55 Responses to “The British Heart Foundation & Flora pro.activ – an unhealthy relationship”

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  1. avatar juliana callia-long says:

    Hello Zoe,
    I’m a graphic design post-graduate student in London and I’m developing a project on consumer confusion regarding some healthy-claims processed food.
    The margarine vs butter battle is one of my fields of research and your article is very helpful and clarifying.
    I would like to know more about the process of producing margerine, and I would be really interested in talk to someone that could potentially show me this process.
    Would you be able to point me in the direction of someone that would be able to help me in my research?
    I apreciate very much any possible help.
    Many thanks

    • avatar Zoë Harcombe says:

      Hi Juliana – I would start by looking for videos on youtube – not those provided by Unilever and the marg industry. Although those may show you the process – just turn the sound off to miss the hype and PR. You could approach Unilever or other marg makers but they are likely to want to know your end in mind before inviting you in. There’s no way they would invite me in so I sadly have no leads for you!
      Good luck
      Best wishes – Zoe

  2. avatar Paul says:

    Hi Zoe. I am completely and utterly confused about CVD. I am a 65 yr old male. In January this year I had 3 stents placed in my coronary arteries. 2 were 85% blocked and another 60%. I was prescribed an 80mg dose of statin which I stopped after a month because of fairly serious side effects. My muscles all ached and it seemed like my muscles were wasting away. Since then I have been trying to keep my cholesterol numbers down naturally within the prescribed limits but not succeeding. I have now gone back on a low dose of statin (10mg) and immediately my numbers are all great. My doctor is pleased. I have come across your article above and feel completely at a loss again. I don’t know who to believe any more. Since having the stents put in I have taken my health very seriously completely changing my eating habits. I now eat lots of vegetables, lean meat, fish, nuts and fruit. I thought I would help things along by using Flora proactiv ( how I came across your article). I will definitely give it the heave ho now but the issue of high vs low fat and high vs low cholesterol is a big worry for me. I would say in retrospect that prior to getting my stents my diet contained a lot of things like sticky buns, pies, cakes and the like which is what I have thought may have cumulatively over a number of years led to my CVD. I have cut sugar down to a minimum now and exercise every day ( at least one brisk 30 minute walk). My mum is 95 and my dad died at 90 so I should have good genes. I guess to put it in a nutshell I really don’t know if I am doing the right thing or wrong thing with my present regime and I don’t know what caused my CVD. I’d reall appreciate your response to my situation. Best wishes Paul

  3. avatar Chloe7 says:

    Alas, nothing again, about us who have HeFH. I think I was the only person with the disease in the whole world who went onto LCHF with dramatic results which astounded my doctors. My numbers halved on a HIGH FAT, very low carb diet, but alas, for the last year I have become despondent. None of the information ever feature us and we are a fantastic group for a scientist with a pioneering spirit. We would give you all a very good idea about LCHF, but no-one wants to take a chance with us. I’m a bit sick of the whole thing. Doctors frown when they hear I eat high fats, without giving any heed to my wonderful results – so y’know I reckon we, we SHOULD be looked at, are not. I don’t think I care anymore. I have the proof from lancet but cardiologists become so mean spirited and look at me as if I’m the class clown.

  4. avatar Gordon Allen says:

    Hi Zoe, interesting article. Leaving aside if high cholesterol is good or bad, and whether Companies are making huge profits etc”….”…

    You state “your body is making the right amount – food has nothing to do with it and never has”

    Two points:

    (1) there is a view that the body is ‘poor’ at regulating the amount of cholesterol both in evolutionly terms and with regard to mordern the ‘fast food’ culture and associated intake of fat.

    (2) my friend who worked in a physical job and got plenty of exercise started to have pins & needles in his legs and dizzy spells when bending down. His GP discovered his cholesterol level was at 9.6 and established that his diet was predominately ‘pork’ based (particularly his lunches). On changing his diet to a predominantly fish based one plus reducing his alcohol intake, in just 3 months he reduced his levels to 4.6 and all his symptoms disappeared completely (no statins used).

    This is ta very practical illustration to me that the food you eat does/can impact your cholesterol levels.

  5. avatar P.C says:

    What amazes me here is that none of you have been to med school or are medical Doctors,yet you seem to have it all worked out ?.The most logical thing here is not to spread any kind of oil or fat at all on anything,it’s a disgusting habit in the first place

  6. avatar Dave Fiske says:

    Its been pointed out to me that even *flies* don’t partake of margarine. When you consider all the other things that they do eat……. I am a BUTTER man because of that.

  7. avatar P. Young says:

    Thank you for this timely article, Zoe.

    I came here when I saw a Flora-Proactiv ad on YouTube. I was fuming. The industry is still pitching the big lie about how healthy margarine is. It is not only fraudulent, it is deadly. How can a company get away with making such false claims about therapeutic benefits. If this were a drug there would be disclaimers galore and hell to pay for deceptive practices.

    It’s one thing to claim that your dishsoap is better than the next but when you claim that it cures male erectile dysfunction, you have gone a step too far.

    Mind you, I am sure ladies would love a dishsoap which actually DID that. It would give a whole new meaning when the wife says, “Why don’t you wash the dishes and I’ll take a nice long bath”.

  8. avatar jackie says:

    I have just had the worst 4 weeks of my life with unexpected health problems and believe it all started when I started using Flora Proactiv for the first time in my life, combined with soy yoghurts & so called healthy Burgen Bread containing flax. I have been post menopausal for 15 months and in the past few weeks I have felt sick, dizzy,ill,bloated,developed enormous painful breasts and now have the start of a very weak period after feeling ovulation occur! I have STOPPED eating all these products and symptoms are dying down although this forced me to go to the doctor (I am not a regular) who has referred me for a womb scan etc.,etc.. which has now thrown me into a panic!My cholesterol as 6.5 by the way which is why I decided to do all this. Good grief I am off to have a slab of toast with healthy unadulterated BUTTER!

  9. avatar Michael Cosky says:

    This is really confusing as Flora Australia says on their website that it actually helps lower cholesterol, wouldn’t BHF like that? http://www.floraspread.com.au/

    • avatar Zoë Harcombe says:

      Hi Michael – Flora does lower cholesterol but why would you want to do that? (Links in the post above) and you need to know how Flora lowers cholesterol (also above). Not sure what you’re confused about.
      Best wishes – Zoe

  10. avatar Naomi Rosenberg says:

    I “can’t believe” you missed out my favourite example! Available in Netto, it went by the name of:

    “What, not butter?”

  11. avatar sabelmouse says:

    i’m thanking my lucky stars that i listened to my body when i was pregnant despite low fat vegan leanings.

  12. avatar Liza Scrivens says:

    The Flora advert is just pandering to the worried ‘well’, what is wrong with a cholesterol level of 6 anyway ?
    By the time we’ve finished taking multi-vitamins, mineral supplements, vitamin D in our fat-free yogurt we will have topped up the turnover of so many vested interests at the expense of our farming community producing real food.

  13. avatar Patricia Smart says:

    Hi Zoe,

    I’ve just come across this site while looking for somewhere to complain about Flora Pro- Activ’s latest advertisement which I saw in the press this weekend (11 Jan 2014)- the one about the whole county of Rutland being subjected to this product. I was absolutely appalled – how do they get away with stating so blatantly, several times, that high cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of heart disease when this has never been proved and as is now known, over a certain age you lower your cholesterol at your peril. Not to mention the fact that statistics show that most people who die from CHD actually have ‘normal’ to low cholesterol! Apart from being downright dangerous, does this not contravene the Advertising Standards?

    At the age of 70 I am slim, fit and healthy with cholesterol of 5.9. I only wish I could increase it!!! Needless to say I am continuing to eat cream, lard and butter and will not be touching statins or Flora Pro-Activ with a bargepole.

  14. avatar Lyn says:

    Having had a stent put in a 96% blocked artery and also having a heart murmer, you can understand my concern about the tablets I am taking and my diet. I take Simvastatin, bisoprolol fumerate, aspirin and perindopril (relatively small doses). I do get patches of tiredness and my bones seem to ache a lot but I have been putting it down to my age.

    Having been a smoker, one thing I found out before I quit was that smoking interferes with the production of HDL cholesterol (good). Higher HDL cholesterol helps to balance out LDL cholesterol (bad). Wish I had known that years ago. Apparently, it is the balance between the two which is more important rather than the overall cholesterol figure. Is this the case? Do statins target both types of cholesterol or just the bad?

    Where can I find out about this as all the mixed messages we get today are confusing and worrying. By the way, I love butter and really want to get off the Flora junk I have been eating for so long.

  15. avatar larry says:

    Hi Zoe I am 6 ft slim 73 kilos had an event 17 years ago, fixed with angeo plaste no stent, have been on statins ever since. At time of the event cholesterol was 13 has been about 3 ever since then. I am active exercising, walking and golf twice a week. Now I feel pretty good, and very lucky to be having good health. I don’t want to go off statin in case my cholesterol sky rockets and I have another event. I can see merit in your theory but there is also merit in my history. What To Do ?

  16. avatar elaine says:

    P.S. Forgot to say I have been on Flora Pro activ Spread for 3 years no Butter or Margarine !!!!!
    Thanks Elaine

  17. avatar elaine says:

    Recently I had my first ever Cholesterol Test at 67 ,Sainsbury were doing the Flora Pro activ free test
    I have never smoked or drank ,I weigh 9st 10 lb am 5″4 ” I swim 4 times a week at 7am 32 lengths ,I walk at least 3 miles a day look after 3 horses & a dog ,run a house & garden 2 acres !
    I never eat meat ,just Fish ,chicken Turkey ,Follow a low fat diet as I have had gallstones for 20 years ,I only ever drink Skimmed or 1 % milk
    So probably not your typical candidate
    I happened to be in Sainsbury’s at 8.30 am after getting up at 5.30 as usual doing my horses ,driving 10 miles swimming 32 lengths then driving 35 miles to arrive in Sainsbury’s at 8.30 & noticed their Free testing ,I was told they could fit me in then as I had only had a coffee at 6am ,so was OK .
    After 4 attempts to get blood which was coagulating in the machine I finally got the result 5.80 !!! and advised to return after Christmas for a retest .
    What am I to make of that ,cant be more active ! Cant eat more healthily .Wish I’d never had it done !

  18. avatar James says:

    Hi Zoe,
    I found your article very interesting. I was on statins for about 2 years with varying side effects.The first statins made me very dizzy after a few days so I was put on a different make.The side effects of these were very subtle and took a period of time to appear. I nearly gave up my job as I was so tired/fatigued all the time and then my shoulder joints started to ache. I made several trips to my doctors who did several blood tests which revealed nothing. At this time neither of us suspected the statins. After some research on the internet where I found that my symptoms could be side effects of the statins I returned to the doctors as we decided that I would stop taking the statins and reduce my cholesterol by diet and exercise. Within a week the tiredness and joint ache disappeared.
    So I then decided to use a cholesterol reducing spread which seemed ok.The first spread I used was Benecol light and then changed to Flora pro active light. Just recently my joint aches came back. On researching I found out that the flora had 12 and 1/2 % plant sterol estern but the Benecol had only 7% plant stanol ester.
    After reading your article I have decided not to use these spreads at all. I will let you know if my aching joints disappear.
    Thanks again.

  19. avatar Lucy says:

    Now I might have got this wrong, but as far as I understand, high cholesterol isn’t a ‘major risk factor for developing heart disease’, it is an indicator you ALREADY HAVE IT, and it is doing its darndest, despite your doctor’s best effort to stop it, to put that disease right again. A bit simplistic maybe, but is this wrong?

  20. avatar Joe Courtney says:

    Hello Zoe, been on statins (low dose) for years my level is. 4.2′ should I come off them and should start on butter after being on pro active for years

  21. avatar julia smees says:

    Hello. Have just come across this site, interested as I have been refusing to take statins as no family history of heart problems, have low blood pressure and no other health issues at the age of 76. I do have serum cholesterol level 7.74, serum triglycerides 0.97 and serum HDL 2.12.
    Nurse at a heart review worked out a ratio of 3.7 and 7/8 risk .Dr. still wants me on statins, she believes my body makes high level of cholesterol not my food. The article seems to suggest the body knows what is good for it. At height 5foot, weight 56.5 I am considered borderline overweight.

    • avatar Zoë says:

      Hi Julia – you sound like you’re doing pretty marvelously! Even your weight is great for your age – it is ideal for humans to be carrying some in reserve for situations of illness. The scrawny died young in times gone by – those with some coverage survived the harsh times. My 79 yr old mum had an emergency appendectomy in January and lost about 20lb during the crisis. Thank goodness she had about 20lb to lose!

      You may find this post interesting too: http://www.zoeharcombe.com/2010/11/cholesterol-heart-disease-%E2%80%93-there-is-a-relationship-but-it%E2%80%99s-not-what-you-think/ The higher your cholesterol, the lower your risk of death – from heart disease and all causes of mortality. The graphs are particularly striking for women. Show that to your nurse.

      Your nurse is shockingly unaware of studies showing that cholesterol is particularly important in older people – lower cholesterol is strongly associated with higher deaths for good reason – because cholesterol is so utterly life vital. Your body is making the right amount – food has nothing to do with it and never has. Since cholesterol is the essence of every cell in the body, as we age, we need more to repair and protect. If you had surgery or an injury, your body would make more cholesterol to heal you.

      The brain uses 25% of the cholesterol of the body so the last thing you want is dementia/to lose your mind because of an ignorant health official!

      As a final thought – you may like to ask nursey why the patient leaflet for the most lucrative statin – Lipitor (http://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/medicine/2498/pil) warns against anyone taking the drug over the age of 70?!

      Hope this helps
      Very best wishes – Zoe

  22. avatar Catherine Reynolds says:

    Zoe – I note that the BHF have a new, fund-raising ad. It features a 13 year old girl who died from heart disease, and the footballer, Patrice Maumba (I apologise if that’s spelt incorrectly!). What struck me is that neither of them represent a “typical” victim, i.e. overweight, smoker, drinker, non-exerciser. Perhaps the irony of this ad, compared with the one you have written about, has escaped the BHF?

  23. avatar Joy says:

    Fantastic article. You have put down in words what I have been suspecting and muttering about for some time, particularly when the pro activ adverts come on TV. Have always been suspicious of BHF and Flora, especially as the Flora logo was on the diet sheet a rather zealous nurse recently gave me when she was trying to condemn me to a life of boiled chicken and statins! Thank you

  24. avatar Charlotte Sliney says:

    Well done Zoe – another sensible and revealing article. I do admire your persistence and knowledge. With reference to the comment on Statin side effects I have long proclaimed the same with the dreaded blood pressure tablets and the ridiculous targets set for these. I worry for all those people who don’t realise that the horrible ailments they are suffering are mostly caused by their medications. After severe joint pains, dehydration, headaches, breathlessness, cracking skin and generally feeling ‘one degree under’ I have refused to take BP medication and feel so much better for it. After all it’s only a number and we are all different.

  25. avatar Paul Kayley says:

    Hi Zoe, I too get really pissed off with the misinformation this Charity is ignorantly spitting out! It has so much credibility in the UK too! I am extremely impressed with this heart disease hypothesis by Dr. Chris Masterjohn, who I’m sure you know about. It’s one step ahead of the Lipid Hypothesis, more The Degenerated Lipid Hypothesis. This is well worth the $18 – “Molecular Degeneration: The New Paradigm” available at http://www.fleetwoodonsite.com/product_info.php?cPath=40_274&products_id=9370#.URJqsaXtSRI

    Keep up the great work, Paul

    PS. I hope Dr. Malcolm Kendrick is not recommending the aforementioned unnatural process?

    • avatar Zoë says:

      Hi Paul – absolutely not! He is just one step ahead – as always – for when they say “Ah but we don’t hydrogenated our gunge any more”!
      Top dude!

  26. avatar Paul says:

    Superb Zoe. I wish this blog and message could get a wider audience. Regretfully I suspect that most people will accept the word of the BHF simply because it is the BHF. Disappointingly the BHF should know better, but I realise the Unilever will have donated handsomely! Cynical, moi?!

  27. avatar Wendy says:

    Zoe. A reply to your reply to me on Jan 27th. I have had the ‘Urgent’ messages left on my answerphone..Call Doctor Urgent..my Cholesterol came back at 7.1 ..I must restart taking my statins!! I have not…I have read and watched so much that I am determined to charge of this now. I feel so much better. I have even been in the garden this morning in all the snow flurries pottering about. I’m out of this depressive fog that I’ve seemed to be in for a long time…at 53 everyone told me ”the age thing”…NO I do not believe that any more. There are several other things that I have found much improved but would be ”To much information” on a public site. I have noticed though Zoe that there are a lot more voices out there now that are seriously questioning all this Statin hype….keep up the good fight..i certainly am….

  28. avatar Catherine says:

    Ellie – I agree that perhaps Dwight Lundell might not have been the very best example to use regarding the real causes of heart disease, but what he writes in the article I mention is borne out by quite a number of other sources which are equally easily googled.

  29. avatar Catherine says:

    Hi again, Zoe – as I feared, my husband has been hoodwinked into taking another drug (and it isn’t described as a statin) to lower his already minuscule cholesterol. Ezetrol. He has also been told it won’t give him side effects like the Simvastatin did. Of course, I googled it, and found a great long list of possible side effects!! I’ve printed this list out, because I can guarantee he hasn’t read the leaflet with the drug. He’s waiting on the results of a blood test (yes, they really did prescribe him this before they’d seen his current cholesterol level!!), and I’m trying to persuade him to ask loads of questions when he goes back to the GP. But you know, I’m sure, how difficult that can be! He’s now been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in his knees, and I’m trying hard to persuade him that following a low-carb diet will reduce not only his weight, but the effects of the arthritis, too. If anyone can suggest ways I can convince him, I’ll be delighted!

  30. avatar Paul_UK says:

    Stumbled across your article when looking for a Flora/BHF competition. I was duped by the Flora pro active marketing many years ago and have unfortunately eaten loads of the stuff since. Recently I watched a TV programme titled something like ‘100 things to do to be healthier’ and cutting out hydrogenated fats was one of their 100. Also lambasted the artificial sugar replacements too i.e. aspartame/sacarin/canderel/etc. Have you given your views on these products too? The bottom line seems to be eat natural products that don’t need artificial manipulation – I’m looking forward to a little butter on my toast and little sugar in my tea.

    • avatar Zoë says:

      Hi Paul – you are not alone in having been duped – successive governments have told people to have marg instead of butter! Incredible. Yes – aspartame etc are also pretty bad. Google “dangers of aspartame” and prepare to be worried. Natural is always best. Enjoy your butter!
      Best wishes – Zoe

  31. avatar mike says:

    Heart UK is a rather sad place to visit, with a very small pool of regular commentators/posters and many poor bewildered folk looking for answers. I’ve had deep reservations about their tie in with their sponsors as well, and when the cholesterol hypothesis finally goes down the tubes (sadly not in some time soon) then some folk there will be hurting for a crust:

    From Heart UK audited accounts 2011http://heartuk.org.uk/files/uploads/documents/huk_annualreportaccounts_2010-2011.pdf

    Staff costs: £236,650.
    Staff numbers: 6
    Average renumeration (stated as no individual gets more than £60,000) £39,441.66

    From 2012
    Staff costs £162,370
    Staff numbers 4
    Average renumeration (stated as no individual gets more than £60,000) £40,592.50

  32. avatar Ellie_London says:

    Unfortunately I do have some skepticism about anything written by Dwight Lundell. If you Google him you will see why. Not sure he is someone we should be listening to…..

  33. avatar Wendy says:

    Zoe : I am waiting for the results of my ”Cholesterol” after asking my GP. I want to stop taking the Atorvastatin after an enlightening issue on holiday recently. I had left my tablets at home by mistake. Not worrying that it was anything life threatening I knew I could manage the 2 weeks without them. I was amazed that after a few days all these joint pains and muscle aches that I could never decide whether they were down to the Statins or the Rheumatoid that I have disappeared!! I felt so much better! And what annoys me is that I took some nasty strong medication for the other condition after saying about how stiff my joints etc were…whta have I pumped into my system?? I firmly believe that these symptoms were the Statins! After reading your report I shall be telling my GP I will not be taking them again. My last check was 4.8…. but She says that the EU now want it lower. How can you get the power’s that be to take all these arguments against seriously?

    • avatar Zoë says:

      OMG Wendy – thanks so much for sharing this. One day the medical profession will be sued for what they have done – for people like you that day can’t come soon enough. You will likely have a fight on your hands with your GP – which is additionally horrific. You may like to take him/her a copy of the 2012 Yoseph & Yoseph book “How statin drugs really lower cholesterol and kill you one cell at a time.”

      You can demand the evidence from your GP as to why doctors try to lower cholesterol even to 5 – let alone lower. You may enjoy this presentation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vr-c8GeT34) Watch for 10 mins from 40 mins in if you don’t have time to watch it all. It explains how the committee behind the cholesterol targets is a who’s who of the statin drug industry!

      This really makes John Grisham novels look like Jackanory
      Good luck!
      Very best wishes – Zoe

  34. avatar Catherine says:

    Hi, Zoe – yes, the cholesterol thing is really worrying me. My hubby is also on something called bisoprolol fumarate, and had the dose raised from 2.5mg to 5mg per day back in December by his consultant. He’s now complaining of cold, aching feet, and, if I’m lucky, I get an hour’s company from him in the evenings before he falls asleep in his chair! Tiredness and circulation issues are known side effects of this drug, and it’s only since the raised dose that he’s had these. Thankfully, I think he’s actually listened to my concerns this time, and is going to get on to our GP today to ask about it. I find myself becoming more and more disillusioned about drug treatments, especially those for heart conditions, as with my husband. Dwight Lundell’s article really raised my hopes that perhaps our medical profession will consider taking another look at the “advice” we’ve been given for so long. However, I won’t be holding my breath!!

  35. avatar Catherine says:

    Hi, Zoe – yet another wonderful “stripping bare”! I, too, detest that Flora advert. I was delighted to find this article on Tom Naughton’s website http://www.sott.net/article/242516-Heart-Surgeon-Speaks-Out-On-What-Really-Causes-Heart-Disease, written by an eminent American heart surgeon, Dwight Lundell. The person who contributed it wonders if he hasn’t been taken out and tarred and feathered by the rest of the medical profession and the makers of Lipitor!! I have decided to print out the article for my husband – he’s being threatened with being put back on statins at the moment, and I really wish he didn’t have such faith in the medical profession. He’ll say to me “You’re not a doctor, how do you know that it would be bad for me?” and I have to remind him how ill he was, and how much pain he was in when he was taking them last year, and how all this disappeared within a couple of days of him stopping them. The stupid thing is, despite him having a cholesterol reading of less than 4 (which as we know means nothing, really!), they STILL want to put him back on the statins.

    That’s an impressive list of companies to whom Dr Jenkins is connected! How could anyone take the man seriously having seen that? But they will.

    • avatar Zoë says:

      Hi Catherine – I actually said “OMG” out loud when I saw your hubby’s cholesterol reading and they want him on statins! That’s why Tom and I do what we do! He’s just much funnier than I am :-)
      Best wishes – Zoe

  36. Unilever used to the “heart healthy” symbol on their products for years in Sweden in a sponsorship/financial deal with the Heart-Lung Foundation, Sweden’s equivalent of the British Heart Foundation. The Heart-Lung Foundation has now terminated their relationship with Unilever because of their concerns over the limited scientific support that margarine is healthier than butter.


  37. avatar Helena Wojtczak says:

    Brilliant article Zoe, thank you. Will be emailing it to my friends. x

  38. avatar sunnystripes says:

    A friend of mine who used to work for the BHF told me that the staff (including non research/medicalstaff) can attend occasional lectures about heart disease. They were told it was best to avoid spreads and eat butter!

  39. avatar Lorraine says:

    Interesting article. It reminds me of companies like McDonalds and Coca Cola sponsoring the 2012 Olympics – also not a healthy relationship. Obviously, as you mentioned difference being that the BHF do not prosper promoting margarine – which makes it more silly advocating a processed food like Flora.

  40. avatar C SWAN says:

    With reference to your point

    “The leaflet states “Do not take Lipitor
    − if you are a woman able to have children and not using reliable contraception
    − if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
    − if you are breast-feeding.”

    Pretty much most drugs have this warning UNLESS the drugs have actively been studied in those patient groups…….not just Lipitor

  41. avatar Elaine Hamnett says:

    Brilliant Zoe , this advert worries me also. It’s about time that this misinformation was challenged and you have done a great job of explaining it here. The message of how good butter is needs to be proclaimed.

  42. What a fantastic article, thank you Zoe! I’m sharing it with my friends.

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