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AARP New American Diet: Lose Weight, Live Longer
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81 of 82 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"AARP New American Diet," by John Whyte, M. D., is a sane book about health and nutrition that does not offer simplistic solutions to obesity. The author, a board-certified internist with a Masters of Public Health and chief medical expert for the Discovery Channel, bases his findings on "the largest study of diet, lifestyle, and health ever conducted in the United States." Twenty-five years ago, AARP and the National Cancer Institute started to examine "the effects of dietary and lifestyle choices on the incidence of cancer among Americans fifty and older." More than half a million people have been involved in this project. The aim of this book, based on the study's findings, is to "empower patients with information to change their lives."

Dr. Whyte is adamant that we should not "go on" diets, count calories, or adopt the latest food fad. Instead, we should make sensible choices that, with a minimum of fuss, can make us healthier for years to come. Whyte's food plan combines aspects of the Mediterranean diet and the standard American diet. With his conversational and jargon-free writing style, the author motivates us to take relatively simple steps that, he hopes, will reduce cravings and help us overcome our tendency to eat mindlessly.

We need not eliminate any food group. Instead, we should aim for a balanced intake of fish, lean meat, whole grains, nuts, low-fat dairy, fresh fruit, and fresh vegetables. The author recommends sensible snacking and also debunks a number of myths: eating fat (such as unsalted nuts) is not only allowed, but is a vital part of a balanced diet; low-fat foods may be harmful if they are too high in salt and sugar; four eggs a week are fine, and will not raise your cholesterol; artificial sweeteners are detrimental (our brain registers the sweetness, regardless of its origin), and may cause us to binge on cookies and ice cream; and one or two cups of coffee daily is recommended. Dr. Whyte reinforces what most of us know but often fail to do: drink plenty of water, eat a good breakfast, cut out the "junk food," and reeducate your palate to appreciate the flavor of skim milk and other substitutes for high calorie alternatives.

"The AARP New American Diet" includes recipes, a chapter on diet and disease, tips for starting an exercise program, and a list of web sites for additional information. This is a gimmick-free way to lose weight and keep it off, feel more energetic, and reduce the long-term risk of serious illness.
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 27, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Dr. John Whyte's "AARP New American Diet: Lose Weight, Live Longer" is a diet and nutrition book targeted at older adults who hope to improve their health and appearance by eating better and smarter.

The book is fairly traditional in its approach, beginning with a discussion of nutrition basics, moving on to general guidelines for better nutrition, followed by a 30-day diet plan aimed at breaking bad eating habits and replacing them with healthier habits, and concluding with chapters on disease risks, exercise, and helpful reference materials. Dr. Whyte's writing is clear, non-technical, and illustrated with examples from his medical practice.

Readers will not be surprised to learn that Dr. Whyte is a vehement critic of the highly processed, sugar-laden "Standard American Diet" (or "SAD"). He offers an alternative: the New American Diet (which I'll call "NAD", for convenience). The NAD eliminates sugary drinks and artificial sodas, cuts out added sugar, emphasizes whole grains, fish, and healthy fats, and limits salt. Unlike most diet plans, Whyte's NAD does not require you to count calories or maintain a specific ratio of fat to carbohydrates to proteins. Whyte criticizes these practices, arguing that they are unnecessary and, furthermore, drive people towards highly processed foods that have easily-tallied numbers on the sides of their cartons.

Instead, Whyte urges people to learn through experience what constitutes a well-sized portion, a healthy meal, a healthy snack, and a healthy day. His 30-day diet plan points the way. This is the heart of the book, where the general NAD guidelines take the form of dishes, meals, and snacks. The plan includes everything you should eat and drink for every meal and every snack over the initial 30 days. Recipes are included for everything that requires preparation. Nearly all of the recipes are simple, the majority are fairly quick, and most of the ingredients are familiar to Americans and easily located in the supermarket.

This is where my critique begins. Whyte's ideas on nutrition appear to be sound, and his approach to encouraging better eating habits also seems to be sound. There are significant problems with how Whyte puts his ideas into practice, however.

First, the 30-day plan calls for an ungodly amount of food preparation. Every meal requires preparation, and the plan makes no allowances for leftovers; no meal is repeated twice in the same week. If you're not used to preparing every single meal from scratch, this will quickly become frustrating, and, if you're working, it may be impossible.

Second, the plan calls for an ungodly number of ingredients. Your refrigerator and freezer will be packed. More importantly, if you follow recipes to the letter, you will end up wasting costly ingredients. Admittedly, a number of these ingredients are fresh herbs that you can grow yourself or survive without.

Third, the diet plan is expensive. It's not half as costly as dining out all the time, but I rarely dine out and I still nearly doubled my grocery bill in my first month on the diet. Among the pricier items were smoked salmon, fish steaks (e.g., wild-caught salmon, wild-caught halibut), beef tenderloin, and some out-of-season fruits (especially berries) and vegetables. I'm sure Whyte emphasized premium foods to make the diet seem more enticing, but not everybody is going to be thrilled about the cost.

Fourth, the portion sizes vary greatly across meals. One dinner consists of a 4oz (before cooking) cut of beef tenderloin and four asparagus spears. That's it! Compare this tiny meal to one few people will be able to finish: a 6oz. salmon steak, two cups of cooked brown rice (!), and half a head of broccoli. One snack is 1/4 ounce of dark chocolate; another is two ounces of string cheese and a pear. These meals and snacks might be roughly the same in terms of calories, and you don't have to finish the really big ones, but the tiny ones will leave you hungry shortly after eating, leaving you susceptible to out-of-school snacking. These discrepancies seem inconsistent with the emphasis Whyte places on portion control.

Fifth, several of the recipes are incomplete or otherwise flawed. Some recipes fail to specify whether they are for one or two servings (none are for more than two servings). Quantities for some ingredients are omitted. Instructions are omitted for some portions of recipes, so that, e.g., it's not clear whether vegetables marinated along with meat in one recipe are supposed to be discarded or cooked and eaten.

Sixth, Whyte says very little about how he constructed the meal plan or about how to make changes or substitutions. For example, if I make two meals worth of Black Bean Chili (a dinner) on Monday, will I be messing up the diet by eating my leftovers for lunch on Tuesday? I can't tell. More importantly, if I have food allergies or intolerances (or insurmountable dislikes) that make it impossible to eat certain meals or use certain ingredients, what do I do? This is an odd omission for a book aimed at older adults.

Whyte can easily fix these problems in a new edition of the book, assuming the publisher decides to issue one. Taking on a dietician with cookbook-writing experience as a co-author would be an excellent idea.

Until that happens, I'm sure readers can take a flexible attitude towards the 30-day meal plan and still have success with the New American Diet. If you're lactose intolerant, you don't have to put milk in your coffee; if you're allergic to shellfish, then take your pick of other meals that don't bother you; if you want to reduce your cooking burden, prepare double recipes and then eat leftovers; and if a recipe is clearly flawed, make your own adjustments.

I've personally had some success with the diet. In roughly five weeks, I've lost about 12 pounds and 3 inches off my waist. I have also made several improvements to my diet that I expect to continue. For example, I am no longer adding sugar to anything, I have significantly cut down on my consumption of cheese and bread, I have greatly increased my consumption of fish, my snacks are healthier and less frequent, and I eat breakfast more frequently. I am still having troubles with the timing of meals and snacks, not least because my partner and I keep different schedules, but these troubles can be overcome.

I decided to try the NAD because it seemed reasonable both in terms of nutrition and practical details. I quickly became frustrated with the amount of cooking, shopping, and guessing the meal plan and recipes were requiring of me. Nevertheless, I am pleased with the progress I've made. I expect to continue *flexibly* using the diet plan and the associated recipes, although I've already begun using recipes from the "Mediterranean Diet Cookbook For Dummies (For Dummies (Health & Fitness))" and "Vegetables Every Day: The Definitive Guide to Buying and Cooking Today's Produce With More Than 350 Recipes" instead.

Bottom line: "The New American Diet" has my lukewarm endorsement for adults of all ages. While it is targeted at older adults, Whyte's recommendations are also appropriate for younger people. Still, there are too many problems with the diet plan and recipes for me to give the book a more forceful endorsement. People should also consider "The Dash Diet Weight Loss Solution: 2 Weeks to Drop Pounds, Boost Metabolism, and Get Healthy (A DASH Diet Book)," which is superficially very similar to NAD, and the Mediterranean diet, although the latter is probably too open-ended for people who need to kick-start a new diet.

P.S. Although the book's cover sports the AARP logo and also refers to the NIH-AARP study of diet and health among older adults, Dr. Whyte developed this diet by himself and wrote the book alone (unless he had ghost writers).

P.P.S. This review is based on an advance uncorrected proof of the book. I was not provided with a copy of the published version of the book. I have seen portions of the final version online, however. To the best of my knowledge, all of the problems I mentioned still exist in the final version.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The first sentences in this book are: "Another diet book? Really? What makes this one different?" We'll, in a nutshell, nothing! It claims that it's different because it treats the word "Diet" as a noun, not as a verb. OK. It claims to have the "Best American and Mediterranean diet secrets from the Groundbreaking NIH/AARP study" Ok.

For me I found it was a lot of the same old/same old. Yes, all of it good advice. If you follow the plan set forth in this book you will undoubtedly lose weight. The recipes are easy to follow, look appetizing and rely on easy to obtain foods. There are no outrageous claims set forth - you won't turn into Paris Hilton at the end of the first month - but you will probably be a step or two ahead of where you started on the road to health.

As a basic diet book this one is no frills, no marching band but filled with good advice. If you're looking to lose those extra pounds the AARP: New American Diet: Lose Weight, Live Longer book will be helpful.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 27, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First of all, I own several AARP books, and I like them all. They are informative and crammed with good advice/information. This one is no different.

This book gives great tips/perspective on changing your diet for the better. Included are weight loss plans, and most important, tips on improving the quality of the food you eat and what substitutions to make.

I like that this book contained up-to-date research information on weight loss and healthy diet and that elements of the Mediterranean diet are combined with elements of the American Diet. Included are guidelines on fiber consumption, alcohol, sugar, fat, etc. The recipes are nice too - easy and delicious!

Highly, highly recommended if you want to improve the quality of the food you eat for any health issue/weight loss.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 20, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book offers up-to-the-minute diet information, including discussing mind-body connections, the contribution of stress hormones such as cortisol to weight gain, the role of insulin, meditation and weight loss, and the popular Mediterranean diet. The book bears the AARP name because it is based on a study by NIH-AARP and published by AARP, not because the advice is exclusively for older people.

It's not one of those diets that claims you'll give up nothing, specifically calling for the exclusion of highly processed foods, high-sugar foods, and saturated fats. It includes helpful lists of just what falls into these categories, including foolers such as juice and rice cakes.

The book includes down to earth information like the top 25 diet busters (from the classic "skipping breakfast" to the surprising "drinking diet soda") and boosters (eat chocolate every day - alrighty!) and "eat this, not this" substitutions, most of which are fairly reasonable, such as popcorn instead of potato chips. Few things strike me as more absurd than diet substitutions that suggest things like celery for potato chips - "With all that crunch, you'll never miss the chips!" Want to bet?

There are also specific menu plans for seven, fourteen, and thirty days to help you form the habits that will lead to weight loss and let you jump right in without spending a lot of time planning. The plans make no allowance for substitutions, though, so you're out of luck if you don't want to eat two handfuls of edamame for a snack or shrimp salad for lunch. It also strikes a nerve with me by requiring things like a handful of grapes and a serving of cottage cheese only once in a two-week period, obviously assuming there are others around the house to help you finish the rest before it spoils. The recipes, though, are helpfully scaled for one or two servings (although again, no advice on what you're supposed to do with that second serving if you're dining alone) and don't leave you with too many odd leftovers like a quarter of a lime and half a can of tomato paste.

The overall tone of the book tends to be pretty simplistic ("the stomach is like a churn that mixes food up") and includes the usual foolish fatty vs. wise physician anecdotes ("Bob loves butter!") that I suppose are meant to be inspirational -- "Me too! If Bob can do it, I can do it!" -- but are actually just irritating. It also opens with a couple chapters that are mostly to convince you of the need to eat better and lose weight, which presumably you already realized before you bought the book. At the end is a very comprehensive list of additional resources and references.

All in all, despite a few hitches, this is a very workable, very practical plan for making healthier choices. None of the food is too strange (well, that probably depends on your views on edamame), all of the recipes are simple and straightforward, and it works very well as a basic diet guide, not only for weight loss but also for better health in general.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book was given to me free for my review. This is a self proclaimed "clutter free" book by the AARP and NIH that outlines the latest conclusions as to what constitutes a healthy diet for weight loss and health. The emphasis of the book is on the Mediterranean diet, and the writing style is simple and easy to understand. At times I found it to be too simple, but I read a lot of books on health and nutrition. This is the sort of book I would imagine handing someone, i.e. my husband, who has never really had to worry about his health and weight before, but now with middle age, does. The sections are short enough that even the most reluctant reader can get through and digest the information. What I found particularly helpful were several weeks worth of simple menus because they give one a place to start. There are also tips and tricks on how to eat well without counting calories and percentages for those who choose not to do so, or for those of us who would like a break from that once in a while. For what it is, it is a decent book. It is the kind of book a doctor could hand a patient and say, "Start here." However, for someone who does read about diet and nutrition on their own (which would be most of my women friends), then it might not be anything new.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This is a good, healthy diet and you get plenty to eat. The biggest fault I find is that once you purchase all the food, instead of using up that food during the first couple weeks, you continue to cook new items and much of the food you've purchased goes to waste (especially the fresh produce) - that gets expensive. I've substituted fruits and veggies for ones I have and still lost weight, so my feeling is there should be a little more leeway rather than follow the diet rigidly the first few weeks.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I've been trying to follow this for two weeks now, and am even less impressed with it. He assumes that all of his readers are skipping breakfast, eating Big Macs and fries washed down with supersize Cokes for lunch every day, eating pizza and Chinese take-out for dinner, and polishing off a bag of potato chips and carton of ice cream while seated in front of the television every night. How else could he claim that a diet which instructs the reader to eat a wide variety of whole grains and fruits and vegetables, to use olive oil instead of butter, drink water instead of soft drinks and cut down on the alcohol (actually, he'd like you to cut it out entirely), is in any way "new?" He does advise drinking 2 cups of black coffee daily, and outright bans the usual suspects (cakes, candies, cookies, chips, foods with trans-fats and hfcs); he also bans entirely white potatoes, 100% fruit juice (not even 6 ounces of o.j. for breakfast), anything made with white flour, corn (isn't that a whole grain?), processed meats, canned soups, and rice cakes, among other foods.

Most of the book is profiles of various people who try the diet, which some people may find motivational, others condescending. The tone of the book is meant to be friendly, but comes off as patronizing. Insisting that adults try a food 13 times before they decide they don't like it, for instance. Using paternalistic phrases such as "I don't want you to . . . " and "I want to you to . . . " rather than giving us the data on which is advice is based.

The book is filled with technical errors that a decent copy editor would have caught. For example, it says to see the recipe for "Sauteed Asparagus," except that there is no recipe for sauteed asparagus. There is, however, a recipe for roasted asparagus. There is a breakfast recipe for a Vegetable Burrito, but it does not appear on any of the menus. What does appear is a Black Bean Burrito, but that recipe is listed as a lunch recipe -- and it also appears on the menu as a lunch item.

The advice is vague. Other than noting that portion size is important, there's almost no information about what the correct portion size is for various foods. The portion sizes given for the recipes vary so widely that it's impossible to know what is correct. It's hard to know whether they are also in error.

There's no information about how much of each food to eat. He says that he doesn't want people to count calories/carbs or percentages, but with no guidance, how are readers to create their own menus and recipes after they've used the ones in the book? Surely we aren't to be stuck with a dozen different options for lunch and dinner for the rest of our lives. The menus are absolutely no help. Some days, lunch is sandwich with 2 slices of bread, 6-8 ounces of meat and cheese, lettuce and tomato; other days it's a chicken breast. That's it -- a chicken breast. Same for dinner -- one night it's a pasta, salmon and spinach dish, with 8 ounces of pasta for 2 people, another night it's grilled salmon and green beans. I laughed out loud when he says on p. 113 that the dinners are "designed to be rich in fiber so you will feel full yet eat less." Where is the fiber in grilled salmon and green beans or a flatiron steak with tomato-cucumber salad?

The menu plans include quite a few foods that are pretty expensive -- filet mignon, shrimp, scallops -- and can be hard to find. He says that he loves shrimp, and it shows, with at least 7 meals calling for it in 30 days; beef appears at least 7 times, including at breakfast, but pork only appears twice in the entire 30 days. Actual fish (salmon, halibut, etc.) appears 14 times, including several canned tuna sandwiches. We eat fish at least 3 nights a week, and have it for lunch at least once, so our diet is already superior to this one. Most of the remaining lunches and dinners are built around chicken breast or turkey. There are two or three vegetarian options.

Some foods only appear once in a week, which begs the question of what to do with the leftovers. You can't buy just one handful of edamame. The recipes themselves are unsophisticated and relatively bland. They are definitely created by a nutritionist, not a chef, and there really is not enough information in the book to allow for improving them in an appropriate way. If I could return it for a full refund, I would. Just wait until you can check it out of the public library.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 6, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
What I really liked about this book was the easy to read explanations for different kinds of fats, carbs, and why we should not have diet drinks. The diet samples and recipes are easy and use readily found "real" food; versus manufactured low-cal diet products, that won't rock your pocketbook.

This book is well written with common sense, no calorie counting and easy to use ideas. Tips to stay on track and what to avoid. Nothing really new, but stresses the one really big idea of a live-style change instead of dieting.

I will add this book to my other favorite diet books from Prevention Magazine that include 400 calorie meals.

Recommend for ease of use.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There is a lot of valuable information in this book, and presented in a way that helps apply it in daily life.
There are a huge number of weight control books and very few combine as many reasonable, reliable, research based
principles as this one. Overall it is a very valuable resource. There is a good mix of principles and practical suggestions.

The motivation behind weight control, in the author's view, is health. Overweight correlates with risk of premature death through metabolic diseases, dramatically spiking at about 25-30 pounds overweight, and the risk is most reliably correlated with accurately measured waist size because of the role of visceral fat.

The premise for the approach is that quantity and quality of food both matter to weight control, because it appears that counting calories and weighing and measuring food simply do not work for most people in practice. We are notoriously terrible at estimating energy intake and expenditure, and measuring doesn't help except under highly controlled temporary conditions. That's why habits, appetite, and hormone levels are the primary focus of effective programs, rather than just controlling how many calories we take in or how many we expend. So far, this seems to reflect the general consensus of the most effective programs, and thankfully goes against the traditional view of counting calories.

The book talks quite a bit about habits and rewards but its consistent focus is the food quality ideas derived from the contemporary research on the Mediterranean diet, favoring fish, veggies, fruit, yogurt, cheese, and olive oil.

There are three main weak spots in this book from my perspective, all three involving rigor in the author's selection and interpretation of research evidence. These are serious because the author presents himself as an expert not only in nutrition and health but in research interpretation. His arguments therefore rely on that stipulation of expertise for his assumed voice of authority. The three areas where he fails are around the topics of saturated fat, whole grains, and ancestral health based guidelines.

First, the book makes no mention of the legitimate scientific questions that have been raised by some researchers in recent years about the role of saturated fat in health. These are tied to the questioning of the most simplistic version of the hypercholesterimia theory of heart disease, and perhaps the author considered this controversy to muddy the waters more than help. He mentions coconut oil (which is often said to have health benefits, with some research to support it) but concludes that the jury is still out. There are cracks in the argument against red meat and saturated fat in general that the author dismisses far too glibly because he says it just doesn't seem right. This is a telling lack of rigor in his analysis of the available evidence.

Second, the book consistently shows a strong preference for whole grains over other grains. The data on this is very equivocal. It isn't clear at all that replacing each grain with its "whole" version is of significant benefit. The additional amount of fiber an the difference in glycemic index is insignificant in most cases for practical purposes, especially when used in an otherwise varied meal rather than by itself. There is also some evidence that whole grains may block the absorption of important nutrients. These may not be important issues overall in practice, but the author simply ignores their existence, as he does with the saturated fat controversy.

Third, the author badly misrepresents the ancestral health movement, and significantly underestimates the value of ancestral health concepts as powerful heuristics for guiding intake and activity decisions. Too many people have succeeded dramatically with it and too much research has supported the central principles of ancestral health to simply dismiss it as a fad. The author elsewhere usefully identifies a common central characteristic of a fad diet, it reduces calorie intake without concern with overall health. Ancestral health based programs are the opposite of that, their focus is entirely on health rather than reducing calories. For the most part, cncestral health principles are entirely consistent with the principles Whyte espouses, except for the areas I identified above as weak spots in Whyte's arguments, his ignoring the saturated fat controversy and his taking the value of whole grains for granted. The only place he really differs with ancestral health based programs (except the excessively strict ones) is that he allows grains so long as they are whole grains, and most ancestral health programs consider grains bad in general.

I have to conclude from this book that the author simply ignored or was unfamiliar with the available research in these three areas or that he wanted to produce a simplified set of guidelines free of actual controversies for rhetorical purposes.

Overall, this book is a very valuable resource, and if you are confused about where to start for healthier eating,
it would be a great place to start. The "AARP" slant in the marketing isn't really relevant except for the fact that older people will probably be more concerned with health and longevity rather than appearance, and that is the focus of the book as well. Also, the focus on "American" is just because the book takes a mixture of the standard American diet and the Mediterranean Diet as its baseline. The book is more generally applicable than the title implies.

Updated 12/17/2012: Added further reading

Here are some other good resources on healthy eating that complement the New American Diet in various ways by filling in those missing areas of research:

The cholesterol skeptic's argument, a critical aspect of the argument against saturated fat not being as bad for health as commonly thought is presented well in Anthony Colpo's book. There are others, but I like his rigor and his style is entertaining. The Great Cholesterol Con

The Perfect Health Diet by the Jaminets is another good research-based resource where the authors were very rigorous in their selection and analysis of evidence and came to very useful models and conclusions. This one ends up with something not too far from the Mediterranean Diet in the New American Diet book but finds that certain grains are much less a problem that others. Makes other useful distinctions as well. Derives a model based on optimal intake of each different kind of nutrient rather than viewing some things as toxic and some as safe. The result is a Pacific Islander-style diet that I think many people will find very palatable as a routine way of eating. A great complement to NAD and also a good example of how the ancestral health concept can have real practical value in shaping our thinking about nutrition and health. Perfect Health Diet

Here's a bonus, this is less rigorous and more speculative way to look at the evidence but revolutionary in its implications if true, the idea that our diet helps shape gene expression over time, and that this makes healthy eating even more important than most of us assume. "Deep Nutrition" Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food
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