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Archive for November, 2011

Lycopene’s Heart Health Benefits

Lycopene, the red pigment that colors tomatoes.

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Superfood Antioxidants, Carotenoids Are Beneficial For Cardiovascular Health,

According To Research. . .

Lycopene, the compound that gives tomatoes their rich-red color, may benefit heart health by boosting the body’s natural antioxidant defenses and protecting against DNA damage, says a new study from South Korea.

A daily supplement of 15 milligrams for eight weeks was associated with increased activity of SOD (super oxide dismutase), a powerful antioxidant enzyme, as well as reductions in measures of DNA damage in white blood cells, according to results published in the journal Atherosclerosis.

Furthermore, the apparent benefits extended to a reduction in systolic blood pressure and a decrease in levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP). CRP is a marker of inflammation and is reported to be an independent predictor of cardiovascular-related events.

“These results add to the growing literature on potential protective effects of the antioxidant lycopene in atherosclerosis through an anti-inflammatory effect and preserving endothelial function,” wrote the researchers  from Yonsei University in South Korea.

 

Growing Science for Lycopene

Lycopene is an antioxidant that is present in red and pink-colored fruits and vegetables. It has been shown  to have heart, blood pressure, prostate, osteoporosis, skin and other benefits.

Study Details

The South Korean researchers recruited 126 health  men with an average age of 34 and an average BMI of  24 kg/m2, and randomly assigned them to receive a daily  6 or 15 milligram supplement of lycopene, or placebo for eight weeks.

At the end of the study the researchers reported that SOD activity increased by 2.37 units per milliliter in the high-dose group, compared with an increase of 1.73 units per milliliter in 6 mg group and a decrease in activity in the placebo group.

 

In addition, DNA damage was reduced in the high dose group, compared with the other groups. Endothelial  function, the function of the cells lining blood vessels,  was also improved significantly following the high dose group.

“Interestingly, the beneficial effects of lycopene supplementation on endothelial function were remarkable  in subjects with relatively impaired endothelial cell function  at initial level,” report the researchers.

CRP levels decreased by 57 percent in the high dose  group, while no significant reductions were recorded in the other two groups, said the researchers.

“Subjects supplemented with 15-mg lycopene daily for 8-week also showed reduction in other cardiovascular  risk factors, for example, an increase in LDL particle size,” report the researchers. “Since the lycopene capsule used  in this study also contains beta-carotene (greater than  0.5 mg), the subjects in the 15-mg lycopene/day group  had a 65 percent increase in lycopene concentration and a 20 percent increase in beta-carotene, which is a known effective antioxidant that inactivates free radicals, inversely correlates with CRP, and slows the progression of atherosclerosis.

“Therefore, a synergistic effect of Lycopene and  Beta-Carotene in the 15-mg Lycopene/day group likely increased the beneficial effects on these atherosclerosis  risk factors,” they added.

 

Source: Atherosclerosis (Published online)

“Effects of lycopene supplementation on oxidative stress

and markers of endothelial function in healthy men”

 

Editor’s Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Vitamin C Beneficial For Asthmatic Children: New Study

Ambersweet oranges, a new cold-resistant orang...

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Vitamin C has a beneficial effect against asthma, according to a study published in the journal “Clinical and Translational Allergy” The benefits depend on the age of asthmatic children, on their exposure to molds or dampness, and on the severity of their asthma.

Research scientists from the University of Helsinki in Finland analyzed the effect of 0.2 grams (200 mg) per day of vitamin C on 60 asthmatic children (aged 7 to 10 years.) The effect of vitamin C on the forced expiratory volume per one second (FEV1) was modified by age and exposure to molds or dampness. In the younger children aged 7.0 to 8.2 years with no exposure to molds or dampness, vitamin C administration increased the FEV1 level by 37%.

In the older children aged 8.3 to 10 years with exposure to molds or dampness in their bedroom more than one year before the study, vitamin C increased the FEV1 level by only 21%.

The effect of vitamin C on the asthma symptoms was modified by age and the severity of asthma symptoms. In the younger children aged 7.0 to 8.2 years with mild asthma symptoms, the benefit of vitamin C was greatest. In the older children aged 8.3 to 10 years who had severe asthma symptoms, the benefit of vitamin C was smallest.

The researchers conclude that there is strong evidence that the effect of vitamin C on asthmatic children is heterogeneous. They consider that it is important to carry out further research to confirm their findings and to more accurately identify the groups of children who would receive the greatest benefit from vitamin C supplementation.

Story Source:
University of Helsinki

Journal Reference:
Vitamin C and asthma in children: modification of the effect
by age, exposure to dampness and the severity of asthma” Clinical and Translational Allergy, 2011;

This article is for informational and  educational purposes only, and is not intended to provide medical  advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult with your doctor or healthcare  professional for medical and nutrition advice.

Folate (Folic Acid) Reported To Help Reduce Pre-Menopa​usal Breast Cancer Risk

Specific Vitamins & Minerals Continue To Be Studied For Cancer Risk Reduction And Supporting Optimum Health…

Increased intakes of folate (folic acid) may reduce the risk of breast cancer, but the benefits may be linked to a woman’s menopausal state, suggests a new study.

Pre-menopausal women with the highest average intakes of folate from the diet are at a 40 percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer, according to new findings published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The study was conducted with women in China where there’s no mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid, during the course of the study. In the US, grain products have been fortified with folic acid since 1998.

As a result, only 13 percent of the Chinese women had folate levels that matched or exceeded the US recommended dietary allowance, wrote researchers from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and the Shanghai Cancer Institute.

“Thus, it is possible that the relation with folate intake among pre- menopausal women may be due to a difference in folate insufficiency versus sufficiency.

“In support of this possibility, the present study appeared to have a threshold effect for folate intake that was achieved between the first and second quintiles of intake, with no added benefit beyond that level, ” the researchers explained.

Over one million women worldwide are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, with the highest incidences in the US and the Netherlands. China has the lowest incidence and mortality rate of the disease.

Hormone-sensitive estrogen-receptor (ER) positive and progesterone-receptor (PR) positive tumors are said to be the most common type diagnosed among breast cancer patients in the US. These tumors are stimulated to grow by the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Study Details

Data from Shanghai Women’s Health Study (1997-2008) for 72,861 participants aged between 40 and 70 was used to assess potential relationships between intakes of folate, niacin, and vitamin B6 and B12 and incidence of breast cancer.

During the course of the study 718 cases of breast cancer were diagnosed. After analyzing the numbers, the researchers report no link between vitamin B6 and B12 intakes and the risk of breast cancer in both pre- and post-menopausal women.

Only folate intake was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer and this was limited to premenopausal women. Specifically, average intakes of 404 micrograms per day were associated with a 42 percent reduction in the risk of breast cancer, compared with average intakes of 194 micrograms per day.

Source: American Journal of Epidemiology

2011, Volume 173, Issue 10 (Pages 1171-1182)

“Dietary B Vitamin and Methionine Intakes and Breast Cancer Risk Among Chinese Women”

This article is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact your doctor or healthcare professional for medical and nutritional consultation.

Nutrients for Women’s Wellness, Part 2

Ginkgo biloba in China

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There are many areas of health that are important to women, including hormonal balance, mood, stress response and more. This newsletter is Part 2 of a two-part series covering specific nutrients that may be helpful for these critical areas of women’s wellness.

Ginkgo Biloba

It is surprising how often the benefits of ginkgo biloba have been underestimated. The potent and versatile health-giving properties of ginkgo have been demonstrated in many clinical trials, using different extracts of the leaves, fruit and seeds of the ginkgo tree. There are many benefits of ginkgo that are quite relevant to the management of PMS and menopause, including the promotion of healthy circulation, brain function and normal stress response.

Ginkgo biloba is a complex mixture of organic acids, plant fiber, phytosterols, flavonoids, terpenoids and carotenoids. The chemistry of the contents of ginkgo is quite complex, and this makes its biologic actions quite varied. While recent studies have evaluated specific extracts of ginkgo, many herbalists believe the benefits of ginkgo are a result of the interaction of the various natural components of the whole herb.

Of major relevance to the management of PMS and menopause is the ability of ginkgo to promote beneficial changes in memory, fatigue, concentration and mood. Other benefits include its ability to manage certain causes of dizziness, especially those related to problems with the balance mechanism within the ears. One published study of special relevance shows the demonstrated ability of ginkgo to reduce “breast congestion” and other troublesome symptoms in PMS (Tamborini A, et al, Rev Fr Gynecol Obstet; 88:447-457, 1993). Gingko may also have a beneficial effect on libido.

I believe that ginkgo biloba is a very important component of any natural, dietary supplement formula for menopause and PMS.

Ginseng

Ginsengpflanze

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Ginseng comes in several forms, and it has a long history of use as a general tonic in Eastern medicine.

Ginseng may have some benefits for mood and energy. In one carefully conducted study of the use of Panax ginseng in more than 300 women with menopausal symptoms, improvements in mood were noted. In a separate study, Korean ginseng was found to improve symptoms of sleeplessness, moodiness and fatigue when used in a relatively high dose of 6 grams per day.

In excessive amounts, ginseng can cause insomnia, anxiety, diarrhea and breast pain. The use of Panax ginseng has been associated with vaginal bleeding following menopause, but it is not entirely clear that this reported effect is actually due to ginseng itself. It’s important to note that the quality of ginseng may vary depending on the source, and it is available in extracted forms that have not yet been fully evaluated.

Flower Essence Therapy, Vervain and Golden Root

Rescue_Remedy

Image by hjw223 via Flickr

Flower essence therapy is associated with the English physician, Bach, who wandered the hills of Wales in his search of remedies to restore balance in life. Flower essence therapy is a form of homeopathy. It is stated that flower essence therapy can relieve stress, and it is believed that it can be used with other herbal or botanical supplements for health. Extracts from the flowering parts of plants are used in flower essence remedies, and although these are not considered direct treatments for menopause symptoms, they may help balance underlying emotions.

The flower essence remedies are given as tinctures that are often diluted in a base of alcohol. There seems to be no limit to how long flower essence treatments can be used, but there is not much scientific evidence of their effectiveness for the management of discomforts associated with menopause or PMS.

Two other herbs have been used variably to assist with symptoms of menopause and PMS, but the evidence for their effectiveness remains questionable. One is vervain (Verbena officianalis), which is said to support function of the adrenal glands, thereby promoting normal stress response. The second is golden root (Rhodiola rosea), which is often used in a standardized extract. This herb may have stress-relieving and immune-supporting properties, with some positive effects on mood and mental balance. The evidence for the use of golden root for menopausal relief is somewhat anecdotal, and it is probably better reserved for the specific management of stress disorders.

Miscellaneous Nutrients

Other dietary supplements of emerging interest for PMS and menopause include flaxseed, diindolylmethane (DIM) and DHEA (oral or topical). DHEA is a universal hormone precursor with emerging evidence to support anti-aging benefits, but it is best used under medical supervision. The substance DIM is found in certain vegetables and it may increase certain forms of “friendly” types of estrogen in the body, including hydroxy and methoxyestrogen.

In addition to support from nutrients and herbs, women can also benefit greatly from restful sleep, which is a key factor in well-being for individuals of all ages.

Be Healthy!
Stephen Holt, MD

Nutrients for Women’s Wellness, Part 1

Vitex agnus-castus: Habitus

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There are many areas of health that are important to women, including hormonal balance, skin health, breast health, libido and more. This newsletter is Part 1 of a two-part series covering specific nutrients that may be helpful for these critical areas of women’s wellness.

Antioxidants for Anti-Aging

While most women have heard of antioxidants, many are still unaware of how they work or how to take them. Basically, antioxidants work against the unwanted oxidation of body tissues. While oxygen can be the body’s best friend, it can occur in a reactive form that damages tissues through the process of oxidation. Reactive forms of oxygen are called free radicals.

I believe that antioxidant usage is a key anti-aging tactic. Oxidative damage to tissues has been associated with almost every known chronic disease. Moreover, oxidative damage to genetic material and other cell structures is believed to be a principal cause of abnormal tissue changes that may lead to poor health and premature aging.

There are two specific antioxidants that may be especially beneficial for women. The first is green tea, which is brimming with antioxidant polyphenols, and offers versatile, well-documented health benefits. Second, I am impressed with scientific data showing the powerful effects of ellagic acid, found in raspberries and pomegranates.

Many skin care products today contain antioxidants intended to produce anti-aging effects on the skin, yet the topical application of antioxidants may be only marginally effective at improving skin health and appearance. Instead, I recommend women take antioxidants orally.

L-Theanine: Relaxation from Green Tea

While many of green tea’s benefits have been attributed to its antioxidant polyphenol and related catechin (e.g., epigallocatechingallate, EGCG) content, the use of green tea and other herbal teas, such as German chamomile, can also cause feelings of relaxation.

The compound in green tea believed to be responsible for its soothing properties is the amino acid L-theanine. This amino acid has shown an ability to cause muscle relaxation and contribute to restful sleep, without a direct sedative or hypnotic effect. It’s believed that L-theanine may support the balance of various brain chemicals that serve as messenger molecules (neurotransmitters). Following the oral ingestion of L-theanine, brain activity shows measurable changes toward relaxation.

The frequent presence of anxiety or stress in PMS and perimenopause makes L-theanine an ideal addition to supplement formulas for women. In addition, L-theanine may help support healthy blood pressure.

Chasteberry (Vitex agnus castus) for PMS, Menopause & Libido

Vitex agnus castus (Chasteberry) is an herb that has been grossly underestimated as valuable for women’s health. Laboratory studies show that extracts of chasteberry can both bind to estrogen receptors in the body and may stimulate progesterone receptors. In other words, chasteberry is a hormonal biological response modifier with several potential actions (Table 1).

Multiple hormonal actions

May raise progesterone levels in blood

May increase levels of luteinizing hormone

May help correct consequences of progesterone deficiency

Inhibits the stress hormone prolactin

Has an antiandrogenic hormone effect 

Approved by German E commission for management of menstrual irregularities and mastodynia (breast pain)

Table 1. Vitex (chasteberry): Characteristics and actions of an underestimated herb for menopause and PMS.

It has been argued that the major benefit of chasteberry is related to its ability to enhance the actions of progesterone. When taken in low doses, Chasteberry may decrease follicle-stimulating hormone and increase lutenizing hormone levels in the blood. These changes in the blood levels of pituitary hormones can result in increases in blood levels of progesterone. This helps to explain why chasteberry may reduce hot flashes, help with vaginal dryness and contribute to better mood.

Chasteberry has also been used to promote libido in women, and it seems to have a clear effect on inhibiting the actions of the stress hormone, prolactin. Prolactin is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. These actions on prolactin make the use of chasteberry unwise in pregnancy and for people taking medications that promote dopamine responses (e.g. L-Dopa).

It could be noted that chasteberry is an herb that acts quite slowly in the body, and it may take as long as three months of continuous use before it exerts its beneficial effects for menopause and PMS.

Evening Primrose Oil for Breast Health, PMS & Menopause

It’s believed that evening primrose oil is beneficial for breast health, PMS, breast pain (mastalgia) and menopausal discomforts. Its beneficial effects may be due to its gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) content. This fatty acid is a precursor of a group of molecules called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are considered, in simple terms, to be friendly types of hormones or messengers that support the body’s inflammatory response. GLA is known to be a precursor of prostaglandin E1.

Some studies have indicated that women with PMS may be unable to readily convert precursor molecules into GLA. It’s proposed that a deficiency of GLA may aggravate PMS.

Some of the desirable effects of GLA can also be achieved by omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA (docosahexanoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentanoic acid). Omega-3 fatty acids offer benefits for breast health, cardiovascular health, brain function and immunity. Every woman should consider taking a fish oil or other omega-3 supplement containing DHA and EPA, in enteric coated or targeted delivery forms, for health.

Be Healthy!
Stephen Holt, MD

Red Meat Linked to Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

A new study by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers finds a strong association between the consumption of red meat (especially when the meat is processed) and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The study also shows that replacing red meat with healthier proteins,
such as low-fat dairy, nuts or whole grains, can significantly lower the risk.

The study was published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on August 10, 2011 and appears in the October print edition.

The team of nutrition and epidemiology researchers at HSPH, and colleagues analyzed questionnaire responses from 37,083 men followed for 20 years in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study; 79,570 women followed for 28 years in the Nurses’ Health Study I; and 87,504 women followed for 14 years in the Nurses’ Health Study II.

They also conducted an updated meta-analysis, combining data from their new study with data from existing studies that included a total of 442,101 participants, 28,228 of whom developed type 2 diabetes during the study. After adjusting for age, body mass index (BMI), and other lifestyle and dietary risk factors, the researchers found that a daily 100 gram serving of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 19% increased risk of type 2 diabetes. They also found that one daily serving of half that quantity of processed meat 50 grams (equivalent to one hot dog or sausage or two slices of bacon) was associated with a 51% increased risk.

“Clearly, the results from this study have huge public health implications given the rising type 2 diabetes epidemic and increasing consumption of red meats worldwide,” they said. “The good news is that such troubling risk factors can be offset by swapping red meat for a healthier protein.”

The researchers found that, for an individual who eats one daily serving of red meat, substituting one serving of nuts per day was associated with a 21% lower risk of type 2 diabetes; substituting low-fat dairy, a 17% lower risk; and substituting whole grains, a 23% lower risk.

Based on these results, the researchers advise that consumption of processed red meat such as hot dogs, bacon, sausage and deli meats, generally have high levels of sodium and nitrites and should be minimized. Unprocessed red meat such as steak should be also reduced. If possible, red meat should be replaced with healthier choices, such as nuts, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish or beans.

Worldwide, diabetes has reached epidemic levels, affecting nearly 350 million adults. In the U.S. alone, more than 11% of adults over age 20 — 25.6 million people — have the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most have type 2 diabetes, which is primarily linked to obesity, physical inactivity, and an unhealthy diet.

Previous studies have indicated that eating processed red meats increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Risks from unprocessed meats have been less clear. For instance, in 2010, HSPH researchers found no clear evidence of an association between eating unprocessed meats and increased risk for either coronary heart disease or type 2 diabetes, but that study was based on smaller samples than the current study, and the researchers recommended further study of unprocessed meats.

Another HSPH study in 2010 linked eating red meat with an increased risk of heart disease, which is strongly linked to diabetes, but did not distinguish between processed and unprocessed red meats.

This new study, the largest of its kind in terms of sample size and follow-up years finds that both unprocessed and processed meats pose a type 2 diabetes risk. This study is among the first to estimate the risk reduction associated with substituting healthier protein choices for red meat.

“Our study clearly shows that eating both unprocessed and processed red meat, particularly processed, is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes,” said the researchers, noting that the 2010 U.S. dietary guidelines continue to lump red meat together with fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, and soy products in the “protein foods” group.

But since red meat appears to have the negative health effects of increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and total mortality, suggested by several recent studies, they suggested the guidelines should distinguish red meat from healthier protein sources and promote the latter instead.

Support for the study was provided by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Story Source: Harvard School of Public Health.

Journal Reference: Red Meat Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes:
3 Cohorts of U.S. Adults and an Updated Meta-Analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 10, 2011

Harvard School of Public Health (2011, August 11). Red meat linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes

This article is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended to provide medical advice,diagnosis or treatment. Contact your doctor or healthcare professional for medical and nutritional consultation.

Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplement​ation Reduces Anxiety and Inflammati​on

A new study gauging the impact of consuming more fish oil showed a significant reduction both in inflammation and in anxiety among a group of healthy young people.

The findings suggest that if young participants can receive major improvements from specific dietary supplements, then the elderly and people at high risk for certain diseases might benefit even more.

The findings by a team of researchers at Ohio State University were published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. It is the latest from more than three decades of research into links between psychological stress and immunity.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, including EPA(eicosapentaenoic acid ) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), have long been recognized as beneficial additions to the diet. Earlier research suggested that EPA and DHA might play a role in reducing the level of cytokines in the body, the compounds that promote inflammation, and perhaps even reduce depression.

Psychological stress has repeatedly been shown to increase cytokine production so the researchers wondered if increasing omega-3 may decrease that process, reducing inflammation.

To test their theory, they turned to a familiar group of research subjects: medical students. Some of the earliest work these scientists did showed that stress from important medical school tests lowered students’ immune status.

“We hypothesized that giving some students omega 3 supplements  would decrease their production of proinflammatory cytokines, compared to other students who only received a placebo,” explained researchers from Ohio State Unversity’s departments of psychology and psychiatry.

“We thought the omega-3 would reduce the stress-induced increase in cytokines that normally arose from nervousness over the tests.”

The team assembled a field of 68 first- and second-year medical students who volunteered for the clinical trial. The students were randomly divided into six groups, all of which were interviewed six times during the study. At each visit, blood samples were drawn from the students who also completed a battery of psychological surveys intended to gauge their levels of stress, anxiety or depression. The students also completed questionnaires about their diets during the previous weeks.

Half the students received omega-3 supplements while the other half were given placebo pills.

“The supplement was probably about four or five times the amount of fish oil you’d get from a daily serving of salmon, for example,” explaining concentration ratio of omega 3 fish oil supplements used in the study.

Changes in the medical curriculum and the distribution of major tests throughout the year, rather than during a tense three-day period as was done in the past, removed much of the stress that medical students had shown in past studies.

“These students were not anxious. They weren’t really stressed. They were actually sleeping well throughout this period, so we didn’t get the stress effect we had expected,” the researchers said.

But the psychological surveys clearly showed an important change in anxiety among the students: Those receiving the omega-3showed a 20 percent reduction in anxiety compared to the placebo group.

An analysis of the of the blood samples from the medical students showed similar important results.

“We took measurements of the cytokines in the blood serum, as well as measured the productivity of cells that produced two important cytokines, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa),” said Ron Glaser, professor of molecular virology, immunology & medical genetics and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.

“We saw a 14 percent reduction in the amounts of IL-6 among the students receiving the omega-3.” Since the cytokines foster inflammation, “anything we can do to reduce cytokines is a big plus in dealing with the overall health of people at risk for many diseases,” he said.

While inflammation is a natural immune response that helps the body heal, it also can play a harmful role in a host of diseases ranging from arthritis to heart disease to cancer. The study showed the positive impact omega-3 supplements in reducing both anxiety and inflammation.

The researchers said. “People should just consider increasing their omega-3 through their diet.”

In fact, some of the researchers acknowledged that already they take omega-3 supplements.

The study was supported in part by a grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a part of the National Institutes of Health.

Story Source: Ohio State University. .
Journal Reference: Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: A randomized controlled trial. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 2011;

Ohio State University (2011, August 1). Omega-3 reduces anxiety and inflammation in healthy students, study suggests.

This article is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended to provide medical advice,diagnosis or treatment. Contact your doctor or healthcare professional for medical and nutritional consultation.

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