Do You Have a Fatty Liver? 90 Million Americans Do!

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The most common disease in America is something you probably never heard of, but it affects 90 million Americans and is a major risk factor for diabetes, heart attacks, and even cancer.

It is called NALFD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) or fatty liver, for short, and is caused by the 152 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of flour in our diet.

How do you know if you have it? What’s causing it? And how do you fix it? Do you exercise, take drugs, change your diet, or take supplements to fix it?

Many of you are probably wondering, “What is a fatty liver?” Some of you may have heard of foie gras. Foie gras is the French term for fatty liver that is used to describe a delicacy made from duck or goose liver. What happens to the livers of these animals as a result of the controversial practice of overfeeding is what you could be doing to your own liver, unknowingly. For those people who have this disease, essentially what they have is a liver that is full of fat, and that is a major cause of chronic disease and inflammation in the body.

How is it that we live in a country where fatty liver is the single most common disease, but most people have never even heard of it? 70 to 90 million Americans have a fatty liver and almost none of them know they have it. In fact, you might have it, as well, and not even know it.

What causes it?

In order to make foie gras, ducks or geese are force-fed sugar in the form of corn and starch—a sad practice. In the body, this sugar turns on a fat-production factory in the liver, a process known as lipogenesis, which is the body’s normal response to sugar. Fructose actually ramps up the lipogenesis response.

The high fructose corn syrup found in our processed foods is the single biggest cause of fatty liver. Soda, which, frighteningly, is the number one source of calories in the American diet, is, then, the biggest cause of fatty liver.

How do you know if you have it?

There are blood tests available that can detect a fatty liver. You can also see it on an ultrasound. And if your test comes back abnormal, you are in trouble. But even if your test comes back normal, you might not be out of the woods. It’s important to know that a liver function test doesn’t always detect a fatty liver. An ultrasound can be more sensitive.

The bottom line is, if you eat a lot of sugar and flour, if you have a little bit of belly fat, or if you crave carbs, starch, and sugar, you probably have this.

Why is this a problem?

Fatty liver creates a whole cascade of issues. It causes inflammation in your body. This inflammation creates insulin resistance and pre-diabetes, which causes your body to deposit fat not just in your liver but also all around your organs and in your belly.

That dangerous belly fat caused by the sugar and starch in your diet then creates even more problems. It causes you to have high triglycerides and low HDL, the good cholesterol. It causes you to have small LDL, the dangerous cholesterol particles that cause heart attacks.

In fact, having a fatty liver puts you at great risk for having a heart attack, and most people have no idea they have it. Certain populations like Latin Americans have a much higher risk of having a fatty liver.

And shockingly, now, we see 12-year-old boys who have lived on soda for years needing liver transplants from fatty liver. That’s pretty scary, and we really need to think about what we are doing to our children by feeding them these toxic substances.

When you have a fatty liver, you need to think about the damage it’s causing. You don’t want to end up with a liver transplant. You don’t want to end up needing to be on medications to fix the complications of a fatty liver like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and abnormal cholesterol. You want to get to the root of the problem.

How to fix your fatty liver

There are some really simple things you can do with diet, exercise, and supplements to help heal your fatty liver.

  • Cut out all high fructose corn syrup from your diet. If you see it on any label for any product—whether it’s a salad dressing or ketchup or tomato sauce—don’t eat it. Think about it: most servings of tomato sauce that you buy in a jar have more sugar than a serving of Oreo cookies. Get rid of all that high fructose corn syrup from your diet, 100 percent, no exceptions.
  • Reduce or eliminate starch. Get rid of white, processed flour. Even whole grain flours can be a problem. It’s common to find too much of these starchy foods in the classic American diet, or what we call the SAD (Standard American Diet). All of those things will promote a fatty liver. You may be surprised to learn that it’s actually not fat that causes a fatty liver. It’s sugar. To learn more about why this is true, check out my book, The Blood Sugar Solution.
  • Add some good things to your diet to help heal your fatty liver. Add plenty of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Add lean animal protein like chicken and fish. Add good oils like olive oil, macadamia nut oil, avocados, coconut butter, and fish oil. Good fats like these are anti-inflammatory, and they help repair your liver.
  • Improve your metabolism through exercise. This is a fabulous way to improve insulin resistance and reduce fatty liver.
  • Use the right supplements. I do a lot of this with my patients, and I find it very effective. We give them herbs like Milk Thistle. We use things like Lipoic Acid, a powerful antioxidant, and N-Acetyl-l-Cysteine. These things help boost something in your liver called glutathione. I encourage you to read my blog on glutathione, which talks about how this wonderful detox substance in your liver can be regenerated with certain supplements. And we use other things like B vitamins and magnesium. All these things will help your liver repair and heal.
  • Eat detoxifying liver-repairing super foods. Focus on the broccoli family. I love this family of foods, and I try to have at least a cup or two every day. Kale, collards, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, arugula, daikon radish—all wonderful foods that help repair and heal your liver. Garlic and onions, also, are full of sulfur, which is a great detoxifier.

I promise you, you don’t want a fatty liver. You need a healthy liver to help you deal with all the junk and chemicals in our environment. When you have a healthy liver, your body stays healthy, you don’t get sick, and you can feel good, which is what I want for everybody.

So, now I’d like to hear from you…

  • Are you concerned you may be at risk for fatty liver?
  • Have you been diagnosed?
  • What have you tried that has helped you? Or what hasn’t worked?

Share your questions and experiences in the comments section below, so that you may help others or others may help you. Share this House Call with your friends and family, and subscribe to receive one every week. Join me on Facebook and Twitter, and submit your questions, so that next week, I may make a House Call to you.

39 Responses to Do You Have a Fatty Liver? 90 Million Americans Do!

  1. Thomas Griffin November 7, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    Will detoxing the liver help repair it from fatty liver disease?

    • Avatar of Team Hyman
      Team Hyman December 30, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

      Thomas this is the idea! Good luck and keep us posted!

  2. fatty liver diagnosis December 4, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    I recently received a test result indicating a liver issue, and my Dr. said it is 95% likely to be a fatty liver, which he said is of no concern. In reading your article, I tend to agree with everything you’ve said here. My Dr. asked me to get an ultrasound of the liver and re-test my blood in 2mo’s. Do you think I should bother with the ultrasound, or should I continue doing eating healthy like I have been doing for the past few weeks and re-test and see if there is a difference?

    • Avatar of Team Hyman
      Team Hyman December 27, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

      Thank you for your interest In Dr. Hyman’s work. Unfortunately he cannot provide you personalized medical advice in this forum. In order to provide you the proper care you need we hope you will seek the attention of a local qualified Functional Med practitioner soon. To locate a doctor near you who practices functional medicine like Dr. Hyman, go to http://www.functionalmedicine.org/practitioner_search.aspx?id=117 and scroll down to where it says “locate a practitioner” and enter your location. Progress accordingly from there.
      You can also make an appointment to be a patient at Dr.Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, MA. Please go to: http://www.ultrawellnesscenter.com/becoming-a-patient/
      Did you know you can work with Dr. Hyman’s nutritionists virtually? For personalized nutrition coaching, please see: http://store.drhyman.com/Store/List/Coaching-Programs
      In Good Health,
      Dr. Hyman’s Wellness Staff

  3. Joaquin Mills December 7, 2013 at 5:07 am #

    Thank Dr.Hyman, I am addicted to sugar but learning to say no.I believe this is the cause of my problems. I have your book Ultramind soulution due to my adhd. I have started college at 48 years old, I would never have thought it possible before implimenting a lot of things from your book. I am so far an A- b student at cmcc in Auburn Maine. I dropped outout of high school because of adhd I thought I was stupid I am trying to get myself a functional med. Dr. But right now I am reading your book about sugar. THANK YOU so much for the work you do.I hope you have many blessings in this liftime and the next. Joaquin

  4. dianna December 13, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    I am a sonographer and I see this every single day. I have been scanning livers for 25 years and I would guess that more than 70 % of the abdomens I scan have fatty liver. This has increased over the years . I also now see fatty liver and gallstones in many more younger people than ever before. It has become epidemic in my practice. there has of course also been an increase in the number of over weight patients as well. I preach all of the things you talk about in the article above to everyone I know. We eat an abundance of cruciferous vegetables as well as garlic and good fats. I’m passing this article on to people I know as well. thank you for a great article on this subject.

  5. sreenivas December 23, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    I do have fatty liver begeening stage. please advise about what sort of food i can have also how to heal the fatt.

    thanks

    Sreenivas

    • Avatar of Team Hyman
      Team Hyman December 27, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

      Thank you for your interest In Dr. Hyman’s work. Unfortunately he cannot provide you personalized medical advice in this forum. In order to provide you the proper care you need we hope you will seek the attention of a local qualified Functional Med practitioner soon. To locate a doctor near you who practices functional medicine like Dr. Hyman, go to http://www.functionalmedicine.org/practitioner_search.aspx?id=117 and scroll down to where it says “locate a practitioner” and enter your location. Progress accordingly from there.
      You can also make an appointment to be a patient at Dr.Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, MA. Please go to: http://www.ultrawellnesscenter.com/becoming-a-patient/
      Did you know you can work with Dr. Hyman’s nutritionists virtually? For personalized nutrition coaching, please see: http://store.drhyman.com/Store/List/Coaching-Programs
      In Good Health,
      Dr. Hyman’s Wellness Staff

  6. Mike December 30, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    Hi Dr Hyman, My wife and I have a great deal of respect for you and the work you have done, we recently added your protein shake to our menu for breakfast in fact it is the only thing for our breakfast with the exception of two days a week. I do have NAFLD and I take it very serious as I understand the function of our liver and how much we need it to be healthy, I have recently added the supplements you have named to my diet and am very good at taking it everyday.

    My problems are quite complex as I think they all are caused by a Heterozygous MTHFR A1298C mutation along with a Homozygous MAO-A R297R. I am 49 male 250lbs. very active when not in the house depressed and wired from anxiety. The following are what I struggle everyday with…

    Anxiety and depression my whole life recently gotten much worse until I finally found a good ND who understands MTHFR mutation’s
    Crohn’s disease I am not sure I have ever suffered symptom’s although
    NAFLD diagnosed Summer 2012
    Gluten allergy started around 2000

    I stopped dairy for about 6 month’s only cheating rarely but have recently added it back because my ND told me for the first time ever I was low in calcium and protein and I almost never touch wheat. The wheat and dairy are extremely difficult for me as I was raised on heavy amounts of both and they are almost entirely in everything. Sugar is one that my wife and I have really faced a wake up call on as it is so damaging on so many levels mainly as an inflammatory agent.

    Thanks for all of your honest help

  7. Alleta Baltes January 24, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

    I have been following your advice for the past year, with probably 80% regularity. I loved the article about what to eat– canned sardines, olives, cut up veggies, small cooler, etc. on the go. My cholesterol dropped almost 100 points and my triglycerides dropped unbelievably too. My good fats LDL are still low — hard to accept I really can eat fat. Thanks for your wonderful advice. I am also exercising moderately daily for at least 30 minutes (most days, most weeks). Thanks for the great advice. Your work is amazing.

  8. LuAnn January 30, 2014 at 10:47 am #

    My doctor diagnosed me with fatty liver and basically led me to believe it was because I was fat. I never heard a word about sugar. Now my new doctor is opening my eyes which led me to your site. I am thankful to know what I actually “have” and how to take care of myself. I wonder how many other doctors are diagnosing and not helping their patients through this especially with something as important as your liver?

    • jan July 14, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

      I agree wholeheartedly! I was diagnosed with a fatty liver 20 years ago. I was 5′-8″ and 140 lbs. The Dr said the same thing… I needed to lose weight. Really! I was shocked. I was thin but what I didn’t know was that I was ‘skinny fat’ (not talked about 20 years ago). At the time, it was all about a low fat diet so by the Dr telling me I needed to lose weight, he effectively poisoned me with a high carb diet! Unbelievable! I am finally starting to understand my health issues but it hasn’t been because of my Doctors, it’s because of all the research (NIH and other med journals) that I started to read over the internet. If, 20 years ago, my Dr had said it was because i ate too much sugar and didn’t have enough muscle, I would of had an epiphany!! Instead, 20 years later, I have diabetes and a fatty liver! Both caused, not by too much weight, but by too much sugar. I appreciate Dr Hyman’s information and wished that the Medical field would start being more serious about ‘white death’ (sugar, salt, flour) and stop telling people that they are fat, when in truth, we don’t have enough muscle!

  9. Wendy April 30, 2014 at 4:40 pm #

    I am a 60 year old woman who exercises daily and am in excellent physical shape. I weigh 135 and am 5 7. I feel better than I did and look better now than when in my 50.s. I take vitamins and ear very healthy foods. I do drink 4 glasses or more of wine 4 to 5 nights a week yet drink it slowly. So is it the red wine! ? Sounds like it. It’s my only vice. But I cannot seem to go to one or two.

  10. Wendy April 30, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    Oh sorry. I was just diagnosed with fatty liver from the gallbladder ultrasound. I have pain in my upper right quadrant. Sometimes food affects it and I have just recently after eating become quite nauseous and vomited 3 or more times. The Murphy test revealed an inflammed gallbladder. However, the ultrasound did not. Just fatty liver. I’m awaiting blood test results.

  11. mary May 25, 2014 at 4:53 am #

    I’ve been telling my Dr for over 10 yrs now that I had pain in the upper right quadrant. They did a gallbladder scan but that came back clean. Nothing was mentioned about my liver. I’ve had numerous blood tests they found underactive thyroid, but nothing else.

    A number of years after starting with the pain I went into hospital for removal of a stomach tumour which was, according to the consultant surgeon, so large it was pushing up on my heart and lungs (it weighed over 20lbs). Still no mention of a fatty liver.

    Thing is, I’d still have the tumour if I’d listened to my Dr, he’d diagnosed me as ‘not wanting to go to work’ even though I was having all the symptoms of a heart attack, when I had them a second time I went straight to A&E and they did an MRI.

    I was recently sent for a US of my kidneys (had problems since a child) and it was only because I was saying to the sonographer about the pain that he scanned the area and it got diagnosed. However, all my Dr has said to me is that I need to lose weight.

    As I’ve only put on weight in the last couple of years, I struggled with what my Dr said about it being completely weight related. Now, having found your site, I realise that the thing for me is the soda.

    So maybe Dr’s also need educating on this as well as patients as they can kill us by not diagnosing it and telling us how to change our diets.

  12. Lynn June 6, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    Hi,
    I’m a 51 year old woman and I’m 5f 51/2 ” and weigh 184.
    I was recently diagnosed with:
    1. fatty liver disease
    2. percutaneous anemic
    3. vitamin B12 and D deficient
    4. disc degenerative , osteoarthritis
    5. high blood pressure due to an adrenal tumor issue . I am taking prescription meds for B P as I haven’t removed the benign tumor.

    I was already eating healthier foods due to my father (who is diabetic) living with us. Since the news of my health I also have cut out regular drinks and only drink diet drinks. I also use heart healthy oils and ingredients.
    My question is with all of my issues could I have something that connects all or most of my issues?
    and what else should I change example : the flours I use , certain foods I should have ? I’m really confused.

    • Avatar of Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff
      Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff July 31, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

      Hi Lynn,
      Thank you for your interest In Dr. Hyman’s work. Unfortunately he cannot provide you personalized medical advice in this forum. In order to provide you the proper care you need we hope you will seek the attention of a local qualified Functional Med practitioner soon. To locate a doctor near you who practices functional medicine like Dr. Hyman, go to http://www.functionalmedicine.org/practitioner_search.aspx?id=117 and scroll down to where it says “locate a practitioner” and enter your location. Progress accordingly from there.

      You can also make an appointment to be a patient at Dr.Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, MA. Please go to: http://www.ultrawellnesscenter.com/becoming-a-patient/.

      Did you know you can work with Dr. Hyman’s nutritionists virtually? For personalized nutrition coaching where you can receive 1:1 support with Registered Dietitians, please see: http://store.drhyman.com/Store/List/Coaching-Programs.
      Wishing you the best of health,
      Dr. Hyman Staff

  13. Rebecca June 13, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    I have been diagnosed with fatty liver disease. After a rather serious accident, I have also gained considerable weight in the last six months, and am having problems with swelling in my ankles and stiffness. Most weight gain around abdomen.
    I have just been cleared to regularly exercise again. I am researching your site to get back to normal weight and health. I also have Hepatits B from a long ago blood transfusion, but it has been in remission for years.
    I am concerned about my health and ready to improve it!
    My mother has been insulin dependent for years, my father had numerous heart surgeries before dying of pancreatic cancer last year. I am ready to get weight and liver under control and hopefully not have the genetics win!
    My two biggest desires- to be medication free while healing my liver and losing that extra 50 pounds….

    • Avatar of Team Hyman
      Team Hyman June 17, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

      Hi Rebecca,

      Sorry to hear about your recent issues but thrilled to hear you are ready to start your journey to health!
      You may want to check out the 10 Day Detox book and other resources for getting yourself back on track and
      jumpstart your new lifestyle.

  14. Kev June 14, 2014 at 12:16 am #

    Thanks for your help!

  15. chandradeep June 15, 2014 at 6:15 am #

    I am having fatty liver. can i take the Kirkland multivitamin tablets daily 1?
    Does these tablets cause any issues?

  16. Pete June 24, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    I was told a few years back I had fat around my liver. It was found after I had an accident and they subsequently did an MRI to scan for internal bleeding and such. Few years later I was told that my liver enzymes where slightly elevated. I also started feeling pressure on my right side by the lower side of my rib cage. That prompted another test and again my liver enzymes where elevated. Nothing was ever done since I never did any follow up blood test that where asked of me (I suffered from YIS; young and invisible syndrome). Now I went in the other day fr some unrelated pain on the left side which prompted an abdominal ultrasound for fear that my spleen could be enlarged. It turned out that my spleen was fine but again my liver was saying hey there … forgot about me.. I have a lot of fat now.. You might want to pay attention to me… And that I am. I have a visit scheduled with a gastroenterologist and I know for sure I am going to be told to follow all the suggestions outlined on this site. What I did not see was anything on artificial sweeteners. I am a diet coke addict and I know it can’t be good for me since I feel the pressure on my side every time I drink the darn thing (probably mental). Is there a link between excess artificial sweeteners and liver disease?

  17. Melia Cartier June 25, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    Sign me up for Dr. Hyman’s weekly Q & A

    • Avatar of Team Hyman
      Team Hyman June 29, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

      Hi Melia,

      There is no weekly Q & A with Dr. Hyman. But on July 17th, he will be having a live chat in the online community. It will be at 8PM. You will be able to access it at http://www.drhyman.com/activity.

  18. Jamie June 27, 2014 at 11:03 am #

    I was able to lose weight and get back to normal living through use of the products made at LiverMedic.com. Especially Hepatiben.

    High sugar diets and toxin build-up promote excess liver fat storage. Taking HEPATIBEN™ while incorporating a healthy diet will neutralize the resulting high oxidative-stress environment and reverse hepatic cell damage. HEPATIBEN™ includes targeted compounds critical during the release of toxins stored in fat cells. They also act as super-antioxidants, replenishing other naturally occurring antioxidants.

  19. Major Woody July 1, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    Question: If you consume fat(non or saturated) how the the liver process it? Can it store it?

  20. Holly Miller July 1, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

    I think you should mention in your article that non-alcoholic fatty liver can also be caused from some genetic conditions. I have hemochromatosis, iron overload, that has caused my fatty liver, not my healthy, organic, low carb, low sugar diet. Also, fructose, sugar from fruit, turns into fat in your liver. It is the only sugar that isn’t converted into glucose and then glycogen in our bodies. People with fatty liver should avoid fruit unless in small amounts of low sugar berries between meals on an empty stomach. (as per the Liver Bible and the Ezra Protocol)

  21. Roger D July 5, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    I just had a UT on my abdomen last week. I am 58. I have a fatty liver – a large area. I also have 2 x cysts – 1 in each kidneyI am on heavy supplements now and anti oxidents. It feels like it is working. I have lost 3 kilos in 10 days. I feel better already. No more alcohol for me. The UT was just a medical check up. Lucky I found out.

  22. s. weerakoon July 5, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

    My blood report showed a problem with enzymes ,colesterol and an echography says there is mild steasis in liver.i read this part n decided to not eat any fatty containing food, but my main food is rice. Even that ill reduce.
    Iwant ti know how far hot water n tea n coffee plays on this matter and reducing of food in curing this fatty liver problem

  23. Nieves Cardona July 8, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

    The supplements you recommend to your patients like “milk thistle, lipoid acid or N -actyl- 1cysteine can they be obtained OTC? Your answer is very important to me because I identify myself with all the stories I just read above, Im 62 yo female.

  24. Holly July 13, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    My situation is very unusual according to my Dr. and they don’t know what to recommend exactly. I recently went to the doctor (for the 4th time in 15yrs re: the same issue, but now worse) because I was having severe pain in my right side (intense and excruciating, the feeling of . The first 3 times they could find nothing wrong. This last time they found mild NA fatty liver disease and some small sand in my gallbladder and they said neither of these cause the degree of pain I sometimes have.

    A little about me: I have been overweight my entire life from babyhood on up and I currently weigh around 300 lbs at 5’9″. My family did not eat sugar or white flour or other refined foods for most of the later years I was growing up and we ate whole grains, vegetables, etc. I ate very healthy for most of my adult life as well, and for the last 20yrs. I have eaten so incredibly carefully that the doctor does not understand it.

    We garden and I eat organic veggies and fruits, whole sprouted grains, raw goats milk products, raw nuts and seeds, farm eggs/chicken/fish, moderate amounts of raw honey for sweetening, org. oatmeal, all types of beans, occasional org. brown rice, etc. I NEVER, EVER eat any refined or processed sugar, flour, or other foods. I do not eat chemically preserved foods, red meat, refined salt, processed dairy, etc.

    So you can see why the doctor is at a loss other than to tell me to have my gall bladder taken out. Any input would be welcome. Thank you, Holly

    • Avatar of Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff
      Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff July 26, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

      Hi Holly,
      Thank you for your interest In Dr. Hyman’s work. Unfortunately he cannot provide you personalized medical advice in this forum. In order to provide you the proper care you need we hope you will seek the attention of a local qualified Functional Med practitioner soon. To locate a doctor near you who practices functional medicine like Dr. Hyman, go to http://www.functionalmedicine.org/practitioner_search.aspx?id=117 and scroll down to where it says “locate a practitioner” and enter your location. Progress accordingly from there.

      You can also make an appointment to be a patient at Dr.Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, MA. Please go to: http://www.ultrawellnesscenter.com/becoming-a-patient/.
      Wishing you the best of health,
      Dr. Hyman Staff

  25. sandy carlisle July 29, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    I am 5’5” and weigh 212lb. I have never weighed this much in my life. I don’t eat sweets or much bread and maybe a coke a week. I have a fatty enlarged liver since last Dec. Losing this weight is very hard. I need to locate a plan because I am very overwhelmed with it all. Excersing hard is very difficult. I just had my 2nd knee replacement and have a very low immune system. I stay very tired. What book or advice could you give me?

    Thank you, Sandy

    • Avatar of Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff
      Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff July 29, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

      Hi Sandy,
      Thank you for your interest in Dr. Hyman’s programs. I recommend that you consider the Blood Sugar Solution program (http://www.bloodsugarsolution.com/) to help you transform your health. The program is not just about diet, but also about lifestyle changes that will ensure that your healthy habits last for a lifetime.
      Wishing you the best of health,
      Dr. Hyman Staff

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