Sunday, October 25, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A night of local food

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Shortly after joining the Foodbuzz community, I heard about their monthly VISA Signature 24^3 [24 meals, 24 hours, 24 blogs] event. Not being a culinary expert, I wasn’t sure if I would ever participate. But that changed when I started St. Louis University’s dietetic internship and met Dan, another intern with a culinary focus and both the experience and creativity to conceptualize a fantastic 5 course dinner [see his sketches below].

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And so our 24^3 proposal was born…we wanted to feature locally grown food because we feel strongly about supporting local farmers, and as future dietitians, we know that local food is often more nutritious than food imported from thousands of miles away since it is picked at peak ripeness.

We shopped for most of our produce at Soulard, an enormous farmers’ market. Not everything there is from our immediate area, but we tried our best to get locally grown food.

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So, why the big focus on local food?

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Locally grown food is kinder to the environment and reduces pollution due to decreased transport time.

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Buying local food contributes to rural sustainability and helps support the livelihoods of small farmers, whose farms contribute to agricultural biodiversity.

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Local farms are also smaller, less open to hormone and chemical use, produce more grass-fed or free-range animals, and are more organic-friendly.

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By the time we were done shopping, we had a ton of produce ready to be made into a fabulous meal. Honestly, it was a bit overwhelming, and I was glad Dan was the brains behind the whole operation.

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The ex-roommate’s sister, Christy, was a huge help. She spent her Saturday chopping vegetables, prepping sauces, and picking out $80 worth of wine to go with our meal {thanks, Christy!}.

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This is what happens when you overcook caramel. Oops. So maybe not everything went exactly as planned.

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Do we look tired? I hit some sort of wall in the afternoon. I’m not used to cooking all day {and I wasn’t really even cooking, unless you count shelling 100 walnuts and using my expert blender skills, haha}.

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Dan and Christy making the appetizer (fried jalapeno poppers). We discussed the fact that we were incorporating fried food into our menu, which is not exactly nutritious. Our conclusion? Everything in moderation, people.

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Working on the gooey butter cake with Christy and the ex-roommate. That cake was an adventure in itself.

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Dan with the caramel, round 2.

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first course: providing a punch of spiciness paired with creamy and complex sensations, the appetizer featured Baetje Farms Goat Milk cheese-stuffed Jalapeno poppers tempered with creamy country grits and a dark chocolate mole.

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The popper was a little too spicy for me {yes, I am a hot-food wimp}, but everyone else devoured their appetizers in about 5 seconds.

second course: perfect for a fall evening, the soup was a corn chowder paired with Brussels sprout confit, roasted pearl onions, and tarragon oil garnished with jalapeno crème fraiche.

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Usually I hate Brussels sprouts, but I loved this soup. It was really good with the tarragon and hint of jalapeno. The general consensus was that the Brussels sprouts really enhanced the soup’s flavor.

third course: a crisp addition to our October menu, the salad consisted of Missouri green and red apples, fennel, Baetje Farms Goat Milk cheese, and Missouri black walnuts paired with a coriander cilantro dressing.

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My favorite of the 5 courses by far. I loved the dressing featuring my favorite herb, cilantro, and the crispness of the apples. Or maybe I’m just a little biased because I did shell all of those walnuts.

fourth course: combining the best of savory and sweet, the entrée featured pork jowl braised in cilantro honey puree, poached and roasted leeks served with caramel and chimichurri sauce.

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Pork jowl is a pretty fatty cut, which is a bit of a surprise, if you’re not used to it. But, hey, fat makes everything taste delicious, and the meat was really tender.

By now, most of the guests were wishing they had worn their elastic-waist sweatpants. Pressing on to the dessert course…

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fifth course: Gooey Butter Cake is a St. Louis tradition, so it would only be fair of us to include this delectable dessert as part of our menu. Pairing the cake with a reduction made from Missouri-produced apple cider provided yet another tie into the local food movement.

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The cake didn’t really taste like any Gooey Butter Cake I’ve ever had. It wasn’t a bad taste, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. Fortunately, the guests enjoyed the cake by the looks of their empty plates.

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In all, it was a great day of enjoying the entire process that goes into making a gourmet meal. From shopping for produce at the farmers’ market to cooking and eating with friends….I can’t think of a better way to enjoy food.

A million thanks to Foodbuzz, Dan, Christy, and all of the guests for making this fabulous night possible….

And here’s hoping you enjoyed this post and that maybe, just maybe…you’ll be inspired to create a local food-centered menu of your own.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

controversy & a bacteria lesson prt 1

My days are completely mixed up after being in Denver for a weekend +. I kept thinking today was Wednesday, and it’s already Friday tomorrow. Yikes. I miss the Denver sunshine; it’s been pretty gloomy here in St. Louis. 
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So, do I endorse all of the companies who sponsored FNCE? Well, honestly, no. I know that these companies provide a lot of funding for great causes, but I don’t necessarily advocate their products. I’m all for innovation: I think that product development is a fantastic frontier. But at the same time, I’m just a little wary of highly processed products with a lot of additives and artificial sugars. This is pretty controversial right now amongst members of the ADA. What are your thoughts about sponsorship?
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One of the best sessions I attended at FNCE was on probiotics and prebiotics. This is a hot topic: globally, the retail sales of products containing probiotics or prebiotics = $15.4 billion!
::basic definitions::
probiotics: live microorganisms that have the potential to confer a health benefit on the host
prebiotics: food for beneficial bacteria; selectively stimulate the growth of one or a limited number of bacterial species in the colon; examples: agave, inulin, FOS, chicory root
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[intestinal cells from one of my lab experiments at Ohio State]
  • both good and potentially harmful bacteria live in the gut [called gut microflora]
  • the gut microflora break down vitamins and ferment fibers and carbohydrates that are not digested in the upper GI tract, which supports a healthy intestinal barrier, inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria, and contributes to regularity.
  • probiotics increase the number of good bacteria and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria  in the intestine.  They may help the immune system and assist in maintaining barrier function.
  • prebiotics promote the growth of good bacteria in the intestinal tract and may enhance the effect of probiotic bacteria; may also increase the absorption of certain minerals (such as calcium and magnesium) and may help reduce risk factors related to colorectal diseases.
*as referenced by the International Food Information Council
Are you tongue tied yet? Stay tuned for a bacteria lesson part 2, where I’ll talk about specific products and what you should be looking for when purchasing and using them.
Also, I’m getting ready for a pretty big post after a certain Foodbuzz sponsored event this Saturday, so stay tuned.
Happy Friday!
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Saturday, October 10, 2009

breakfast & the BPA controversy :: a summer of enlightenment

The BPA Controversy

You may have seen the label BPA-free advertised on various plastic products. Every time I see one of these labels, it makes me smile because I spent a whole summer doing research on BPA and polycarbonate plastic bottles.
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Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic. Adverse effects (carcinogenic effects, neurotoxic effects-especially on the developing brain, obesity-related effects) have been observed in animals exposed to a level of BPA similar to human levels of exposure. We found that BPA migrates from polycarbonate bottles into the water they contain at a bioactive level or level where it could have estrogenic  or endocrine disrupting activity.
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[this is what my summer pretty much looked like]
On April 18, 2008, Nalgene officially announced that they were going to begin phasing out bottles containing BPA. This was amazing to me because in 2005, they claimed that BPA had no harmful effects and refused to change the composition of their bottles. While they still claim their bottles are safe, Nalgene said the reason for the change was consumer demand, meaning that people like you and I had an impact on the decision! I think it’s a great example of  how it’s sometimes necessary to question the safety of a product, even when the FDA declares it safe. Consumer responsibility!
my neatly labeled bottles
[polycarbonate bottles in the middle and far right rows…look familiar?]
In honor of Nalgene’s recent choice to go BPA-free and in celebration of consumers who make a difference, I will be giving away a Nalgene 32 oz BPA-free bottle. This particular bottle supports filterforgood.com, which encourages the use of filtered water in reusable water bottles to save on landfill waste.
nalgene from nalgene
Two ways to win [you know the drill]:
  • Comment in response to this post. I’d love to hear any nutrition questions you might have!
  • Earn an extra brownie point by mentioning the giveaway on your blog, and link back to this post. Then, let me know you did so when you comment.
Deadline is Friday, March 6th at midnight (EST).
Happy Commenting!

Friday, October 9, 2009

bridging the gap between alternative and allopathic nutrition

As promised, an interview with Kimberly Snyder, a nutritionist who has learned much about alternative and holistic nutrition by traveling the world {something I would love to do}. In addition to maintaining her blog, Kim also runs a beauty company [Envision Beauty] dedicated to supporting charitable projects in developing countries worldwide and avidly practices yoga.

We recently did a post exchange {read to find out more about my views of holistic nutrition} to increase mutual understanding and respect between *nutritionists and registered dietitians and those more familiar with allopathic (Western) medicine.

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*For your reference: a nutritionist is anyone who specializes in nutrition, including CNS, CCN, CHHC, etc; a dietitian has passed the American Dietetic Association’s RD exam and completed 1200 hours of practical experience through an accredited dietetic internship program. An RD can be a nutritionist but usually not vice versa (not to say that nutritionists don’t have a wealth of valuable info to share; many, like Kim, have extensive training).

 

1. Tell us about your background and how you got interested in nutrition.

I grew up with a mother that was always interested in consuming only unprocessed foods and natural healing. She never wanted me to go on antibiotics (and to date I’ve only taken them twice!), was into whole food supplements and green powders, and there was never, ever any sodas or candy in the house. She was my first nutrition guru!

After I graduated from Georgetown University I moved to Sydney, Australia, where I met a woman that ran a holistic detox center. She changed my life and my perspective of food forever! I saved the money I made working there for a year, and spent the next 3 years backpacking around the world across over 50 countries. I immersed myself in indigenous cultures across India, China, Peru, Mozambique, etc., and learned about these various cultures’ perspectives of nutrition and healing foods (while mostly living in a tent!).

I am just finishing my CCN degree (Certified Clinical Nutritionist), and am a Certified Nutrition Specialist. I have also studied and/or visited with The Ann Wigmore Natural Healing Institute, Dr. Jubb’s Longevity Center, The Natural Detox Temple (Aus), and with many of the other top experts and institutes focusing on cellular nutrition.

2. What is your food philosophy?

My philosophy is that food is the most powerful medicine there is. Our very constitution is constantly being built from the food we put in our mouths. Therefore, we must always strive to put the highest quality, most natural food into our bodies. I always stress eating organic food, and getting a high percentage of raw food in the diet. Raw foods have their own enzymes intact, to allow our energy to be used for detoxifying and assimilative functions, rather than the arduous process of digesting heavier, cooked foods, which can take up to 50% of our energy. Enzymes, vitamins, and other precious compounds are heat sensitive and destroyed with cooking. Of the billions of species on earth, humans are the only one that puts their food under fire and cooks it!

I believe that our dietary choices can often outweigh genetic predispositions. To paraphrase T. Colin Campbell, phD of Cornell University who speared The Cornell-Oxford-China Study, the most comprehensive nutrition study ever conducted, what we put in our mouths is the most significant factor in preventing disease. I highly recommend that everyone should read the book on this study by the way, which highlights Dr. Campbell’s decades long research revealing over 8,000 significant correlations between the consumption of animal protein (not just fat) and disease.

3. How has alternative medicine changed your life?

Since I’ve changed my lifestyle to focus on natural and raw foods and ongoing cellular cleansing, every single aspect of my life has changed. I have a very demanding schedule, and though I sleep less than I did in prior years I am full of energy. I have not taken any medication, so much as an aspirin, in at least 6 or 7 years. With a clean body, my mind is more clear and focused, and I am accomplishing many goals in a short amount of time with my high energy. I feel very positive and well…happy! Because of the impact of my lifestyle!

By the way, I know that I am growing younger, as I continue to put the most regenerative foods in my body, and have better skin, hair, and a better body (without living at the gym or obsessing over calories) than at any other time in my life!

4. How might alternative medicine be used to treat chronic diseases and other health conditions (How might we use it in the clinical setting)?

When I got into this lifestyle, I was amazed to learn about the Hippocrates Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida (inspired by the teachings of Dr. Ann Wigmore) which treats many people with cancer, successfully, with raw food and cleansing. Kris Carr, the popular author of Crazy Sexy Cancer is a cancer survivor that “healed” herself at this institute by choosing this path instead of chemotherapy.

I think many in the allopathic community would not believe that it would be possible to reverse cancer and diseases like MS with raw food and other alternative medicine modalities, but I have met many such people.

The allopathic community has been trained to focus only on research studies conducted by the Scientific Method, and these are not the methods that are often used in alternative medicine and alternative healing modalities. That does not make them less valid, it means that they use different systems. The Ayurvedic or Chinese doctors in India 3000 years ago certainly did not use the Scientific Method!

These other systems treat the body and all its organs as one holistic entity, and look to the cause, rather than treating a specific localized symptom. These medication-free systems do not leaving toxic residue in the body the way synthetic drugs can. I hope that the traditional Western medical community will one day look into these alternative medicine and nutrition modalities with sincere seriousness one day.

5. What are your top 3 superfoods?

Well there is a lot of emphasis on the next best thing that was discovered in the jungles of the Amazon or the Himalayan mountains. While I get excited about some of that stuff, I think most people need to focus on the “everyday” superfoods to get the most benefit.

1. Greens: Packed with minerals, vitamins, phytochemicals, chlorophyll and amino acids, this is my number one food group.

2. Raw, ripe fruits: Nature’s natural cleansers.

3. Sprouts: The earliest burgeoning of a seed transforming into a mighty tree or plant, sprouts are one of the highest enzyme-packed foods.

6. What advice do you have for dietitians/nutritionists interested in exploring complementary and alternative medicine?

I would immerse in the study at some of the top natural healing institutes in the United States and around the world, which are committed to alternative opinions and have independent books and research to study from that they have not yet been exposed to.

7. What are things we can do to bridge the gap between traditional and alternative viewpoints of nutrition?

I think there are a lot of political issues at the root of the problem. The fact that the powerful and big-budget dairy and meat industries have the ability to lobby and put out information on nutrition through advertising, that the average person will probably consider to be the truth, I find extremely problematic.

There are billions and billions of dollars made each year in the dairy industry, the meat industry and the pharmaceutical industry. I think unless there are more restrictions and evaluations on the people “at the top” that control the food and drug supply, many people won’t be exposed to other options, or even think there are other options, which may not be as profitable as Big Business.

Many of the traditional accepted views of nutrition, such as the old food pyramid, are now seen as outdated. If all the traditional viewpoints of nutrition are correct, then why are we getting sicker and sicker? But I do think that society is becoming more and more open, and I think that dialogue such as this one between Emily and I are important to get more information out there, and inform people that there are different options!

8. Anything else you want to add?

I think dialogue between RD’s and nutritionists is important to have, and no one should think that a particular group of people holds the monopoly on nutritional truth. We should all learn from each other! Arrogance, ego, or dismissing another group’s perspective without investigation only hurts the people that we are all trying to help.

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Thanks so much, Kim [check out her blog for more information!], for sharing your perspective on nutrition and for working with me to help increase understanding between alternative and allopathically-trained nutrition professionals! It is my hope that we can continue to work on this relationship in order to provide the most comprehensive nutrition information possible to better prevent and treat diseases.

Thoughts? You know I’d love to hear {read} them!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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p.s. an epic event coming on oct 25th! hint: it involves local food and that guy who makes energy bars. you won’t wanna miss this one.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

tea obsession & zucchini muffins

I can’t believe it’s already Wednesday! Favorite things of the moment:

Tazo Green Ginger Tea. I love coffee, but lately, I’ve converted into a tea drinker [or maybe I just bought this variety because it is my favorite green color]

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I love the spiciness of the ginger and the hint of pear. Any tea drinkers out there?

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Zucchini muffins with dark chocolate: someone bought 6 zukes at the farmers’ market over the past couple of weeks…

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Zucchini Muffins {adapted from Smitten Kitchen}

Yield: 24 muffins

3 eggs
1 cup olive or vegetable oil (applesauce)
1 3/4 cups sugar (1 cup)
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour (ww pastry flour)
3 teaspoons cinnamon (3 + if you love cinnamon like me)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (omitted)
1 cup dried cranberries, raisins or chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in oil and sugar, then zucchini and vanilla.

Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt, as well as nuts, chocolate chips and/or dried fruit, if using. Stir into the egg mixture.

Bake muffins for approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

Spaghetti squash: other people reminisce about childhoods filled with delicious baked goods or foods we don’t let ourselves eat regularly anymore. I remember my mom making us spaghetti squash…I guess that’s what I get for growing up in a house full of health nuts.  A little olive oil, carrots, parmesan, garlic, and lots of black pepper = perfection.

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Some of you might remember a little commentary I did on Kimberly’s Snyder’s Good Morning America appearance earlier this summer. I’ve since been chatting with Kim about alternative medicine and nutrition and have a little interview on her blog if you want to check it out. I participated in this exchange because I want to help bridge the gap between nutritionists who focus on alternative medicine and allopathically trained dietitians. I think we can learn a lot from eachother…I will also be featuring an interview with Kim later this week, so check back soon.

What are your thoughts on alternative medicine? Anyone have experience with different therapies? 

Tomorrow I’m watching a cardiac catheterization…so glad it’s not a major invasive surgery {there is a reason I didn’t go to med school}.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

vitamin C for immunity?

Sorry for going MIA blogworld. Life’s been a little interesting lately, and I’m still trying to catch my breath. Anyway, we’re about to dive into fall and cold and flu season (unfortunately), and if you’re like me, chronic stress levels aren’t doing great things to your immune system right now.

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You may have heard about vitamin C for immune health. My mom used to have us take it daily [sneakity mcsneakerson into our juice], especially when we were under a lot of stress.

But what does evidence-based research say about vitamin C for immunity?

Scientists have been debating vitamin C’s effectiveness in treating colds for over 60 years. It is commonly known for its role as an antioxidant (ascorbic acid form) and historically for its ability to prevent or treat scurvy.

Vitamin C protects host cells from oxidative damage caused by infections and is involved in other immune-related processes such as proliferation of T-lymphocytes, decreased replication of viruses, and production of interfuron (viral infection fighting proteins).

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Scientific literature suggests that most people [most Americans do not get the recommended 5 servings of  fruits and vegetables]may benefit from supplementing with 500-1000 mg/day of ascorbic acid, preferably calcium ascorbate with metabolites (VCM). VCM has been shown to be better absorbed and retained by the body and better tolerated than ascorbic acid (Wright, 1990).

The American Academy of Family Physicians suggests taking vitamin C to decrease the severity and duration of cold symptoms when taken preventatively, but they do not recommend it as a treatment for colds.

*as reviewed in Moyad, M.M., & Kondracki, N.L. (2009, Winter). The efficacy of vitamin C supplementation for the common cold. Nutrition in Complementary Care, 11, 44-46.

upping my dietary vitamin C….

Green beans [18 mg/cup]

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sweet potato [23.3 mg/medium potato], tomato [~55 mg/cup], yellow bell pepper [51.4 mg/oz]

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While I prefer to get my vitamin C from fruits and veggies, I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking supplements when I’m not getting enough vitamin C  from dietary sources or need extra due to increased stress. I’ll be sure to look for the VCM form from now on, though!

A couple of photos from the past few days…I went to the STL City Museum for the first time this weekend {yes, those are people in that hamster-looking maze below}. It was really fun…except for the fact that I lost my ID while climbing somewhere outside.

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Right before my ID plummeted 25 + feet down to the unknown.

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Probably one of the most interactive museums I’ve ever been to…definitely want to go back sometime!

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Today, the SLU interns spent more time gardening outside. It was pretty much a perfect fall day. We picked these marigolds for display in the cafeteria.

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Hope everyone had a good weekend and a fabulous Monday. I’m working on a special blog exchange with a nutritionist well-known for her alternative nutrition viewpoint that I’m excited to share with you!

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