Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

The Olive Oil Hunter News #129

Pasta e Fagioli Salad Recipe, Spotlight on Tomatoes, How to Quick Soak Beans and Guard Against Forever Chemicals (PFAS), Plus Exercise and Inflammation

Looking for a satisfying dish that requires a minimum of cooking? You’ll love this adaptation of the classic pasta e fagioli soup, a unique way to savor ripe tomatoes (turning large tomatoes into chunks will work as well as the cherry tomatoes). Canned beans offer convenience, but you can try my quick hack for soaking dried beans if you’d like to make your own. You’ll also find strategies to limit exposure to dangerous PFAS (dubbed “forever chemicals”) and insights into how exercise delivers health benefits. 

Pasta e Fagioli Salad

  • Pasta e Fagioli Salad Pasta e Fagioli Salad

    You know pasta e fagioli as a hearty soup that stars the tiny pasta tubes called ditalini and creamy white beans, perfect for chilly nights. But there’s no reason to “table” this great combination when you can give it a summery twist: a salad composed of all its delicious ingredients, plus a sweet-tart vinaigrette great for all kinds of salads. If you can’t find ditalini, you can use any small-sized pasta—the idea is to get a variety close to the size of the beans. For another layer of flavor, top with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.


    • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar of Modena 
    • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
    • 1/2 garlic clove, minced 
    • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
    • 3 cups cooked cannellini beans or one 29-ounce can, rinsed and drained
    • 3 cups cooked pasta, such as ditalini
    • 3 cups cherry tomatoes 
    • 1 medium red onion, slivered
    • 2 tablespoons each chopped fresh parsley and basil, plus more for garnish


    Step 1

    Make the vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, whisk together the two vinegars, mustard, honey, salt, and garlic. Gradually whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

    Step 2

    Place the beans, pasta, tomatoes, red onion, and herbs in a large glass bowl and pour on the vinaigrette. Toss gently to coat. Serve at room temperature or chilled, garnished with more herbs.

    Yields 6 generous servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

There’s no better time to enjoy tomatoes than summer. For the sweetest cherry tomatoes, look for Sungolds and other bright-yellow varieties—wonderful in the pasta e fagioli salad. I love to stuff huge beefsteak tomatoes with tuna flakes from a just-grilled filet and then drizzle them with a vinaigrette. Don’t forget to sample heirloom tomatoes in fanciful colors and shapes. 

When shopping your local farmers’ markets, look for tomatoes with smooth, mostly unblemished skin, but remember that organic tomatoes may not look picture-perfect, and that’s OK. More important is that the tomatoes feel ripe all around—firm, but not hard, and definitely not squishy. Then give them the sniff test—they should smell like…tomatoes!

Quick Kitchen Nugget: A Fast Way to Soak Dried Beans

Quick Kitchen Nugget

A Fast Way to Soak Dried Beans

One reason to buy dried beans rather than canned is the greater variety available, plus you control the salt. But, of course, that involves remembering to first soak the beans and then cooking them until tender. Here’s a hack to speed up the process—it’s especially handy if you forget to soak the beans the night before you want to use them.

Step 1: “Hot soak” the dried beans. In a large pot, add 1 pound of dried beans and 6 cups of cold water (multiply as needed). Bring to a boil, and boil for 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let soak for 1 hour.

Step 2: Cook the soaked beans. Drain and rinse the beans in cool water, and wash out the pot. Return the beans to the cleaned pot and cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender, but not mushy, about 1 hour for cannellini beans (larger beans may take up to an hour more). 

For Your Best Health: Guarding Against “Forever Chemicals”

For Your Best Health

Guarding Against “Forever Chemicals”

News of chemical manufacturer 3M agreeing to pay over $10 billion to settle lawsuits over contamination of many US public drinking water systems by its harmful compounds has brought national attention to the problem of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS. They’re called forever chemicals because they don’t degrade naturally in the environment. And they’re dangerous—exposure over time has been linked to health problems, including liver and immune-system damage, heart disease, some cancers, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and decreased fertility, according to experts at Hartford Healthcare.

Here’s advice from the watchdog group NRDC you can use to protect yourself:

  • Replace nonstick pans with stainless steel, cast-iron, glass, or ceramic alternatives.
  • Consider transferring store-bought foods to glass containers when you get home. Don’t heat food wrapped in grease-resistant packaging or reheat leftovers in takeout containers. Make popcorn on the stovetop instead of in PFAS-treated microwave bags. Look for BPI-certified compostable packaging, which doesn’t contain PFAS.
  • Choose clothing brands that have removed PFAS from their lines, such as American Eagle and L.L.Bean.
  • Avoid buying any home furnishings labeled water- or stain-repellent, which likely involve treatments that use PFAS.
  • Install reverse osmosis filters on your water faucets to get PFAS out of your drinking water.
Fitness Flash: How Exercise Helps with Inflammation

Fitness Flash

How Exercise Helps with Inflammation

Researchers have long known that moderate exercise has a beneficial impact on the body’s response to inflammation, but what’s been less understood is why. New research done on a mouse model at York University in Toronto, Canada, suggests that the answers may lie within the body’s macrophages, white blood cells responsible for killing off infections, healing injury, and otherwise acting as your internal first responders.

“Much like you train your muscles through exercise, we showed that exercise of moderate intensity ended up training the precursors of those macrophages in the bone marrow,” says Ali Abdul-Sater, PhD, associate professor in the University’s School of Kinesiology and Health Science and York Research Chair. “The way that exercise is doing this is by changing the way those cells breathe—essentially, how they use oxygen to generate energy and then changing the way they access their DNA.”

While many studies have looked at temporary boosts to the immune system immediately after exercise, this study, published in the American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology, found these changes occurred even a week later, suggesting that they are long term. 

“Inflammation is amazing—it’s a very important part of our normal immune response,” says Dr. Abdul-Sater. Inflammation is the body’s response to infection and other stressors, and some level of inflammation is necessary and desirable. “What we’re concerned about is excessive inflammation,” he explains. “Heart disease, diabetes, many cancers, and autoimmune diseases all essentially begin because there was an inappropriate inflammatory response.”

The study found that, for active mice, it was around the six-to-eight-week mark into the exercise regimen when changes really became apparent. “There’s a lot of rewiring that’s taking place in the circuitry of how the cells breathe, how the cells metabolize glucose, how the cells then access DNA. So all that just takes time.”

Dr. Abdul-Sater says that because the inflammatory response is a very ancient one, this aspect of the immune system is generally very similar across mammals, and he expects the research will translate well to people. In the next phase, the team will collect immune cells from human volunteers who will do exercises of various intensities to see which workout routines are most beneficial to balance the inflammatory response. 

“The thing with humans is there’s no intervention that will work on everyone. We know that, but what this study suggests is that moderate and persistent exercise not only improves metabolic health, but also will improve immune health in the long run.”

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #124

Chicken with Cashew-Cilantro Sauce Recipe, How to Choose Foster Well-being with Healthy Fatty Acids—Another Contributor to the Benefits of Olive Oil

When it comes to most studies on the benefits of olive oil, polyphenols get all the attention, yet these micronutrients add up to just a fraction of the oil’s content. Extra virgin olive oil is primarily made up of a monounsaturated fatty acid called oleic acid, which contributes to the healthful benefits of olive oil as well, according to a study done in Spain, which I’m sharing. The following chicken recipe is a delicious way to get these benefits!

Chicken with Cashew-Cilantro Sauce

  • Cashew and Cilantro Pesto Chicken with Cashew-Cilantro Sauce

    This recipe brings together many strong flavors that meld beautifully—the sweetness of the cashews, the citrusy zest of the lime, the spiciness of the pepper and the garlic. You can make the sauce and marinate the chicken a day ahead; cover both and refrigerate until needed (allow the sauce to come to room temperature before serving). Although you can grill the chicken, it bakes up quickly in the oven. If you can’t find the sweet soy sauce known as kecap manis at your local supermarket or Asian market, substitute 2 tablespoons regular soy sauce and 1 tablespoon sugar. 


    • 2 cups raw or low-sodium roasted cashews
    • 1 cup cilantro with stems, loosely packed
    • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/3 cup water
    • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
    • 3 tablespoons sweet soy (kecap manis)
    • 1 fresh jalapeño pepper, stemmed (remove the seeds for a milder taste)
    • Zest of a large lime 
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice 
    • 4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs 


    Step 1

    If using raw cashews, toast them in the oven at 350°F for 10 minutes to bring out their flavor. Place all the ingredients except the chicken in your food processor and pulse until you get a thick and chunky sauce. Transfer all but ¾ cup to a serving bowl and reserve. Place the chicken in a large bowl and add the ¾ cup of the sauce. Use your hands to coat the chicken thoroughly. 

    Step 2

    Preheat your oven to 385°F. Transfer the chicken to two rimmed sheet pans that have been lined with parchment paper. Bake for 35 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Turn on the broiler and place each pan under it, one at a time, for 3 minutes for a nice crisp.

    Step 3

    To serve, top each thigh with a dollop of the reserved cashew-cilantro sauce and pass the rest on the side.

    Yields 6-8 servings

Fitness Flash: Fostering Well-being with Healthy Fatty Acids

Fostering Well-being with Healthy Fatty Acids

Another contributor to the benefits of olive oil 

The Study

“Update on Anti-Inflammatory Molecular Mechanisms Induced by Oleic Acid,” Nutrients, 2023

The Findings

“Oleic acid, the principal component of olive oil, has properties that help to prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s disease and to lower cholesterol.”

A Summary of the Study from the University of Seville

“The health benefits of olive oil, which are commonly attributed to its minor components such as polyphenols, are now well recognized by science. But little attention has been paid to oleic acid, which represents 70 to 80 percent of the oil’s composition. That is why a group of professors from the Faculties of Pharmacy and Medicine at the University of Seville, in conjunction with professionals from the Seville North and Aljarafe Health District and the Costa del Sol Hospital, have produced a study on oleic acid’s main contributions to health. This fatty acid is the main constituent of olive oil and is responsible for many health-promoting properties. Oleic acid is produced by the diet and synthesis in the body itself, and is the most abundant monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) in the human diet.

“The Mediterranean diet is the most widely recognized diet for preventing disease and slowing the effects of aging. The olive tree (Olea europaea L.) is abundant in the Mediterranean basin, and olive oil, which is extracted from its fruit, is the most characteristic item and the main fat in this diet, which is also marked by a high vegetable intake, moderate fish consumption, low-to-moderate dairy consumption, low red meat intake and moderate wine consumption.

“Oleic acid is the principal MUFA in the human circulatory system. In the brain, it is a major component of membrane phospholipids and abounds in the neuronal myelin sheaths. A significantly decreased level of oleic acid has been observed in the brains of patients suffering from major depressive disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Like all free fatty acids, oleic acid’s main function is that of an energy molecule and a component of cell membranes. One of its most characteristic qualities is its antioxidant properties, since it can directly regulate both the synthesis and the activity of antioxidant enzymes. Another beneficial property is its hypocholesterolemic effect: It inhibits the expression of proteins associated with cholesterol transport, reducing cholesterol absorption and thus preventing atherosclerosis.

“Oleic acid is also recognized as an anti-cancer molecule because of its inhibitory effects on the overexpression of oncogenes and their effects on programmed cell death. Moreover, oleic acid is generally considered an anti-inflammatory molecule, although this quality is still under debate among scientists.

Furthermore, “oleoylethanolamide, a derivative of oleic acid, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of its own and has now been proposed as a potent therapeutic agent to treat obesity. This underlines the benefits of oleic acid for health. Emerging research suggests that it may influence epigenetic mechanisms (direct modifications of DNA and DNA-associated proteins) and may help modulate the immune system, specifically by regulating cells involved in developing inflammation.”

The authors of this study do point out that research on olive oil has been done with animals and that there’s a need for further research to confirm the significant properties shown by oleic acid and its derivatives in people.

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #103

Very Berry Muffins Recipe, and The Power of a Polyphenol: Exciting Developments Show Extra Virgin Olive Oil’s Role as a Functional Food

As your Olive Oil Hunter, I travel the globe to find the most flavorful extra virgin olive oils, often described as one-, two-, or even three-cough oils because of the reaction elicited by their pepperiness. Turns out this pepperiness isn’t just an indicator of great taste—it’s also a sign that you’ll get all the benefits of the olive oil. The cough is caused by the oil’s special polyphenols, and those polyphenols are exactly where most of its benefits come from. Want a delicious way to get your fill? Try these scrumptious muffins—so good they can double as dessert—and then read about the one polyphenol in particular that’s getting researchers’ attention.

Very Berry Muffins

  • Very BlueBerry Muffins Very Berry Muffins

    These extra-moist muffins provide a blueberry explosion in every bite. You won’t have to hunt for the fruit because tossing the berries in a small amount of flour keeps them from sinking to the bottom.


    • 3 heaping cups blueberries, rinsed and patted dry
    • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon white whole wheat flour
    • 1 cup all-purpose or pastry flour
    • 2-½ teaspoons baking powder 
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 3/4 cup cottage cheese
    • 1/4 cup sour cream
    • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 scant cup sugar  
    • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla paste or extract 


    Step 1

    Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 12-muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or a small amount of olive oil. 

    Step 2

    Toss the blueberries with the tablespoon of white whole wheat flour and set aside. Mix the rest of the dry ingredients in a bowl. 

    Step 3

    In a second, larger bowl, whisk the cottage cheese, sour cream, and yogurt until smooth, then whisk in the eggs and sugar and, when blended, the oil and vanilla. 

    Step 4

    Fold in the flour mixture and then the blueberries. Use a large ice cream scoop to fill the muffin cups, mounding the batter in the center. (The batter will completely fill the cups.)

    Step 5

    Bake for about 45 minutes, until the tip of a knife inserted in the center of two or three muffins doesn’t show any raw batter—there may be some blueberry on it. Let the muffins cool for about 15 minutes before eating.

    Yields 12 large muffins

The Power of a Polyphenol ​

For Your Best Health

The Power of a Polyphenol ​

Extra virgin olive oil gets high marks for its healthy fats called monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs. But research is showing that one of EVOO’s greatest gifts to health is likely a polyphenol that most of us would have a hard time nailing at a spelling bee: oleocanthal. Olive oil contains about 36 different healthful phenolic compounds in all, yet together with other secondary plant metabolites, these make up just 2 percent of its total weight—another example of good things coming in small packages!

Though people have been enjoying olive oil for thousands of years, oleocanthal wasn’t identified as a phenolic compound in EVOO until the early ’90s when it went by the even-harder-to-spell decarboxymethyl ligstroside aglycone, according to a review of its beneficial effects on inflammatory disease published in 2014 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. And it wasn’t until the ’00s that a group of scientists pinpointed it as the sole source of the peppery sensation you get from high-quality EVOO. They appropriately renamed it oleocanthal—oleo for olive, canth for sting, and al for aldehyde. 

You already know that hundreds of studies have been done on the Mediterranean diet with olive oil as its heart. A new review, “The Mediterranean Diet: An Update of the Clinical Trials,” which was published in 2022 in the journal Nutrients, summed up the main findings very well: A detailed analysis of 32 observational studies revealed that olive oil consumption “decreased the risk of stroke, CHD, and diabetes and improved some metabolic and inflammatory biomarkers.” What the report also detailed is that EVOO’s phenolic compounds help fight disease by fighting inflammation and boosting the immune system. 

Recently, more and more studies have been looking at the benefits of olive oil derived from oleocanthal in particular because, as the Nutrients’ report states, it helps inhibit the activity of COX1 and 2, key enzymes that drive the inflammatory process. With inflammation being the starting point of many health conditions, limiting levels in the body is important.

Here are some of the clinical trials the report homed in on to show oleocanthal’s potential:

One small study looked at whether following a high-quality extra virgin olive oil or HQ-EVOO- enriched MedDiet could lower inflammation in overweight or obese people—excess weight is an inflammatory condition that stresses the body. The researchers put two groups of people, one overweight or obese and the other of normal weight, on the diet for three months. Interestingly, both groups showed benefits at the end of the study—lower inflammation and oxidative stress and better gut microbiota composition “mainly related to the diet’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.” This finding opens the door to doing larger studies to pinpoint diet-related interventions to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in people above a healthy weight. The report also concluded that, based on this and similar clinical trials, “strict and long-lasting adherence to a MedDiet seems to be essential for its interventional improvements.”

Other clinical trials hint at a better understanding of oleocanthal’s potential anti-cancer properties and the role it could play, within the larger context of nutrition, in terms of both preventing and managing cancer. One small study involving people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL, a blood cancer, found evidence of the beneficial effects of EVOO with high levels of oleocanthal (OL) and another polyphenol, oleacein (OC). As the report stated, “The authors specified that this was a pilot study mainly focused on the tolerability of the intervention with high OC/OL EVOO,” meaning simply whether people with CLL could follow such a diet without ill effects. What the researchers found went beyond that: Their preliminary “data revealed a beneficial effect of high OC/OL EVOO on hematological [blood] and biochemical markers.” 

Small clinical trials like these are very promising, but the report’s authors caution that, as with all small trials, they need to be repeated with much larger groups of people to confirm findings. Still, these are exciting developments that show extra virgin olive oil’s role as a functional food in addition to its wonderful taste.

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #78

Roast Chicken with Pumpkin Seed Pesto Recipe and Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) and Cancer Prevention

We know from a wealth of studies that the Mediterranean diet can help prevent various types of cancer, notably colon cancer, thanks to the abundant fiber in many of its foods. Equally exciting research now highlights the benefits of olive oil in particular in helping with cancer prevention, and it’s thanks to a very specific nutrient, oleocanthal. 

Fitness Flash: Gut Health and Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) and Cancer Prevention

The Research: “Olive oil intake and cancer risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” PLoS One (2021).

“(-)-Oleocanthal and (-)-oleocanthal-rich olive oils induce lysosomal membrane permeabilization in cancer cells,” PLoS One (2019).

“(-)-Oleocanthal rapidly and selectively induces cancer cell death via lysosomal membrane permeabilization,” Molecular and Cellular Oncology (2015).

For the PLoS One review, done at the University of Athens in Greece, scientists analyzed 45 studies and found that the “highest olive oil consumption was associated with 31 percent lower likelihood of any cancer, breast, gastrointestinal, upper aerodigestive, and urinary tract cancer. Significant overall effects spanned both Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean participants.” They concluded:  

“Olive oil consumption seems to exert beneficial actions in terms of cancer prevention.”

Studies done at Hunter College in collaboration with scientists from other New York area institutions help explain what might give extra virgin olive oil or EVOO, known for its anti-inflammatory properties, this cancer-fighting ability. For the Molecular and Cellular Oncology study, Hunter professor David A. Foster, PhD, and his coauthors, identified the role of oleocanthal (OC), a phenolic compound in EVOO, already credited for the health benefits linked to diets rich in EVOO. The team “investigated the effect of OC on human cancer cell lines in culture and found that OC induced cell death in all cancer cells examined as rapidly as 30 minutes.” 

It turns out that oleocanthal damages cancer cells’ lysosomes, cell components that contain enzymes used to break down larger molecules like proteins. As explained in a news report from Hunter College, “The oleocanthal degrades the integrity of the lysosomal membrane, releasing the enzymes into the cells’ cytoplasm, which leads to cell death. Cancer cells often have larger and more numerous lysosomes, making them more vulnerable to oleocanthal than other cells.” 

According to the scientists, different olive oils have different oleocanthal concentrations due to their origin, harvest time, and processing methods. For the 2019 PLoS One study, the researchers, including scientists from Weill Cornell Medicine, Rutgers University, and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, along with Hunter, tested a variety of olive oils to determine their respective concentrations of oleocanthal, ranging from very low to very high. The olive oils with high oleocanthal content completely killed cancer cells in a manner similar to purified oleocanthal. The olive oils with average oleocanthal content reduced their viability, but to a lesser extent. Those with no oleocanthal had no effect.

The researchers also tested oleocanthal’s effects by injecting it into mice engineered to develop pancreatic tumors. The oleocanthal injections extended the lives of the mice by an average of four weeks. If it were to have the same effect in humans, which is as yet unknown, that could translate to over 10 years. 

“Whether oleocanthal can be used as a magic bullet to target cancer cells is not clear,” says Dr. Foster. “However, the data provided in this article validate studies indicating that extra virgin olive oils can prevent cancer.”

“Today, there are no brands of olive oil sold at grocery stores in the United States that mention ‘oleocanthal’ or other polyphenols on their label, and this might change as producers of olive oil catch up with the scientific research, and consumers become more savvy,” says Limor Goren, PhD, research associate at Hunter College and lead author of the 2019 study. She adds that consumers can also do their own taste test for oleocanthal: “Taste a small amount of an extra virgin olive oil; if there is a signature stinging sensation felt at the back of the throat, that is an indication of oleocanthal. It should feel peppery.”

Roast Chicken with Pumpkin Seed Pesto

  • Pumpkin Seed Pesto Roast Chicken with Pumpkin Seed Pesto

    This South American-inspired olive oil-rich pesto elevates simple roasted chicken and packs an herby punch. 


    • 1 3-1/2- to 4-pound chicken 
    • 2 tablespoons, separated, plus 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil 
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
    • 1/2 cup hulled green pumpkin seeds (pepitas), unsalted 
    • 1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, rinsed and patted dry
    • 1/2 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, rinsed and patted dry
    • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped 
    • 2 tablespoons water, more as needed
    • 1 tablespoon fresh lime, more to taste
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin 


    Step 1

    Preheat your oven to 400°F. Place the chicken on a rack in a shallow roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. Rub the chicken with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season the inside and outside generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 60 to 70 minutes or until the internal temperature in the thickest part of a thigh is 165°F. Let rest for 10 minutes before carving.  

    Step 2

    While the chicken is roasting, prepare the pesto. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a medium-hot skillet, and add the pumpkin seeds. Sauté until the seeds begin to pop, about 2 minutes, but don’t let them burn. Cool, and then transfer the seeds to the bowl of a food processor. Add the cilantro, parsley, garlic, water, lime juice, and cumin, and pulse several times. With the machine running, slowly add 1/3 cup olive oil until you get a purée. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add more lime juice if needed. (If it’s too thick, add additional water, one tablespoon at a time.) Serve with the chicken. Refrigerate any leftover pesto to use as a dip. 

    Yields 2-3 servings

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