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« Everyone Can Do This! Breakfast & Lunch on the Esselstyn Plant-Based No-Oil Diet Challenge. Fast, Hearty, Healthy and Delicious. | Main | Plant-Based Eating Confusion! Omega-3s, Omega-6s, Glycemic Index, ORAC Index and More. A Picture, a Chart, and the ANDI Rankings Help Clear the Confusion. »

July 13, 2010



I'm really enjoying reading about your journey with this diet (and the blog in general). It sounds very similar to the McDougall recommendations (no oil, plant based, whole grain, vegan) I followed about 20 years ago.

Over time, I've regressed back into a fairly healthy omnivore diet (by American standards), but reading this blog topic has helped nudge me back in a better direction. One thing - in addition to eating a plant- based diet, we have to remember to eat seasonally available produce. No grapes from Chile in January!

We're facing a generation of people raised on fast and convenience foods and a health care system that emphasizes pharmaceutical intervention over life-style changes. Our cultural attitudes around food will have to change to impact both health outcomes and runaway healthcare costs (think the shift in attitudes toward smoking). If only we could loosen the grip of big pharma...their profits rely on people having these lifestyle diseases. And they make huge profits, spending a good portion of them on lobbying. I say be a rebel and eat your way healthy!

Can't wait to see your blood test results!

Margie Willensky

Thanks for sharing and taking us along on your journey. Thanks also for sharing your top recipes. For someone totally new to this type of eating, which cookbooks would you recommend to get started?


For whatever reason when I found your blog 10 days ago, I changed instantly from my omnivore diet to this one. I think I found your blog because I googled Vegan Mac and Cheese or something which I was planning to make for our daughter's birthday as she is a Vegan. But I had been thinking about lowering my cholesterol without meds and somehow reading what you said about Esselstyn just changed me. Give yourself credit. But now that I have the book and by the way have also read The China Study (fascinating), I have a few questions.

One - I do not wish to take any drugs at all and Esselstyn seems to do minimal meds with this diet - is it ok to forgo the meds completely if my cholesterol does not get down to 150 even with this strict diet? Or since I exercise regularly (spinning four times a week for 45 minutes at a time) is it ok to combine exercise and diet without any meds. I am 52, 150 pounds, 5'6 and 266 cholesterol before the diet.
Two - what about coffee? I love coffee. Since you recommended it, I have been drinking decaf espresso. Is this OK? Nowhere in Esselstyn does he mention coffee although Ornish does not like it. Please advise.
Three - I have looked at both the lowfat unsweetened almond milk and the lowfat unsweetened soy milk. Almond milk has more sodium - soy more fat. Which is worse?
Four - It is hard to give up even minimal amounts of salt. I have been eating without it except in trace amounts in the milks and veggie broths, my blood pressure is actually a little low/normal - is salt ok in moderation in this case or does it damage the heart like oil? I know if you have blood pressure issues you should not eat salt, but since I do not, I was wondering.
Five - sugar question. I am assuming it is occasionally ok to eat things with some sugar like the pancakes and/banana bread from Ann's recipe. Is that ok or should sugar in food be relegated to once a week sorts of things?
Six - I miss food with fat in it - I am a good cook and when I sauteed mushrooms and onions etc... in butter - wow - that gives so much flavor BUT now I feel as if I taste food exactly as it should be. It seems so much earthier. It also does not make me crave. I am hungry more frequently and go to the fridge to have another serving of Dahl or soup no harm but honestly it is not as good. But I would rather live longer and be healthy while I live longer without any meds so it has helped me think about my life while I resist the urge to put a pat of butter on my toast. Thanks again for this blog. I really appreciate it. Maybe you helped save my life.


I thought I'd share with you something I learned recently in regards to the benefits of eating plant based foods as an endurance athlete.

I've been on the E2 diet ( Rip Essestyn's, which is a bit more generous in regards to avocados and nuts but otherwise pretty much the same) for about 5 weeks now.

I happened to have my cholesterol taken only a week after starting the diet, and while that isn't much time for changes to occur, my numbers were down from a year ago when the lipid profile was done.. My "usual" number was somewhere near 180 ( I think it was about 178) but after only a week on this diet, my total was 156.. I'm sure it is even lower now. I feel great.

My husband and I are endurance athletes, and regularly participate in ultramarathon trail runs - of distances from 50K to 100 miles. I was told by a surgeon (also an athlete) that our blood will more efficiently carry oxygen if our system is in an alkaline state. He explained the physiological reasons for this.. something about the molecular structure.. but I can't recall exactly all the details.

Knowing that eating a plant-based diet will definitely bring our entire system to a more alkaline state, it seems like a logical conclusion that this diet will benefit endurance athletes by helping the blood carry more oxygen. I do not have on hand any particular research to back this up, though from what my surgeon friend said, he has read reports that verify this.

I can report that at a recent ultramarathon race at high altitude, I felt better and stronger this year than at any other time I have attempted it. Was it the plant based diet? I have to believe that it was at least part of my increased performance. Just getting rid of dairy out of my diet probably helped prevent some of the respiratory problems I have had in the past.

It would be interesting to find the research... but first I think I will try that lentil salad recipe and the chocolate mousse!!
thanks, we really enjoy the blog...

P.S. We have a friend who is 74 and still running ultramarathons- just incredible! He has been a life long vegetarian, and while he occasionally eats eggs, he does no dairy and very little oil. He is a testament to the benefits of this kind of diet, even when not followed 100%.

Healthy Librarian

Thanks to everyone who commented on the blog--and who emailed off the blog.

What you have to share is helpful to everyone.

Carla: Yes, I, too remember McDougall from the 80's (or was is the 70's?). Even read his book--but back then it seemed way too difficult to do. Funny, how what he said back then has such staying power--and now it doesn't seem so hard to do.
Love your line: Rebel& Eat Your Way Healthy!!

Margie: I've got a lot of favorite vegan cookbooks, but they all use oils, so now I'm stuck with trying to modify them wo oil. But, the best one to give you cooking advice & explanations of all the beans, grains, and other vegan staples is:
Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero. I haven't bought a fat-free vegan cookbook yet--I'll let you all know when I find a good one. But...I did just discover a website/blog that looks very promising. It even has a recipe for Fat-free Vegan Italian Sausages & Mac 'n Cheese & Crab Cakes, so I'm very interested. It's Happy Herbivore at She has a new cookbook out--published by the publishers of The China Study. I've also tried, and liked recipes on the blog & website of The Fat-Free Vegan .

Ann Esselstyn has 150 wonderful recipes in Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. Lots of good recipes in Rip Esselstyn's Engine 2 Diet & his website. Also look at Dr. Joel Fuhrman's latest book (I couldn't find it in the library & bought it) Same for Dr. McDougall's Quick & Easy Cookbook & his website. Last but not least: Brynna Clark Grogan blogs lower-fat vegan recipes (& writes cookbooks) at:

Healthy Librarian

Amy: Wow! Wishing you good luck with your adventure.

1. Can't answer what Dr. E. would advise--my guess is that it all depends upon who the "patient/person" is & their history. If the person has diagnosed heart disease, other risk factors, etc. or if the person is someone like you, active, exercising, healthy, who's total cholesterol is high, because they have a high HDL, but their LDLs are good. But...why not try the diet for 3 weeks & get tested & see how your numbers look after that? Reread what Dr. E said about numbers in yesterday's post--some people may not drop below 150--but if you are eating 100% no fat, no animal, all whole & healthy, that's the goal. I do know that back in 1990 my total cholesterol dropped like a stone when I cut out all animal products & fat.

2. Dr. just recently advised against caffeinated coffee because of a recent study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition . Decaf looked fine--and caused no negative effects--but get water processed. I'm bad--I still have 1 morning cup that's 1/2 & 1/2. And I follow Ann E's son's tip of using 2 TBS of unsweetened soymilk (not low fat) to lighten my coffee. Not at all worried about this small amount of fat in it.

3. Re milk--here's what Ann E says: It is difficult to recommend the perfect milk alternative because the products change so frequently. No added oil, no added sugar is the goal. Our favorites are the Pacific Oat, Hazelnut and Almond milk. Remember there is fat in everything and the fat in oat milk and almond milk is just the fat that occurs naturally in the grain. (my comment: in other words--don't worry about it I personally don't like the tastes of the low-fat versions) This isn't a no-fat diet--it's no added fat or excessive fat, as in oils or nuts.

4. Salt. Sounds like you're doing all the right things--and great that you aren't affected by it. It's in everything processed, especially soups, tomatoes, and beans. The most recent recommendations (New England Journal of Medicine) advise staying under 1500 mg of sodium a day--which isn't so easy to do unless you carefully watch labels & do your own cooking--and that's without adding extra salt. "A low sodium food has 140 milligrams per serving. A meal, no more than 500 to keep in line with a 1,500 milligram total for the day -- if you are over 40 years of age."

5. Sugar. I personally try to keep desserts to very occasional--and don't worry about adding small amounts of agave or maple syrup into recipes. When you cut out fat, it can make you crave sugar--and that's not good. Too much sugar can actually make your body produce cholesterol. Avoid all refined sugar. There are dessert recipes in the Esselstyn book, but it should be an occasional thing--not daily.

6. Yes, fat tastes good--and we can easily get addicted to the taste. It takes (according to the Monel Chemical Senses Study) 90 days to lose the craving for fat--and you down-regulate your fat receptors. There are potato chips, Chex mix, & ice cream in my freezer bought by my youngest son who is working in our city this summer. I'm 100% not interested or tempted now. But before cutting out fat, I always gave in to his junk food. And I've only cut out the fat about 30 days ago. Surprising to me.

Amy since you're new to the blog, be sure to check out early posts that explain this journey. The Esselstyn session, in particular is at: It will no doubt answer a lot of your questions

Deanna: Thanks so much for sharing this info. Very interesting. I want to check out the research behind your surgeon friend's advice. Sounds like it's working for you!

Anne M

Another good vegan low- no fat cookbook is by Dr. Neal Barnard and chef Robyn Webb called "The Get Healthy , Go Vegan Cookbook",(2010). Almost all of the 125 recipes have no oil in them.

Healthy Librarian

Thanks for the recommendation, Anne. I just reserved a copy at my library. Imagine 11 copies, and all are either checked out & on hold! I'm a Barnard fan, so I'm looking forward to seeing the cookbook.

Cynthia Bailey MD

Holy Cow! I've been gone for 3 weeks (to the Mediterranean no less) and you've been doing this fantastic diet. Your food pics look as yummy as anything I ate in the Mediterranean, and the recipes look even healthier. I'm going to spend some quality time with your recipes, they are very inspiring and I'm always looking for creative food ideas that are exactly what you've been cooking. I try to live on a diet like this, but I never give up the olive oil. I'll be really curious about your lipid numbers. You continue to inspire me to go a little lighter on the olive oil.

My take on the best diet goal is on my post Added oils aren't prohibited, but I keep them to a minimum-usually (I need will power for this because I love olive oil). I'm inspired by the idea of utilizing the plant based oils from beans in the foods you made, that's a great idea!

As an aside, I was on a cruise and the 'wine-ing and dining' really flared up some nasty arthritis pain. Great personal case study of the pro inflammatory aspects of a rich western diet. I'm back to my Alkaline Mediterranean way of eating and the pain is abating. What we eat is so important to how we feel.

Your posts are really fun to come back to!

Cynthia Bailey MD

Hank Roberts

Do you bake your own bread? I'd just started doing that for the first time in decades, when we found your site and, ack, I'd always used oil.

Found some no-oil recipes! very slow-rising (takes several days) but simple

Ellen @ I Am Gluten Free

First, let me say thank you for your continued commitment to fat free eating. Though I'm not 100% there, I'm definitely making more of an effort due to your lead.

I tried making the Blueberry Oatmeal Bean Pancakes with Maple Syrup (recipe above) this morning. I did two things differently, though I don't believe either of the two things would've made a difference in the outcome. I soaked the oats overnight (and then thoroughly drained them). And I didn't put blueberries on top of the pancakes during the cooking of them, instead I put fresh blueberries on top of the pancakes after they were finished cooking. Otherwise, I followed your recipe to a T. I am fascinated with the idea of making pancakes without oil, but I have to say that the outcome of my attempts wasn't great. Ultimately, I loved the taste of them, but here are some of my thoughts after making this recipe - I wonder if you know or whether you'd be able to ask Ann whether she has any suggestions for how I can be more successful:

1. The pancakes took quite a bit longer to cook than the 4 minutes per side in your recipe notes. I would say they took about 10 minutes per side. I could've taken them out of the pan earlier, but when I gently pressed on the pancake, it oozed a little of the inside batter which indicated to me that they weren't fully cooked. Perhaps this is what you refer to in your notes as "moist"? BTW, I cooked them in a cast iron pan on a very low heat, on a gas stove.

2. The finished pancakes were VERY thin, almost crepe-like, and a bit shriveled (I imagine due to the long cooking time) and VERY crisp, almost cracker-like. They were also a bit burned on one of the sides of the pancakes. Again, probably due to the long cooking.

3. Though I was concerned that the beans would have an overwhelming taste presence, they didn't. If I hadn't known they were part of the recipe, I might not have even suspected that beans were used.

4. A few pancakes into the batter, I tried covering the pan. I found this to be very helpful. The end results in terms of the pancakes being very thin and crisp were the same, but they didn't burn.

5. The finished pancakes weren't high and fluffy like my normal gluten free pancakes. They were quite thin.

I really love this recipe and want to improve upon it. I don't mind their thinness, and I don't even mind their crispness, but I wish that they didn't take as long to finish cooking.

I will return to this comments section in the hopes that you might have some suggestions. If these pancakes are ultimately supposed to be a bit moist on the inside, please let me know. I prefer that not to be the case, but that's just a personal preference.

Thank you so much!


HL, have you noticed any changes to your skin, your complexion? Your picture suggests lovely skin in any case :) , but mine is a constant struggle and seems to me to be connected with what I eat. But I have yet to nail down the problem - I thought when I went gluten-free that would help, but not so much. Maybe fat-free would do the trick ...

Hank Roberts

A bit of history in the making:

I can't speak for the people behind the site, they provide a large number of newsletters aimed at the food industry: " .... service seeks out news stories and data of value to decision-makers in food and beverage development in Europe."

Hank Roberts

Found this via that industry newsletter:

Seems like all the money is going to selling supplements and pushing people to eat more, more, add more of THIS or THAT -- as Bill Lands points out, the 'paradox' is that without reducing the problem foods, supplements add nothing useful.

Well, except money to the industry's bottom line, of course.


I'm wondering about your pan. The GreenGourmet pans I see on Amazon, etc, have a black inner surface, but your appears to be silver. I'd rather get a silver there a difference?


Bryanna Clark Grogan has written several excellent vegan fat-free cookbooks. Her recipes are simple and always turn out perfectly. The finished products are far more than the sum of their simple ingredients. My friends always begged me to bring her recipes to gatherings and at work potlucks my co-workers ate every crumb.

HL, where can I find all of these great recipes?

Hank Roberts

I looked at the ceramic pans yesterday; the inside is gray-black, probably just looks silvery because it's very reflective in the pictures.

The surface of the couple of them I picked up and ran my fingers over felt like there were a few bits of sand baked into it (they're in open cardboard covers so you can see and feel the surface). I wonder if they need to be polished. I saw mixed reviews, one person saying the nonstick lasted only a few months, but others saying they really like it.

There appear to be several products using nonstick ceramic coatings:

'Scanpan' titanium (out for a couple of years); pricey
'Pinnacle' crockery with ceramic nonstick for bakeware, inexpensive

Others? Mixed reviews on all of them I've found, over time.

Healthy Librarian

Hi Ellen,
Disappointed to hear you had "problems" with the pancakes. Here's my theory--the soaking of the oats put too much moisture into them--oats really suck up liquid. That's 1 reason your batter was thin & it took so long to cook through.

Our batter was flowable, on the thicker side, making nice separate pancakes--I even was able to "test" bake some in the oven at 450 degrees on parchment paper. Drier, but it worked.

Also, my husband used 2 different no-stick pans (one needed cooking spray), & he used medium (to medium high) heat on a gas stove. The pancakes will definitely be a little on the wetter/moister side on the inside--not dry inside, but the taste is fine, & doesn't taste uncooked. Think oatmeal & beans--if you cooked them until they dried out, it would be overcooked.

I like soft, cooked berries, which is why I mixed them into the tops of the pancakes, and that way the distribution was even.

Can't wait to hear about your kitchen lab magic modifications--you always figure things out beautifully!

Ann makes these as waffles--but I knew it would be a sticky mess in my non-stick waffle maker and she says to cook waffles for a minimum of 8 minutes. Good luck!

Carol--What a nice compliment!! Made my day. Seriously, I always had pretty good skin, no blemishes or that sort of thing, and I've never worn any makeup, just lipstick & blush. skin color & tone really improved when I started eating so many fruits & vegetables. Funny story, Dr. Servan-Schreiber (Anti-Cancer book) says his teenage son noticed his acne disappeared the more turmeric he ate (in curry). Turmeric & its active ingredient curcumin are powerful anti-oxidants. Also, there are some articles in the literature about the connection of dairy products to acne & skin problems--another food I no longer eat. Last, part of my personal theory about skin--is exercise & water. Exercise absolutely improves skin color--all that blood circulating, and water, of course is hydrating. So, boost the fruits & veggies, drink water, ditch dairy (& other omega-6s in oil & meat), exercise & report back!

Carojo95, Hank is right. My camera flash just makes my GreenGourmet pan look silver. It's reflective black. Can't guarantee how long it will stay great--but I am not going to spray anything on it--that contributes to stickiness, later. When you saute, you will need to use some liquid, like veggie broth, citrus juice, wine/beer/sherry, sauce of some sort (like soy), or water to keep the veggies from drying out. But the pan just cleans right up beautifully. We'll see how long it lasts!

MG--Thanks for the advice about Bryanna Clark Grogan's cookbooks--I'm going to check them out. I know you're an amazing cook & foodie, with discriminating taste! Hope the residency is going well, that you finally get some real quality sleep, & the cold is now gone!


what about vitamin b-6? as a vegan, i've read numerous times that b-6 needs must be met through supplements. what is dr e's view on this? b-6 alone, or b complex?

Healthy Librarian

I think you mean b12. Supplement with 1000 mcg/day sublingual for best absorption. B6 is in potatoes, beans, bananas, and fortified cereals.

Hank Roberts

Looking for any studies distinguishing markers from causes of inflammation, this is as close as I get

-- it says (of course all I have is the abstract, hoping someone with access can do a better search) -- I think it says we don't yet know which markers are affected by which factors, compared to which underlying causes are being affected.

We don't want to just stop the smoke alarm from making the noise -- we want to know _why_ it's making the noise and deal with the cause of the alarm signal.

That's my question -- is there any research addressing which compounds make a difference to the underlying tissues in the body, versus reducing the warning signs -- like taking out the C-reactive-protein from the blood after it's produced, for example.

Also I'm looking for anything published on the ANDI criteria and weightings -- didn't Vitamin E get a really good press for a while, then turn out not to be such a good idea, for example? How's it weighted in this particular system?

Hank Roberts

Here's the closest abstract I've found to addressing my questions; hoping someone else has something better:

Methods Mol Biol. 2010;598:53-73.
Markers of inflammation.

Germolec DR, Frawley RP, Evans E.

Inflammation is a complex and necessary component of an organism's response to biological, chemical or physical stimuli. In the acute phase, cells of the immune system migrate to the site of injury in a carefully orchestrated sequence of events that is mediated by cytokines and acute phase proteins. Depending upon the degree of injury, this acute phase may be sufficient to resolve the damage and initiate healing. Persistent inflammation as a result of prolonged exposure to stimulus or an inappropriate reaction to self molecules can lead to the chronic phase, in which tissue damage and fibrosis can occur. Chronic inflammation is reported to contribute to numerous diseases including allergy, arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and cancer, and to conditions of aging. Hematology and clinical chemistry data from standard toxicology studies can provide an initial indication of the presence and sometimes location of inflammation in the absence of specific data on the immune tissues. These data may suggest more specific immune function assays are necessary to determine the existence or mechanism(s) of immunomodulation. Although changes in hematology dynamics, acute phase proteins, complement factors and cytokines are common to virtually all inflammatory conditions and can be measured by a variety of techniques, individual biomarkers have yet to be strongly associated with specific pathologic events. The specific profile in a given inflammatory condition is dependent upon species, mechanisms, severity, chronicity, and capacity of the immune system to respond and adapt.

Hank Roberts

Another doctor with a blog -- and restaurants!
All vegan, with some convincing fake cheese etc. in some dishes:

From his blog:

"... I was lucky enough to attend Dr. McDougall's fantastic weekend intensive in Santa Rosa, a valuable educational experience on nutrition and health. I recommend it heartily.

One very noteworthy moment at the conference was when Amy Joy Lanou, Ph.D., author of Building Bone Vitality and a professor at the University of North Carolina, spoke about the moment of truth in her educational transformation. She had spent eight years pursuing traditional nutritional studies when she had her first encounter with Dr. Colin Campbell, author of the best-selling The China Study, and biochemistry professor emeritus at Cornell. By the end of Campbell's lecture, Amy had come to the conclusion that either all eight years of her education leading to her doctorate degree totally missed the point of what a good diet really is, or Dr. Campbell was a crock (not her exact words). After doing further research, she became convinced that the most vigorous science supported a vegan diet - time after time. The mantra, "there are no bad foods" turned out not to be sound nutritional advice, but blatant marketing for the current SAD (Standard American Diet) status quo (also not her exact words, but you catch the drift).....
... We do not need more data to know what to eat and what not to eat; we just need to do it. Choose your guru - Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn or his son Rip, Dr. Neal Barnard, Rory Freedman, or partake from what tickles your fancy from each of them. These are all pioneers pointing the way toward healthier lives for you and your family through sound and incredibly tasty nutritional practices.

There is plenty of science to say what is wrong with our diet. We don't need more statistics to say we are getting fatter - any trip to the grocery store will suffice to prove that. Just as we don't need more data to understand that dairy has literally milked us all - we have known that for decades.

One can either keep one's head in the sand and continue eating an incredibly unhealthy diet or decide to get smart, healthy, and feel great, making it much less likely that heart disease or cancer will become a part of your future...."
----end quote----

We've been patronizing one of his restaurants, and really like the food. I'm asking for details on ingredients and contents, hoping to put them into KIM2 for tracking.


I made the balsamic lentil salad night before last. I used regualar balsamic, and yellow onions since they were all I had. It was excellent. My wife still insisted on putting a little feta cheese on hers:/

I do the cooking 95% of the time, and I try to be 100% McDougall and Esselstyn compliant. She eats it, but sometimes dresses hers up a little. What can I say? Her TC and stress test came back clean. Unlike mine.


Couldn't you just substitute one of the bean flours for the canned beans in the pancake recipe? It would be easier.

Healthy Librarian

Hi Nina,

Sure, I can't see why you couldn't sub a been flour--but, I've been told (can't back it up), that mashed beans will digest much more slowly & keep you full longer) than bean flour. You know, the bean coverings & all of that. But, you're right, it would cut out the extra steps of draining & rinsing the beans, and using the blender (maybe)! It might even make them cook faster. Let me know if you try it!


Thanks for your response, HL.
I am a Celiac and often bake (and make pancakes) with a blend containing bean (usually Garfava) flour. I don't know how the beans are processed to make flour but the nutritional information on the label indicates that they still have a high fiber and protein content.

Bev Alexander

I've had one of the Cusinart Green Gourmet pans for more than a year. Still looks great, works great.

I also tried the pans they sell on TV: the Todd English GreenPan. I've had two of those for a year. I like them because they are MUCH lighter in weight than the Cuisinart, but not flimsy. The ceramic non-stick is good, but more prone to stick than the Cuisinart.

I'm content with both.

I wish Ann Esselstyn would write a whole cookbook! I love her recipes.

One last thing - last but not least. My blood pressure seems to be intransigent! I can get the cholesterol below 150, but the bp still goes to 140s to 160s systolic. I want to get off that medication! Any ideas? Do some people just run hot? (I confess that I'm not always perfect on this diet, but you'd think if cholesterol was low...?)

Larry Gordon

Dr Esselstyn recommends a table spoon of flaxseed each day as a supplement. Is it okay to supplement the flaxseed with flaxseed oil? I notice he does not recommend oils of any type.


Healthy Librarian


Flax meal or ground flax seed. He doesn't recommend flax oil--short shelf life, becomes rancid quickly among other reasons--plus flax meal has additional benefits, like fiber & lignans.

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