How Often Should You Eat?

Dr. Al Danenberg Nutritional Periodontist

October 11, 2020 [printfriendly]



Should you eat every 3-5 hours? Should you eat only when you’re hungry? Should you eat as soon as you wake? And should you eat just before going to bed?


What about fasting?


Lots of questions. Certainly, there are lots of opinions. But is there science-based research that can offer some insight and direction?


The answer is, “Yes, there is science.” Let’s get into it.



Published Medical Review

For most people, eating frequently is not healthy. Eating shortly before going to bed is not good for the digestive system. In fact, medical research shows “not eating” for long stretches of time during a 24-hour day is beneficial. Eating within a specific time window over the course of the day is considered intermittent fasting. This is my focus in this article.


The New England Journal of Medicine published an in-depth review of intermittent fasting in its December 16, 2019 edition. Eighty medical, peer-reviewed papers were cited in this article to substantiate its claims. This is one of the most inclusive medical papers supporting the fact that intermittent fasting is healthy. It is the way our primal ancestors survived and thrived, and it is the path to overall wellness.


Intermittent fasting is safe for the far majority of people. But it is safe only if you eat a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet. If you are eating a “standard American diet” consisting of high carbohydrates, added sugars, unhealthy fats, and devoid of other necessary nutrients, then intermittent fasting as well as any other frequency of eating is not healthy.


For example, a medical study published on 9/22/20 summarized that intermittent fasting did not significantly cause weight loss compared to its control group. In fact, the study also showed that there was a loss of muscle mass in the experimental group. However, the study participants did not eat a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet that I believe is critical for intermittent fasting to be effective and healthy. Actually, the authors of the study write about these limitations in their Conclusion at the end of their paper.



Summary of Benefits of Intermittent Fasting:

  • Improves blood glucose fluctuations
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Reduces the risk of metabolic diseases
  • Helps create metabolic flexibility
  • Increases fat metabolism
  • Contributes to weight loss
  • Cleanses the body by causing weak cells to die or renew themselves
  • Assists in preventing Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Extends life expectancy


Our primal ancestors never consumed three meals a day. And in-between snacks were not their “M.O.” How absurd is the notion that primitive man ate on a schedule? Humans always have eaten when they were hungry and drank when they were thirsty. Frequently, they could not find food. They had to fast until the next meal was secured. But their metabolism was capable of utilizing stored fat in their body to provide the fuel to function. There is no such thing as a time to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner.



Intermittent Fasting (Time Restricted Eating)

The most popular and efficient method of restricted eating is not eating for 16 to 20 hours at a time. In other words, you only eat within the window of 4-8 hours and fast the remaining 16-20 hours of a 24-hour day. As an example, you might finish your last meal of the day by 8 PM and then not have any food to eat until the next day between noon and 4 PM.


There are other methods of restricted eating. Two approaches are:

  • Alternate-day fasting. Eat a normal diet one day and fast the next day.
  • 5:2 fasting. Eat a normal diet for five consecutive days a week and fast the other two days of the week.


After one stops eating for 12-18 hours, liver glycogen (stored glucose) becomes depleted. Then, lipolysis can become a major energy pathway, producing energy from body fat if additional carbohydrates are not consumed. Triglycerides in fat cells begin to break down into glycerol and free fatty acids.[1] The free fatty acids that travel to the liver can be converted into ketones. Ketones are easily used by the body’s cells to burn as fuel.


During the fasting stage, insulin levels are low. With low insulin, damaged cells are encouraged to repair themselves and clean themselves out. This is called autophagy. When damaged cells are beyond repair, they could trigger themselves to commit suicide. This is called apoptosis.



However, you should consult with your medical doctor before trying intermittent fasting if you …

  • Have diabetes
  • Have problems with blood sugar regulation
  • Have low blood pressure
  • Take medications
  • Are underweight
  • Have a history of eating disorders
  • Are a woman who is trying to conceive
  • Are a woman with a history of amenorrhea
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding




Here are specific benefits of fasting which are reported in various published peer-reviewed papers. Most are from animal studies, but a few are with human participants.



Affects Cells and Hormones

Insulin levels drop during fasting periods, which allows fats cells to release their stored fat as fuel.[2] At the same time, human growth hormone increases as much as five times its normal level. Higher growth hormone assists in fat burning and muscle development.[3] Also, cells begin to repair themselves by removing accumulated waste material.[4],[5] Other benefits include improved longevity and protection against disease. [6],[7]


Regular switching between burning fat for fuel and burning carbohydrates for fuel promotes long-term maintenance of a variety of organ systems, disease resistance, and improved performance.[8] The ability for the body to switch back and forth efficiently and effectively between fuel sources is called metabolic flexibility.[9]


A clinical study of 1422 participants clearly showed significant health benefits from various types of fasting.[10]


Reduces body Weight and Belly Fat

When you fast, you eat fewer meals. Fewer meals mean fewer calories. Serum glucose declines, norepinephrine increases, and the metabolic rate increases, which burns more calories. The result is weight loss as well as loss of belly fat.[11],[12]


Improves Insulin Sensitivity and Type 2 Diabetes

Insulin sensitivity is when the body reacts to normal insulin production by the pancreas. However, when the body’s cells fail to respond to normal levels of insulin, it is called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance causes an increase in blood sugar and the development of type 2 diabetes. But fasting improves insulin sensitivity and can protect against type 2 diabetes. In a small study of three patients, intermittent fasting reversed their type 2 diabetes.[13]


Lowers Oxidative Stress and Systemic Inflammation

Oxidative stress is when unstable molecules (called free radicals) damage important molecules like protein and DNA.[14] Medical studies show that intermittent fasting helps the body to neutralize excessive free radicals and reduce inflammation.[15],[16],[17]


Decreases the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve different risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Specifically, it lowers blood pressure, total and LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers and blood sugar levels.[18]


Assists in Cancer Prevention and Cancer Treatment

Cancer is characterized by uncontrolled growth of cells. Various animal studies have shown that caloric restriction can prevent cancer. In addition, human studies also have suggested that intermittent fasting could improve outcomes with conventional cancer treatment.[19]


May Improve Brain Health

Fasting improves metabolism and optimizes brain cell growth in a way that may counteract a broad array of neurological disorders. In animal studies, fasting improves cognition, stalls age-related cognitive decline, slows neurodegeneration, enhances functional recovery after stroke, and lowers the pathological and clinical features of epilepsy and multiple sclerosis (MS).[20] Here is a study, which is the first clinical trial investigating the effects of a ketogenic diet and fasting on disease progression in MS patients.


Helps to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the world’s most common neurodegenerative disease, and there is no cure today. But in a recent animal study, intermittent fasting prevented memory decline.[21] Also, animal studies have shown that intermittent fasting may improve Alzheimer’s disease though the process of autophagy.[22]



My Personal Path

The research I have cited clearly shows that fasting improves overall health. But the choice of foods must be nutrient-dense and anti-inflammatory. However, it is important for some individuals with underlying medical conditions to check with their medical practitioners before starting any fasting program.


I incorporate intermittent fasting in my Unconventional Cancer Protocols. Up until recently, my last meal of the day ended about 7 PM. I usually went to sleep around 9:30 PM and woke around 5:30 AM. Generally, I ate my first meal of the day around 2 PM. That’s about the time I got hungry. But now I have made some changes.


I follow my Better Belly Blueprint (my way of eating). My diet is a relatively strict animal-based way of eating with less than 20 grams of carbs. I eat this way for 6 continuous days. But now, I may not eat my first meal until 4-5 PM. And on those days, I might feel satiated from eating that one meal and won’t eat again until the next day.


Then on the 7th day, I cycle out of my ketogenic diet and eat about 100 – 150 grams of carbohydrates and reduce my fat intake to encourage metabolic flexibility. On this 7th day, I select my carbs from raw honey, bee bread, and a few fruits and vegetables that are low in phytates, lectins, and oxalates.


From the medical trials and published articles I have read, intermittent fasting might be the healthiest path to a robust immune system, quality of life, and longevity. Cycling in and out of a ketogenic way of eating will keep me metabolically flexible. But it is vital that the foods I consume (and that you consume) must be nutrient-dense and anti-inflammatory.


An excellent book that describes the benefits of ketones, cycling in and out of keto, and metabolic flexibility is Ketones: The Fourth Fuel by Travis Christofferson. I think you’ll enjoy Travis’s way of writing. It reads like a novel but is packed full of great science. Also, Carnivore Aurelius is an excellent resource to dive into more information about the animal-based diet.


























Check out my new training on the Better Belly Blueprint! You can watch it HERE.


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I was Interviewed for
Wise Traditions Podcast

Dr. Al Danenberg Nutritional Periodontist
May 28, 2018 [printfriendly]




Podcasts are an amazing vehicle to get a message to the listening public. I really enjoy the opportunity to voice my passion about what means a lot to me. Recently, I was interviewed by Hilda Labrada Gore for the Wise Traditions Podcast that aired May 28, 2018.


This Podcast Series, which launched in January 2016, is part of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Wise Traditions Podcast Series now has over 900,000 downloads. Interviews of guests are published weekly and consist of a 30-minute discussion relating to fields of health, food, and farming.


The Weston A. Price Foundation is an important organization. It is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charity founded in 1999. Its goal is to disseminate the research of Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist who was the chairman of the National Dental Association from 1914 to 1928. Dr. Price studied isolated non-industrialized peoples. He established parameters of human health and determined optimum characteristics of human diets. His research demonstrated that humans achieve health when they consume nutrient-dense whole foods and the vital fat-soluble “activators” found in animal fats.


I had fun doing this interview. Take 33 minutes of your time and listen to me and my interviewer, Hilda Labrada Gore, as I describe my views for gut health and dental health including my 5 tweaks for overall health.



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My 5 Essential Lifestyle Tweaks

Dr. Al Danenberg Nutritional Periodontist
April 2, 2018 [printfriendly]




My 5 Essential Lifestyle TweaksThis month, I start my 6th year of living a Primal Lifestyle. I wrote about My Primal Lifestyle in 2016. Since then, I refined and perfected the ways I do things. Over the last 12 months, I began to incorporate my 5 Essential Lifestyle Tweaks to further improve what I had been doing.


Back in 2007, I had a stroke and could have died. Yet, I didn’t learn about a primal diet and a primal way of living until 2013. Fortunately for me, embracing a Primal Lifestyle in 2013 saved my life.


Fast forward to April 2018 when I will be 71 years old. I feel healthier today than I have ever felt. My blood chemistries have improved considerably from where they were in 2013 – with additional impressive test results since I included these 5 tweaks.


Following my stroke in 2007, my physicians prescribed 7 medications for me to take for the rest of my life. Not being comfortable with that scenario, I reinvented my life and have weaned off my last medication this month.


The way I live is based on a nutrient-dense diet, efficient exercise, restorative sleep, and stress reduction – all of which I discuss in my book, Crazy-Good Living. In addition to all this, recent medical research is uncovering new and exciting facts about the importance of the gut microbiome and the mitochondria. Both areas are where I have refined and focused my current efforts.


The Gut & The Mitochondria

I recently published two articles – one about the gut and one about mitochondria. Big Bang Theory of Chronic Disease describes the importance of the gut as the starting point for most systemic diseases. Mitochondria, Gut Bacteria, and Vitamin K2 describes the importance of mitochondrial health for the proper function of almost every cell and organ system. Both articles are loaded with links to peer-reviewed medical papers to support my conclusions.


5 Essential Lifestyle Tweaks

The following 5 tweaks are focused methods, which I have added to my primal lifestyle program. They are reported to improve the gut microbiome and the body’s mitochondria:


1  Intermittent fasting and multi-day fasting
Published medical research has demonstrated that fasting is beneficial in a variety of ways. It improves fat-burning, builds muscle, enhances brain health, reduces oxidative stress, improves mitochondria health, and reduces inflammation to name a few. Several months ago, I wrote about my fasting experience.


2. 4-minute daily exercise created by Dr. Zachary Bush
This may be as effective as high intensity interval training. It is reported to increase the production of nitric oxide. I try to include this exercise protocol several times a week.


3. Spore-based probiotics
A randomized and double-blind study published in 2017 demonstrated that spore-based probiotics grow in the gut and can increase the diversity of other healthy bacteria in the gut. Personally, I take this probiotic daily along with the Vitamin supplement I discuss next.


4. Vitamin K2
This unique form of vitamin K helps prevent inflammation and move calcium into the proper areas in the body. In addition, medical research using an animal model showed that vitamin K2 could rescue damaged mitochondria.


5. Pulsed electromagnetic fields
Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy improves the energy of cells. In this way, it may improve the functioning of mitochondria, and thereby improve many chronic conditions. In the next few weeks, I will devote an entire Blog to the science and application of this important medical application. One company that offers this technology in the United States is QRS (Quantum Resonance Systems).


Wrapping It Up

I have experienced personal benefits from these 5 tweaks. My results are anecdotal; I am not part of a controlled study. You may not have the same effects as I have. The facts are that the gut microbiome is critical for overall health, and the mitochondria in every cell of our body are critical for the healthy functioning of each cell.



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“Can I Cheat on My Paleo-type Diet?”

        Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS       September 11, 2015


evolution rI hope you haven’t reached the point where you discovered Paleo and were motivated to change your life and then thought, “Can I cheat on my Paleo-type diet?”


Removing unhealthy food choices and replacing them with healthy ones is a lifestyle change. It’s not a fad diet that comes to an end allowing you to return to old eating habits. As a matter of fact, if you only had eliminated the acellular carbs and foods that have a high carbohydrate density, you would have greatly reduced your food cravings, and your body would be healthier, and your mouth would be healthier. But, to answer the question, “Yes, you can cheat”.


Of course, you need to define what cheating means.


As Mark Sisson and Dr. Loren Cordain have stated in their writings, the 80/20-rule or the 85/15-rule work. That means, if you are eating the foods that are part of the nutrient-dense lifestyle 80-85% of the time, then 15-20% of the time you could go off track and still be OK. That off track time would be considered cheating or maybe just indulging off the grid.


I am motivated – perhaps beyond most people’s desire to be motivated. I am 68 years old as I write this. At this point in my lifestyle change, which only began in 2013, I am a fat burner. That means that I usually consume less than 150 grams of carbohydrates a day (without actually counting grams but by making healthier food choices), and for the most part I have no carb cravings. I can effectively burn stored fat for energy throughout the day. In addition, I generally skip a formal breakfast because I am not hungry and start my first meal after the noon hour and end my last meal of the day by 8PM (intermittent fasting). But, most people are not like me. I definitely get that.


Interestingly, there may be some actual benefits to cheating or indulging off the grid.


Break the Monotony


For some, it can be difficult staying the course of eating healthy. Sometimes that burger with all the dripping juices and perfect bun sounds awesome. Other times your buddies and you just are out and about, and a pizza with a beer would top off a perfect evening. So, you join them by indulging off the grid. That’s OK. It is a break from what may appear to you to be the monotony of sticking to a strict food regimen. Just don’t do it often. But for some people, especially those with autoimmune diseases, allergic reactions, and damaged guts, just an occasional indulgence could cause unpleasant and serious reactions. Personally, I do not cheat like this.


The Hormetic Effect


Hormesis is the term for generally favorable biological responses to low exposures to toxins and other stressors. That’s why plants build up phytonutrients in their cell structure to ward off potential pests and disease. The stress created externally will build strength internally. The plant becomes stronger and more resistant, and the human body can become stronger and more resistant. Some research (Here, Here, Here) has demonstrated that eating some bad foods at times might improve overall health. But, again, don’t make this a routine excuse because of some research to indulge off the grid.


Restart Your Metabolism


If you had reduced your carbohydrate intake significantly and for a prolonged time, you actually could have depressed your metabolic rate and stalled your weight loss. When you eat a big meal especially high in carbohydrates, you could trigger specific hormones to restart your weight loss goals.


My Personal Thoughts….


If you have been motivated to make a lifestyle change, then you probably are not thinking about actively cheating. You occasionally may want to eat foods that do not have the ideal nutrient density that you would otherwise eat, and that’s OK. You may go out with the guys or gals and decide you will indulge in a way that you normally would not do, and that’s OK. These are the exceptions and certainly not the rule. I can go to almost any restaurant, even fast-food types, and find something on the menu that I will eat. The important thing for me is this: I know what I won’t eat, and everything else is OK.


If you have started a healthier lifestyle, think about where you are now mentally and physically compared to where you were when you started. I am a perfect example of a person who has embraced a new lifestyle, which has changed my life. How could I ever consider going back to the way I was? How could I entertain the concept of cheating when I know that this Primal lifestyle has saved my life?


Best of luck pursuing your new lifestyle.

Detox Products: Scam? or Science?

evolution rI have a pet peeve – professionals using their credentials to oversell products. They first present great information, but then they embellish it and sell a truckload of questionable products.


I do understand that there are people who are sick and need help. I do believe that some of these people need a jumpstart to help their bodies get on the right track. Healthcare professionals dealing with these medical situations must initiate active treatment for acute problems.


Yet, the facts are that when people eat unhealthy foods and lead unhealthy lifestyles, their bodies respond in unhealthy ways. The first treatment after acute care should be to initiate healthy life changes. Most people who are suffering could be helped tremendously by simply giving their bodies what they need and most importantly by avoiding what their bodies do not need. That goes not only for overall health, but also for mouth health.


This brings me to the topic of detoxification. A study by NIH showed that the money spent on alternative medicine in 2007 was $34 billion annually. I suspect the money spent just on detox products today has generated a multimillion dollar industry annually – selling whatever miracle concoction that is popular at the moment to make your body do what it was designed to do in its natural state.


What Is Detoxification?

The word detoxification in the health world has two meanings:

  • One is the medical treatment for people who have drug addictions. This medical practice of detoxification allows the body to rid itself of a drug while managing the symptoms of withdrawal. It is designed to prevent potentially life-threatening complications that might appear if the patient were left untreated with their chemical addiction.
  • One is the process that has become popular with entrepreneurs who promote products to help your body rid itself of harmful toxins. The question is, “Are these products necessary above and beyond what your body is capable of doing through its normal process of detoxification?”


No question that there are many toxins getting into our bodies that never were there a few decades ago. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2010 that 212 chemicals were found in people’s blood or urine, 75 of which had never before been measured in the U.S. population.


These chemicals could present a toxic burden to the body if your liver and kidneys could not remove them or if you were exposed to so many that your body could not deal with the total toxic load.


How Do You Detox?

The main detoxification organ in your body is the liver. Everything you breathe, digest, and absorb into your bloodstream passes through the liver, which is your body’s main filtering system. Many commercial detoxification products make the claim that they “cleanse” your liver. Your liver does not store toxins. The liver actually turns potentially harmful toxic material into water-soluble chemicals that can be removed by your body in a natural way through sweating, exhaling, urinating, and defecating.


Your liver uses a two-phase process to break down chemicals and toxins. During phase 1, toxins are neutralized and broken into smaller fragments. Then, in phase 2, they are bound to other molecules, creating new non-toxic molecules that can be excreted.


It is essential for your body to have adequate nutrients so that liver detoxification can work properly. Many of these nutrients also stimulate the Nrf2 pathway, which in turn begins the body’s process of creating detoxifying and antioxidant biochemicals. If phase 1 and phase 2 of liver detoxification were not to work properly, toxic substances could build up in your body creating disease. Some of the specific foods that provide specific nutrients that support healthy detoxification are:

  • Deep colored fruits and vegetables
  • Sea vegetables
  • Avocados
  • Protein from pastured animals
  • Pastured eggs and organ meats
  • Wild caught fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring
  • Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts
  • Onions and garlic
  • Nuts like almonds and walnuts


A healthy liver will do a great job of removing toxins, but there are a few diseases that could compromise the process. Diseases like viral hepatitis or alcohol-induced liver disease may not allow normal detoxification. Some nutrients like vitamin A, iron, and copper in high concentrations could also create problems. Disease states of the liver must be treated by a healthcare professional. Detox products have never been demonstrated to treat a diseased liver.


Kidneys also are a part of the detoxifying system. They filter the blood, remove excess water, pass urea that is a byproduct of protein metabolism, and eliminate these wastes through urination.


When healthy nourishment and lifestyle are introduced, the body is able to detoxify continuously and naturally 24/7.


Best Way To Detoxify

When it comes to cleansing the body, one of the best techniques has been fasting. Possibly, the real benefit from the popular cleansing products in the market may be that many of them restrict food for a certain period of time. Some of the medical benefits of fasting include lowering blood sugar, fighting cancer (here, here, here), and causing the death of old and diseased cells.


I practice intermittent fasting in my personal diet. I usually finish eating for the evening after completing dinner by 8PM. Then my next meal the following day generally would be about 1 PM. That translates to an intermittent fast of about 17 hours. Eating six meals a day doesn’t align with our ancestral history.


My Bottom Line

I detoxify daily by eating nutrient-dense foods and practicing intermittent fasting. Science supports these methods.



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Nrf2 is Not a New Password

      Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS     Nutritional Periodontist
      March 14, 2015   [printfriendly]

evolution rNrf2 is not just a few random letters with a number attached. Nrf2 actually means something – something important. For those inquisitive minds that like scientific names, Nrf2 stands for nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2. Actually, Nrf2 is critical for your health. I will describe what this strange “word” is and how it becomes a powerhouse for your body.
Nrf2 is a protein – but a very specific protein. It is called a transcription factor. As a transcription factor, it lives in the cytoplasm of the human cell, and it is ultimately responsible for sending genetic information from the human DNA located in the nucleus of the cell to RNA, which then creates chemicals that help cells perform many health-promoting functions.
The DNA is the unique biological formula for each of us. Every cell in our body (except red blood cells) contains this architectural script for the entire body in its nucleus. There are approximately 25,000 genes in the human DNA. Nrf2 assists more than 500 of those genes to function in ways that increase antioxidant activities, produce anti-inflammatory changes, stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis, improve mitochondrial function, stimulate death of damaged cells, and remove toxic material.
Recently, a great deal of research has uncovered Nrf2’s ability to affect detoxification and excretion of both organic pollutants and toxic metals. This is critical in light of our repeated exposures to toxic materials and heavy metals. However, much of what Nrf2 does and how it works are still being discovered.
In order for Nrf2 to function properly, an activator must awaken it. Without an activator, Nrf2 is stored quietly in each cell without benefit to the cell. Once Nrf2 is activated, it moves to the nucleus of the cell to begin its communication with the DNA.
Current research has identified some of the activators that will awaken Nrf2. The majority of these activators turn out to be various nutrient-dense foods, moderate exercise, low-level oxidative stress (hormesis), and caloric restriction (intermittent fasting).
Once activation has occurred, Nrf2 has been shown to prevent and treat a large number of chronic inflammatory diseases including various cardiovascular diseases, kidney diseases, lung diseases, diseases of toxic liver damage, cancer (prevention), diabetes along with metabolic syndrome and obesity, sepsis, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, HIV/AIDS, and epilepsy.
Modern diets throughout the world cannot provide the necessary nutrients to activate Nfr2 effectively. However diets like the Paleo diet are effective in activating Nrf2. Some of the more powerful nutrient activators are:

  • Olives
  • Sweet potatoes (especially purple sweet potatoes)
  • Tomatoes
  • Leafy, dark green vegetables
  • DHA and EPA from fatty fish
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Cruciferous vegetables

Martin L Pall and Stephen Levine published a paper in February 2015 that reviews the recent research surrounding Nrf2. They reviewed 141 peer-reviewed papers. Their article is well worth reading! In their summary, they make the following statement, “We may be on the verge of a new literature on health effects of Nrf2 which may well become the most extraordinary therapeutic and most extraordinary preventive breakthrough in the history of medicine.”


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