Category Archives: Diabetes

Grain Brain, by David Perlmutter, M.D.

ImageWhen new books on diabetes or low-carbohydrate diets are published, I will almost always read them, as you know from following this blog. However, you may not know that my father died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2004, so my siblings and I are always on the lookout for new research on dementia, as well. Little did I know that the two were interconnected, but Dr. David Perlmutter has put forth some very controversial and fascinating new research in his book, Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar—Your Brain’s Silent Killers. Dr. Perlmutter is a neurologist, as is his 96-year-old father, who now has Alzheimer’s, so the author has a vested interest in his subject. In the long run, this is very hopeful information, since it is the first time that anyone has stated that Alzheimer’s and other neurological problems are actually related to the food you eat, and, therefore, preventable!

Until very recently, scientists believed that neurological problems were almost all due to genetics. However, with the explosion of both diabetes and Alzheimer’s in the past few decades, they began noticing that the two diseases were tracking together. Why? Although patients with diabetes and other digestive issues tend to show symptoms years before the final diagnosis, the damage wrought in the brain by grains is silent until it is too late. Dr. Perlmutter began drawing connections between the rapid increase of carbohydrate consumption since the advent of the low-fat, high-carbohydrate government dietary guidelines and the increase of inflammation-related neurological disorders, including dementia, ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, epilepsy, depression, Parkinson’s disease, migraines, and even autism. We consume much more gluten in our diets today than we ever have before, both because of our dietary guidelines and because of the change in our wheat, as outlined in Dr. William Davis’ Wheat Belly*, quoted often in Grain Brain. Gluten contains substances that connect directly to the opiate receptors in the brain, resulting in a very real addiction. But it is not only wheat, but all kinds of carbohydrates that cause inflammation throughout the body, including in the brain. Even people who are not showing gastric signs of gluten sensitivity are being affected.

Just as the medical establishment has decided that 40% of the population should be on statin drugs just on general principles, Dr. Perlmutter sets out to convince us that cholesterol is not bad for us. I have not heard that opinion since Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades, who wrote Protein Power in 1999, published a graph showing how cancer rates rise much more precipitously under 140 total cholesterol than heart disease rates do over 200 total cholesterol.  Cholesterol is a substance that maintains the integrity of the cell wall throughout the body and is necessary to form the synapses between brain cells. Perlmutter notes that the Framingham Heart Study shows that people with higher cholesterol also have higher cognitive strength. Although he is not a fan of statin drugs, since cholesterol is obviously important to brain health, he does acknowledge that inflammation is the root cause of many of our most dangerous chronic illnesses today (thereby agreeing with Dr. David Agus in The End of Illness*), but he believes that the inflammation is caused, in large part, by what we eat. For most of history, scientists believed that brain cells were fixed, and although they could be damaged, they could never be repaired or replaced. The very encouraging news that the human brain can, in fact, regenerate is a real motivator to follow Perlmutter’s guidelines to maintain and improve your habits early in life so that you can avoid serious consequences later in life.

There is not even room in this review to tell you all that Dr. Perlmutter has to say about movement disorders, depression, fructose vs. glucose, how exercise affects your brain, and so much more, but about two-thirds of this book sets out the research and reasons for changing to a low-carbohydrate diet. The final third is a very practical guide to help you make that change. Dr. Perlmutter lays out a four-week plan to change your diet, exercise, and sleeping habits, and follows with menu ideas and recipes. The recipes, compared to many of the fabulous cookbooks I’ve reviewed, are quite basic, but when you’re new to the idea of giving up bread forever, basic can be very helpful. He also has charts of recommended supplements, good vs. bad oils, lists of gluten-containing substances, and more.

By this time, I hope that our culture is waking up to the fact that carbohydrates are not contributing to optimum health. Unfortunately, it is still difficult to find healthy choices in restaurants, and I still have to shop online or in more expensive stores to find some of the basic items in my pantry. I suppose eating well has always been more expensive, but I hope that almond flour, grass-fed beef, and a wide variety of non-starchy vegetables will soon be more mainstream. There are many restaurants out there whose side dish options extend to baked potatoes, fries, or rice. No wonder we’re all so sick.

I highly recommend Grain Brain to everyone, because we all know someone suffering from ADHD or depression right now and we all need to help ourselves to avoid dementia in the future. Add it to your pile of books on the carbohydrate-diabetes connection, and before you know it, you’ll put away the chips and soda. Just switch to red wine and dark chocolate!


*These titles are also searchable in this blog. Sometimes they were discussed within wider posts on the topic.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. My opinions are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.


Filed under Book Reviews, Diabetes, Food

Against All Grain, by Danielle Walker

ImageAs you can tell by my reviews, I am thrilled by all of the new grain-free cookbooks out there that are using natural, whole foods instead of the lab-created concoctions of the early Atkins phase of the low-carb revolution. This week, the library received a brand-new Paleo-related cookbook that is both gorgeous and inspiring!

Danielle Walker, blogger extraordinaire ( has assembled 150 or so of her favorite recipes, some from her blog, but most revealed for the first time. Do visit the lovely blog; it makes me long for a webmaster. Danielle has quite a story. She was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis in her early twenties, and there are some pictures that illustrate just how ill she really was. Obviously, from her blooming health here on the cover of her book, you can see that she overcame her disease and has learned a great deal about food and nutrition since then.

Now to the recipes—yum! One of my cookbook requirements is a picture for every recipe, and this book has such fabulous pictures that I had to eat my lunch half an hour early when I was perusing it at work! My tummy started rumbling, so I had to start stuffing in romaine leaves and pretending they were Seafood, Chorizo, and Chicken Paella. Danielle includes everything from breakfast to cocktails— Blueberry Waffles to Mango Mule— with an entire chapter devoted to kid-pleasing dishes that will help your little ones to develop a love of wholesome ingredients. I think the Toddler-Approved Vegetable Curry would please me, too!

As a diabetic, I will warn you that Ms. Walker does not have blood sugar problems, so in some of her recipes she uses honey, maple syrup, bananas, dates, orange juice, and other no-nos for those of us whose pancreases will not cooperate. If it won’t change the texture of the recipe (i.e., reducing the amount of liquid), you may be able to substitute stevia or the sweetener of your choice. I have gotten pretty adept at this sort of thing, and even though it may take some experimentation, I can usually adjust the recipe appropriately.

An unforeseen by-product of reading this and Melissa McGee’s book (see review on Satisfying Eats in this blog) is that I have put another item in my Amazon shopping cart, one of my favorite pastimes that I told you about a couple of weeks ago. Ms. Walker shows pictures of what looks amazingly like pasta in these pictures, but what is actually zucchini noodles, created by the Paderno World Cuisine A4982799 Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable Slicer, more conveniently known as a Zoodle. Or maybe it’s a Zoodler and the noodles are Zoodles. Anyhow, it can make noodles out of any vegetable and nearly any fruit. If you take a notion, you may buy it for me for Christmas.

ImageI have only had this book for a couple of days, but so far I have tried two recipes. The first one was N’Oatmeal Cookies. With the sort of sweetener substitution for diabetics described above, they were delicious. Spicy and munchy. We sampled them during a South Carolina Gamecocks football game and we won, so they must also be lucky cookies.

ImageSecondly, I made the Currant Scones. Now, I have enjoyed scone recipes in other grain-free cookbooks, most notably the Cranberry Scones in The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking, which I have reviewed here, but they are fun, fancy scones. I am actually a bit of a scone snob. I grew up next to an Irish family—by which I do not mean of Irish descent, like my family, but the parents were actually from Ireland—and they had tea every afternoon. Somehow, I managed to show up on time quite often. I learned to make scones from my friend, Eithne, and I still have her handwritten recipe. Unfortunately, I can’t eat regular scones anymore, so I’ve been on the hunt for an authentic-tasting recipe for some time. These did the trick! You may notice that there are no currants. I was fresh out and too lazy to go to the store, and I’d used all of my dried cranberries on the N’Oatmeal Cookies. In any case, this is the taste I was looking for: mildly sweet and a perfect vehicle for apricot jam. Ms. Walker has a recipe for Lemon Curd, too, so I will give that a shot in the future.

One positive result of the Paleo movement and the recent scientific research on wheat and other grains is that people are beginning to understand that this way of eating is not a short-term diet, but rather a complete way of life. Ms. Walker emphasizes this in her book, and even tailors the recipes to fit the diets of people with various chronic conditions, such as ulcerative colitis and other gastrointestinal diseases. Most of the recipes are dairy-free or have alternative ingredients for dairy-free results, and she has symbols on each recipe to denote whether it is egg-free, nut-free, Specific Carbohydrate-compatible, or vegan. But don’t worry: this is not a medical journal. It is a very beautiful and useful cookbook that just happens to make people well while they feast.

I will definitely be buying this one.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.


Filed under Book Reviews, Diabetes, Food

Recent Success Stories from My Low-Carb Kitchen

While I have not been writing much lately, I have been cooking up a storm. I’ve had a few breakthroughs and found some new products that I wanted to share with you.

First of all, the five pounds I’ve gained since my birthday earlier this month remind me that even when you eat low-carb, you will not lose weight if you don’t limit your intake. However, you will protect yourself from diabetes, high cholesterol, cancer, and now the research says Alzheimer’s Disease! So you are doing yourself a world of good. Furthermore, when you want to lose weight, you can cut your portions and do so while still eating a healthful diet.

David’s mom makes the best fried okra in the world, bar none. Michael is crazy about the stuff, so whenever we visited, Granny was sure to make some for her baby grandson. Of course, she used cornmeal, which is a total no-no for me, so we’ve gone okraless except for soups in the winter. This summer, Elaine, a friend of mine at church (our Egg Lady!) grew okra and she has given us a couple of bags full. I was challenged. I decided to try to use almond flour in the place of cornmeal, and it was a huge hit with my guys! In case you have lived your life okra-deprived, here are the easy steps:

1)      Wash the okra (watch for spiny bits in your hands), remove the stem ends, and cut the okra into about ½ to 1 inch pieces. Discard any hard pods.

2)      Beat a couple of eggs with a fork and either dip the okra in or pour the eggs over the okra in a bowl and turn it until coated.

3)      On a plate or in a wide bowl, combine almond flour, salt, and pepper to taste. Toss the okra in this mixture until evenly coated. This will not look as uniform as the frozen breaded okra pellets that you can buy at the store, but it tastes much better.

4)      In a large skillet, pour enough oil to coat the bottom and heat to medium-high. Add a single layer of okra to the pan and stir occasionally until deep golden brown on all sides. You may have to cook in several batches.

5)      Remove with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel-lined plate. Taste for salt.

That’s it! Okra is very good for lowering your cholesterol naturally.

I have also used the almond flour, salt, and pepper coating for pan-fried catfish. Be sure to marinate your catfish in buttermilk for half an hour before cooking—no longer, or it will fall apart. Catfish can be tough in the middle, but buttermilk will tenderize it perfectly. If you like Cajun, add Tobasco to the buttermilk and red pepper to the flour mix.

About a month ago, we went to a produce stand with tons of homegrown eggplants. I love eggplant parmesan, but it is just too wet without flour. So I decided to try—you guessed it!—almond flour, and it made the richest eggplant parmesan you’ve ever had. Dip it in egg and then seasoned almond flour, and “fry” it on your electric griddle for a less messy but really wonderful fried eggplant. Just put a tiny bit of olive or other oil on your griddle.

ImageNow, if you’ve been reading this blog for long, you know that I’ve been making my own almond flour by sending it through the food processor first and then a blade coffee grinder. So much work! Well, I found a new way of doing things, and I found it through a blog that I like called This young woman named Melissa McGehee lost a lot of weight on a low-carb diet, and since she was already an excellent cook, she decided to develop low carbohydrate recipes that are family-friendly and still very healthy. She concentrates on using real, whole foods and no artificial ingredients. My sister told me about her, so I began following her on Facebook, and she posts a lot of delicious recipes online! She also has a cookbook called Satisfying Eats, which is available through Amazon. I finally invested in the cookbook, and my husband and son are so glad that I did! So far, I have made the Coconut Chipotle Chicken Thighs (recipe available on her blog), the Garlic Cheddar Biscuits, and the brownies. All fabulous! Go and visit Melissa and read her story, then dig into her great food. One of her latest recipes is a low-carb, all-natural reworking of Nutella. I can tell you, too, that she is really nice and answered a question that I sent her via Facebook right away.

ImageAnyhow, Melissa recommends Honeyville Almond Flour. I looked on Amazon when I was buying her cookbook, and it sells for $35 for a 5-pound bag. That’s $7 a pound, the same thing I was paying for blanched almonds that I had to grind myself! Plus, there is no way that I could ever get the flour this fine. It is an excellent product, and Honeyville Farms also has a nice website with many different foods, including the expected bucket-o-wheat and unexpectedly appetizing freeze-dried foods for short or long-term storage, if you’re into that sort of thing. Yes, they are in Utah. I will definitely get all my almond flour from them from now on. Shipping is always $4.49 anywhere in the U.S.

So that’s what I’ve been up to! Tomorrow is the first Gamecocks football game of the season, so we will be having Stuffed Jalapeños (search for “Hot Harvest” on this blog) and Garden and Gun’s Perfect Tailgate Cocktail, among other things. Bon appétit!

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Happy 100th Blog Post!

ImageThis is my one-hundredth post! Since WordPress sent me a message wishing me a happy one-year anniversary a couple of weeks ago, that means that I’ve posted something new about every four days this year. One of the reasons I started this blog was to get myself writing again, and I’ve succeeded in at least a small way.

DSC00317I’ve written about 70 book reviews, some of them combined with other articles or series reviews. Be glad that I don’t review every book I read! Since a couple of authors have found my blog and read my reviews of their books, I tend to write only about books that I do like and would recommend to others. Authors have feelings, too. The reviews have covered new children’s and teen books (which I select and purchase for the library system where I work), adult novels, adult nonfiction, cookbooks, and biographies. One project I’d like to get to in the next year would be writing about my favorite nonfiction authors—writers I’m very familiar with from reading many of their books over the years. Narrative nonfiction is underrated, in my opinion, and I’d like to bring them to my readers. Like most librarians, I also have a list of major titles or authors that I’ve missed and would like to catch up on. I’ll bring those to you, as well.

Other frequent categories have been cooking, cookbooks, diabetes, and weight loss. I have had some success this past year, and I’ve lost 25 or 30 pounds. I keep losing and regaining the last 5 pounds. That brings my total since my diabetes diagnosis to 65 or 70 pounds. ImageSo I did keep 40 pounds off for five years, and I’ve kept this last bit off for six months or so. My diabetes is being reversed, mostly from following a low-carb diet for six years, and I’ve been able to stay off medication. I am still not good at exercising regularly, though. Having the treadmill break down knocked me completely off course for months, and now that it’s fixed, I’m not too successful with rebuilding that habit.

That’s the eating and reading of, but I don’t think I’ve ever written about sleeping! Well, I am writing this at 1:30 AM, so maybe that counts. Usually, I sleep quite well, so there’s nothing to report.

2013-07-18 19.57.54On the other hand, I have written loads of other articles on everything from ridiculous commercials to dreadful Christmas decorations. They’ve been as silly as my neighbor’s freezer fire pit and as serious as my mother’s long illness. We’ve talked about creativity, music, Monty Python, vampires, squirrels, handbags, and The Big Bang Theory. My garden is doing much better than it was in the early spring, and we are covered in tomatoes. Crows are eating them this year, but David has squirrel-proofed the strawberries.  Here he is showing off the climbing squash. I covered both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions and the Children’s Media Awards. Wilbur, our robot, is still keeping our floors cleaner than they’ve ever been before. You know that I’m eager for the return of Elementary (September 26th!), and that I will continue to bring you all the latest concerning Southern culture. I keep thinking that I’ll write very serious pieces about important topics, but I can’t seem to stop laughing all the time.

Keep on reading, and please share with your friends! I enjoy hearing from you, so feel free to comment. If you would like an opinion on a particular book or author— which is the type of question that I get in person— please message me on Facebook. Thank you so much, and here’s to the next 100 posts!


Filed under Book Reviews, Diabetes, Family, Food, Life's Travails- Big and Small

Three New Paleo Cookbooks

I am always on the lookout for new recipes, and one of the popular diets that often intersects with low-carb cooking is the Paleo Diet. There are new resources for this way of life hitting the market all the time, and our library just received a slew of them. One that we have not yet seen is Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry, Elana being a longtime gluten-free blogger that a friend of mine has enjoyed for years. While we wait, here are three of the latest.

Paleo cookbooks today are more sophisticated than the early attempts, and as such, they are more apt to roam far afield in their use of ingredients, as if avoiding the Deadly Whites (flour, sugar, rice, etc.) is the biggest qualification for the prehistoric digestive system. The Mason & Staley cookbook Gather, for example, is heavy in the use of arrowroot, which boasts 113 grams of carbohydrate per cup. I must ask the question: Did prehistoric man have copious groves of arrowroot growing around the cave? Does arrowroot even grow in groves? Maple syrup, also, seems to have been in abundant supply, so I’m thinking that Paleolithic man must have lived in New England or Canada. Throw in all of the coconut aminos, endive, and macadamia nut oil, and one might conclude that some of these recipes are aimed at your metrosexual-type caveman.

Be that as it may, these are three very different Paleo cookbooks, all useful and one even very elegant. Very nice if you’re bored with roasting your mastodon the same old way every night.

ImageThe Paleo Slow Cooker: Healthy, Gluten-Free Meals the Easy Way, by Arsy Vartanian. This is a lovely, big cookbook with a picture on almost every two-page spread. The recipes are mostly meat-related, of course, with flavors from around the world: Chinese, Indian, Bulgarian, French, Italian, and so on. By and large, the ingredients are items you work with daily, along with typical Paleo ingredients, such as coconut milk. So many people are lactose-intolerant these days that coconut milk is easily available. I did spot some kaffir lime leaves, though, and I have no idea what those are. Happy hunting. It is a little disconcerting to have the live animal in an adorable picture before each new meat section, particularly the “Aww!”-inspiring lamb, but I guess that keeps us carnivores honest. I really think you crock pot enthusiasts will like this one.

ImageThe 30 Day Guide to Paleo Cooking, by Hayley Mason and Bill Staley. More than just a cookbook, this is a guide for those who are considering the Paleo Diet and need a primer with 75 recipes attached. A large paperback that begins with inspirational success stories and an explanation of the diet that cover the first 50 pages, this title is a very useful manual with tips, meal plans, and shopping guides. The recipes are laid out on two-page spreads with a picture on each recipe. Can you tell that pictures are important to me? I’ll rarely make a recipe if I don’t know what it’s supposed to look like. Very nice recipes with mostly everyday ingredients, although I did spot some Himalayan sea salt on one list. The degree of exotic runs from the simple Smoky Country Ribs to Fajita Lettuce Wraps with Chipotle Aioli. New Paleos will be off to a solid start, and veterans can pick up some great new ideas.

ImageGather: The Art of Paleo Entertaining, by Hayley Mason and Bill Staley (again). This gorgeous, glossy cookbook fills a real gap in the whole Paleo lifestyle: how to entertain and celebrate occasions with non-Paleo types, all with style and beauty. If The 30 Day Guide is beginner Paleo, this is advanced. Filled with photographs of elegant table settings and jubilant family members, Gather is arranged as a year of occasions: tea parties in spring, a tropical getaway in summer, a spooky supper in the fall, and a hunter-gatherer feast in the winter, just to name a few. After a thoughtful introductory section about planning gatherings in general, each event begins with a description, a menu, and a page of “shopping and preparation,” with instructions for make-ahead details. For example, the “Takeout Fake-Out” has activities for three days ahead, one day ahead, and one hour before dinner. The recipes follow. No problem with a lack of photos of the food here. While most of the recipes contain fairly common ingredients, some do have either seriously Paleo or seriously foodie items. Low carbers beware, too. Lots of arrowroot flour and maple syrup. They do offer substitutions sometimes, though, such as “if you don’t have wahoo,…” or “if you don’t have chocolate raspberry balsamic vinegar,….” I don’t, actually, although the vinegar sounds good. This is a fabulous cookbook for those who plan to make the Paleo diet a permanent feature of their lives, but who want to continue to feast with friends and family without feeling limited or deprived. Beautiful.

Disclaimer: I read library copies of all of these cookbooks. My opinions are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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Cheryl’s Low-Carb Patriotic Berry Pie

ImageHere is a summery dessert that I created for the 4th of July, but you can make it any time, changing the flavors and the berries. It’s so cute and yummy, with no sugar! I used raspberry sugar-free gelatin because I put raspberries on top, but I think it would be great with blueberry gelatin, too. Unfortunately, I could only find blueberry gelatin with sugar. I made the crust with almond and hazelnut flours just because I had them on hand, but all almond flour would be delicious, too.

ImageFirst, make the crust:

2 c. nut flour

2 tbsp. Splenda or equivalent

4 tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large pie pan (9 or 10”). Stir the nut flour and Splenda together, then pour in the butter and toss until evenly moist. Press the nut mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of the pie pan. Bake 10-12 minutes or until a light golden color. Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely.

ImageTo make the filling:

2 8-oz. pkgs. cream cheese, softened

1 sm. pkg. sugar-free gelatin

2/3 cup boiling water

3 cups whipping cream

½ cup Splenda or equivalent

About a pint of berries

In a large bowl, whip the cream with the ½ cup Splenda. Set aside in refrigerator. This ends up to be much more than 3 cups of whipped cream.

In another bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Place the gelatin in a small bowl and pour in boiling water. Mix until the gelatin is completely dissolved, and then slowly beat the mixture into the cream cheese. Scrape the bowl often. When completely combined, add 2 cups of whipped cream and blend together thoroughly. Do not overbeat at this point.

Pour the filling into the crust and smooth the top evenly. Cover and place in refrigerator at least 4 hours.

ImageFor the topping:

Remove pie from the refrigerator and spread a ¼ to ½ inch layer of whipped cream on top. Add rows of blueberries and raspberries. Pipe remaining whipped cream around the rim in star shapes.




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Teal Tracking 3: 45 Pounds Down!

ImageWell, I have fought for each and every pound the past few weeks, but I will say that I am closing the gap! This time, I’ve lost 22 pounds, and David has lost 23. It has been tough! I hit a patch where the scale would not move no matter what, and then I lost two pounds in two days. Whew!

One hopeful development is that I believe that walking on the treadmill has become a habit. I may not think, “Oh, boy! I get to walk on the treadmill now!,” but I do go directly to my sock drawer after dinner and put on socks and walking shoes. Around the end of the second lap, I always think that I’ll make this a short walk, but by the end of the fourth lap, I’m trying to see if I can beat my last speed and incline. I usually end up walking for 35-40 minutes, up to 3 miles per hour (don’t laugh), and an incline of 6%. For me, that’s excellent.

We are taking a break from careful eating just for today, since it’s our 33rd anniversary, and we’re headed to Carrabba’s for dinner. Have you had the mussels? Yum! I took the day off from work, but David started his new position in property management today, so I’m home painting my toenails lavender for spring. I’m an optimist; it’s supposed to be a frosty weekend.

Since I think I’ve exhausted Robert Lustig’s major YouTube videos, my colleague and I are now on to Robert O. Young’s pH Miracle. We read Scott Brick’s testimony on Thursday. It appears that this popular audiobook narrator had thyroid cancer and went to Dr. Young’s treatment center, since having thyroid surgery would destroy his career. If you’ve heard him, you’ll appreciate what a tragedy that would be. He’s been following the pH (alkaline) diet, and the tumors are actually shrinking. There is a Robert Young book about pH and diabetes, so I had to send for it on interlibrary loan. I can’t imagine what this could be, and picture myself swallowing baking soda. Anyhow, I will let you know.

Since I’ve taken a few days off for some intensive reading, you’ll soon be seeing several more book reviews in this space. Hopefully, I’ll love everything I read!

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