacteria-brain-behaviour connection. In a study published last year, they changed the behaviour of mice by giving them fecal transplants of intestinal bacteria.

It involved giving adventurous mice bacteria from timid ones, thereby inducing timid behaviour. Before the transplant, adventurous mice placed in a dark, protected enclosure spent much of their time exploring an attached bright, wide-open area. After the transplant, they rarely ventured beyond their enclosure.

The researchers also did the reverse — transplanting bacteria from adventurous mice into timid mice, which then became adventurous.

The mice’s brain chemistry gives some insight into what might be going on, says Dr. Collins. The newly adventurous mice had increased levels of a naturally occurring chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is linked to reduced anxiety. The newly timid mice, on the other hand, saw their BDNF levels drop.

Investigating probiotic potential

But mice are not men. Nor are they women. How well can mouse studies predict bacteria’s effect on our own moods and behaviours?

Dr. Emeran Mayer, a gastroenterologist at University of California, Los Angeles, is a self-described sceptic, but admits “there is enough there to make me think some of the findings from animal studies can be extrapolated to humans.”

Dr. Mayer and his team were the first to establish a concrete connection between gut bacteria and brain function in humans. Their study, published last year, was funded in part by Danone Research, a division of multinational food company Danone.

The researchers gave 12 healthy women fermented milk containing a probiotic supplement made up of five different strains of bacteria thought to have a positive effect on the intestines. The women drank the milk two times a day over the course of four weeks. Another group of 11 women drank milk without probiotics.

Mayer scanned both groups’ brains before and after treatment, while showing them photos of people with emotional facial expressions such as anger or fear.

The women who drank probiotics showed a reduced brain response to the faces, compared with the women who weren’t given probiotics.

“So what does that mean?” asks Dr. Mayer. “You could say the group with probiotics perceived negative emotions as less threatening. They had a decreased brain response to stress.”

While the probiotics group did not report changes in their emotional state after treatment, they didn’t suffer from stress or anxiety to begin with.

Dr. Mayer and his team plan to follow up with studies testing the impact of probiotics on those with high anxiety. In a separate study, they are looking into the potential effect of fecal transplants in children with autism.

Bacteria-autism connection

Elaine Hsiao, a neurobiologist at the California Institute of Technology, is also delving into bacteria’s influence on autistic behaviour. Hsiao and her team published a study last year about autistic mice that supports the theory that changes in gut bacteria can affect certain autistic behaviours.

Researchers say they need more studies to better understand which bacteria are good and how many bacteria are necessary to make a difference in a person’s mental health. (The Associated Press)

As is the case with humans, autistic mice have abnormal levels of bacteria in their guts. But after feeding them applesauce laced with the gut bacterium Bacteroides fragilis for three weeks, Hsiao found the levels of several species of bacteria in the mice’s guts returned to normal. More importantly, some of the animals’ autistic behaviours changed.

Before the treatment, Hsiao’s team gave the mice three behavioural tests.

In one test, mice were placed in a box attached to two other boxes. One contained another mouse; the other a toy. Mice could choose to play with the toy or the mouse. Mice without autism showed normal social behaviour by playing with the mouse. Autistic mice, by contrast, preferred the toy.

A second test measured communication. Mice “speak” in the ultrasonic range, which humans can’t hear. Hsiao recorded their calls using a special microphone that can pick up ultrasonic frequencies.

“The autistic ones produced fewer calls and the calls were shorter,” she says. In other words, they communicated less than normal mice.

Finally, she placed mice in a bin containing wood shavings and a few marbles. In the wild, mice normally bury things. Hsiao’s autistic mice did indeed bury the marbles, but they then dug them up and reburied them — over and over.

After eating the applesauce with B. fragilis, the autistic mice stopped compulsively burying marbles. They also communicated like normal mice. What didn’t change, however, was their preference for toys over other mice.

Changing brain chemistry?

Exactly how bacteria alter mood and behaviour — in mice or humans — remains unknown. One theory has to do with bacterial waste called metabolites. Bacteria feed on nutrients we ingest with our food, and like people, bacteria don’t use everything they eat. Whatever doesn’t fuel their growth and reproduction, the bacteria expel as waste.

That waste gets into the blood and probably into the brain, changing its chemistry. And chemical activities in the brain underlie mood and behaviour.

Another theory is that gut bacteria, or their metabolites, somehow communicate with the brain over the vagus nerve, a long nerve that runs between the gut lining and brain.

Regardless of how the change takes place, it may be that good bacteria can help alter mood and behaviour. But researchers say we need more studies to better understand which bacteria are good and how many bacteria it takes to make a difference.

“By understanding how humans interact with their trillions of bacterial inhabitants, we might one day be able to develop better treatments for behavioural disorders, including depression, autism and anxiety,” says Hsiao.

Latest Research

We Are Our Bacteria

From The New York Times:

A medical researcher’s new book links a rise in diseases and other ailments to the changing composition of microbes in the gut, primarily blaming antibiotics for the connection.

By JANE E. BRODY

We may think of ourselves as just human, but we’re really a mass of microorganisms housed in a human shell. Every person alive is host to about 100 trillion bacterial cells. They outnumber human cells 10 to one and account for 99.9 percent of the unique genes in the body.

Katrina Ray, a senior editor of Nature Reviews, recently suggested that the vast number of microbes in the gut could be considered a “human microbial ‘organ’” and asked, “Are we more microbe than man?”

Our collection of microbiota, known as the microbiome, is the human equivalent of an environmental ecosystem. Although the bacteria together weigh a mere three pounds, their composition determines much about how the body functions and, alas, sometimes malfunctions.

Like ecosystems the world over, the human microbiome is losing its diversity, to the potential detriment of the health of those it inhabits.

Dr. Martin J. Blaser, a specialist in infectious diseases at the New York University School of Medicine and the director of the Human Microbiome Program, has studied the role of bacteria in disease for more than three decades. His research extends well beyond infectious diseases to  autoimmune conditions and other ailments that have been increasing sharply worldwide.

In his new book, “Missing Microbes,” Dr. Blaser links the declining variety within the microbiome to our increased susceptibility to serious, often chronic conditions,  from allergies and celiac disease to Type 1 diabetes and obesity. He and others primarily blame antibiotics for the connection.

The damaging effect of antibiotics on microbial diversity starts early, Dr. Blaser said. The average American child is given nearly three courses of antibiotics in the first two years of life, and eight more  during the next eight years. Even a short course of antibiotics like the widely prescribed  Z-pack (azithromycin, taken for five days), can result in long-term shifts in the body’s microbial environment.

But antibiotics are not the only way the balance within us can be disrupted. Cesarean deliveries, which  have soared  in recent decades, encourage the growth of microbes from the mother’s skin, instead of from the birth canal, in the baby’s gut, Dr. Blaser said in an interview.

This change in microbiota can reshape an infant’s metabolism and immune system. A recent review of 15 studies involving 163,796 births found that, compared with  babies delivered vaginally, those born by cesarean section were 26 percent more likely to be overweight and 22 percent more likely to be obese as adults.

Other studies have found major differences in the microorganisms living in the guts of normal-weight and obese individuals. Although such studies cannot tell which came first — the weight problem or the changed microbiota — studies indicate obese mice have gut bacteria that are better able to extract calories from food.

Further evidence of a link to obesity comes from farm animals.About three-fourths of the antibiotics sold in the United States are used  in  livestock. These  antibiotics change the animals’ microbiota, hastening their growth.

When mice are given the same  antibiotics used on livestock, the metabolism of their liver changes, stimulating an increase in body fat, Dr. Blaser said.

Even more serious is  the increasing number of serious disorders now linked to a distortion in the microbial balance in the human gut. They include several that are becoming more common in developed countries: gastrointestinal ailments like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and celiac disease; cardiovascular disease; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; digestive disorders like chronic reflux; autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis; and asthma and allergies.

Some researchers have even speculated that  disruptions of gut microbiota play a role in celiac disease and the resulting explosion in demand for gluten-free foods even among people without this disease.  In a mouse model of Type 1 diabetes, treating the animals with antibiotics accelerates the development of the disease, Dr. Blaser said.

He and other researchers, including a team from Switzerland and Germany, have also linked  the serious rise in asthma rates to the “rapid disappearance of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterial pathogen that persistently colonizes the human stomach, from Western societies.” Once, virtually everyone harbored this microbe, which European researchers have shown protected mice from developing hallmarks of allergic asthma.

H. pylori colonization in early life encourages  production of regulatory T-cells in the blood, which Dr. Blaser said are needed to tamp down allergic responses. Although certain strains of H. pylori are linked to the development of peptic ulcer and stomach cancer, other strains are protective, his studies indicate.

Research by Dr. Blaser and his colleagues further suggests that H. pylori in the stomach protects against gastroesophageal reflux disease, Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer.

Still, it is not always possible for researchers to tell whether disruptions in gut microbiota occur before or after people become ill. However, studies in laboratory animals often suggest the bacterial disturbances come first.

Dr. Blaser, among many others, cautions against the overuse of antibiotics, especially the broad-spectrum drugs now commonly prescribed. He emphasized in particular the importance of using fewer antibiotics in  children.

“In Sweden, antibiotic use is 40 percent of ours at any age, with no increase in disease,” he said. “We need to educate physicians and parents that antibiotics have costs. We need improved diagnostics. Is the infection caused by a virus or bacteria, and if bacteria, which one?

“Then we need narrow-spectrum antibiotics designed to knock out the pathogenic bacteria without disrupting the health-promoting ones,” Dr. Blaser added. “This will make it possible to treat serious infections with less collateral effect.”

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/07/14/we-are-our-bacteria/

Latest Research

Drop junk food before pregnancy, women told

By Rebecca Smith

Women trying to become pregnant should avoid a diet high in junk food because it is linked with an increased risk of giving birth prematurely, scientists are warning.

Large amounts of fat, sugar and take-away foods have been shown, for the first time, to increase the risk of a baby arriving early.

Mothers-to-be were warned to change their diets before they get pregnant to focus on vegetables, fish and fruit.

It is well known that a poor diet in pregnancy leads to poorer outcomes for the mother and baby but researchers in Australia have now found that diet before conception plays a part, too.

Researchers at the Robinson Research Institute at the University of Adelaide investigated the dietary patterns of more than 300 south Australian women in the year before they conceived.

Dr Jessica Grieger, a postdoctoral research fellow at the institute, and lead author of the report, said: “Preterm birth is a leading cause of infant disease and death, and occurs in approximately one in 10 pregnancies globally.

“Anything we can do to better understand the conditions that lead to preterm birth will be important in helping to improve survival and long-term health outcomes for children.”

“In our study, women who ate protein-rich foods, including lean meats, fish and chicken, as well as fruit, whole grains and vegetables, had a significantly lower risk of preterm birth.” She said that by contrast, women who consumed mainly “discretionary” foods, such as takeaways, chips, cakes, biscuits and other foods high in saturated fat and sugar were more likely to have babies that were born preterm, before 37 weeks’ gestation.

“It is important to consume a healthy diet before as well as during pregnancy to support the best outcomes for the mum and baby,” she said.

“Diet is an important risk factor that can be modified. It is never too late to make a positive change.”

Babies born prematurely are at greater risk of suffering cerebral palsy, breathing difficultites, deafness and blindess. Most of these problems are associated with severe prematurity, of less than 30 weeks’ gestation.

“Late premature” babies – those born after 32 to 38 weeks’ gestation – are still at risk of needing antibiotics, having breathing problems and suffering from low blood sugar, and may require admission to intensive care, other studies have found.

Late preterm babies are also more likely to develop asthma later in childhood than babies born at full-term.

Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said the research proved the importance of giving women and girls health information when even they were not pregnant.

“It is important that we get these messages out to schools and colleges and women at every opportunity, in anticipation of pregnancy,” she said.

The college had long talked about the need for pre-conception health services but the problem was with resources, she said.

“If we can invest in these preventive measures and prevent preterm labour, there will be huge cost savings later on.”

The researchers’ results were published in The Journal of Nutrition.

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