Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

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California bill requiring warning labels on sugary drinks advances

By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO, California Wed Apr 9, 2014

(Reuters) – A California bill to require sugary soft drinks to carry labels warning of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay passed its first legislative hurdle on Wednesday, the latest move by lawmakers nationwide aimed at persuading people to drink less soda pop.

If enacted, the legislation would put California, which banned sodas and junk food from public schools in 2005, in the vanguard of a growing national movement to curb the consumption of high-caloric beverages that medical experts say are largely to blame for an epidemic of childhood obesity.

“By doing nothing, we are putting Californians at risk,” the bill’s author, Democratic state senator Bill Monning, said at a hearing on Wednesday. “The minimal burden on industry to comply with this bill is far outweighed by the benefits.”

In 2012, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spearheaded a citywide ban on sales of oversized sugary soft drinks, but the move was declared illegal by a state judge after a legal challenge by makers of soft drinks and a restaurant group. New York’s highest court has agreed to hear an appeal.

The California measure, passed on Wednesday by a vote of 5-2 by the state senate’s health committee, marks the second time that Monning, who represents the central coastal area around Carmel, has tried to influence consumers’ drink choices. Last year, he backed an unsuccessful measure that would have taxed the drinks.

Labeling them instead would educate consumers about the dangers of consuming too much sugar without requiring a controversial measure like a tax.

Efforts to curtail consumption of sugary drinks through taxes and other efforts have met fierce resistance from the U.S. food and beverage industry, which opposes the labeling bill.

Lisa Katic, who testified on behalf of the California Nevada Soft Drink Association, said the proposal, while well intentioned, “will do nothing to prevent obesity, diabetes or tooth decay, and may even make problems worse.”

According to Katic, the main source of added sugars in American diets are sandwiches and hamburgers, and not sodas or other soft drinks.

The bill next goes to the senate appropriations committee.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein, editing by G Crosse and Dan Whitcomb)

source: Reuters

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4 Surprising Foods Packed With Estrogen — The Chemical Linked to Obesity and Sexual Dysfunction

Many otherwise healthy foods contain high levels of estrogen.

April 10, 2014 

It is no secret that our bodies and our environment are swimming in estrogen. Puberty is occurring as early as eight years old in children and recently babies in China have developed breasts. Frogs and fish are becoming “intersex” and losing their male characteristics from excreted estrogens in the environment and waterways. In England, the Daily Mail ran a feature on the phenomenon of women’s bra cup sizes increasing independent of their weights, likely because of environmental and livestock chemicals. The website Green Prophet speculated that women in the Middle East are not yet experiencing cup inflation because their environments have not become similarly estrogenized.

While many people are fans of big boobs, the larger issue of feminized women, men and wildlife should be a wakeup call. Estrogen is blamed for everything from breast and prostate cancer and other hormone-linked conditions to obesity, sexual dysfunction, dropping sperm counts and depression and mood disorders. In studies of women given prescribed hormone drugs, estrogen was linked to lung cancer, ovarian cancer, skin cancer, gall bladder cancer, cataracts urinary incontinence and joint degeneration.

Most of us know we unwittingly get synthetic estrogens (endocrine disrupters) from plastics like BPA, petroleum based products, detergents, cosmetics, furniture, carpeting, thermal receipts and on our food from agriculture chemicals like pesticides, herbicides and fungicides (a good reason to buy organic). But we also get a lot of “natural” estrogens from foods we may eat every day. While these “phytoestrogens” are not as bad as synthetic chemicals, women who are plagued with PMS, fibrocystic disease and water retention, or who are at risk for breast cancer and men who do not want to be feminized may want to use them moderately.

Here are some “good” and “bad” foods that have more estrogen than you may realize—or want.

1. Flax

Flax and especially flax meal has the image of being a healthy superfood. But when you look at a list of the top phytoestrogen-containing foods, flax and flax products are at the very top. A hundred grams of flax packs an astounding 379,380 micrograms of estrogen compared with 2.9 micrograms for a fruit like watermelon. Flax is now widely found in baked goods like bread, bagels and muffins, snack foods, cereals, pasta, drink mixes and used in poultry, swine, beef and dairy cow feed.

It became a popular alternative to fish oil which had been promoted to improve mood, the immune systems and to prevent heart attacks and strokes, especially as concerns about mercury risks in some fish surfaced. A tablespoon of flaxseed oil, which contains alpha-linolenic acid (also found in walnuts and some oils) is “worth” about 700 milligrams of the omega-3 found in fish oil says the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. Flax also provides fiber, a substance lacking in our over-processed diets. But there is another reason it may not be the superfood it appears besides its estrogen wallop. Like so many edible plants today, genetically modified versions of flax are rampant, spreading and rarely labeled. Buyer beware.

tofu and soybeans

2. Soy

What is the second highest phytoestrogen-containing food in most lists? Soy, which packs 103,920 micrograms of estrogen per 100 grams. Low in calories and with no cholesterol, soy has been a mainstay protein of many cultures for centuries and is considered nature’s perfect alternative to meat by many vegetarians and vegans. It has been hailed as a “good” estrogen that could prevent breast cancer and serve as an alternative for hormone replacement therapy, traditionally made from pregnant mare urine.

Yet the bloom has partially fallen off soy’s rose. Its possible cancer prevention properties were called into question after some animal studies and groups like the American Cancer Society found themselves defending its moderate use. Like flax, unlabeled GMO soybeans dominate the market and have been linked to sterility and infant death in hamsters.

3. Other Legumes and Common Health Foods

Other “healthy” foods like flax and soy may have more estrogen than you think. Legumes like chickpeas (garbanzo beans) red beans, black-eyed peas, green peas and split peas are also estrogenic and black beans pack 5,330 micrograms of estrogen per 100 grams. Hummus (from chickpeas) has 993 micrograms of estrogen per 100 grams. How about the “healthful” seeds we think of as mingled in trailmix? Sesame and sunflower seeds are among the highest of all estrogenic foods. While their seeds are not a staple of most people’s diets, their oils are widely used in processed and prepared foods. A site for women suffering from the estrogen-linked endometriosis advises against sunflower oil as well as safflower, cottonseed and canola oils and recommends only olive or grapeseed oil.

Other ingredients that can amount to a side dish of estrogen are alfalfa sprouts, licorice and the flavorings red clover and fennel, sometimes found in teas. Food ingredients in personal care products can also have estrogenic effects. Tea tree oil found in some shampoos, soaps and lotions can enlarge the breasts of boys reported ABC news. And sore and tender breasts have also been reported from using a shampoo with pomegranate.

4. Animal Products

On most lists of products containing estrogen, animal products like milk and beef are at the very bottom. Milk, for example, is said to provide 1.2 micrograms of estrogen per 100 grams. Unfortunately, most “research” that assures the public that hormones used in meat production or milk production (like Monsanto’s  rBGH) result in less estrogen are funded by Big Ag. Two features betray the Big Ag-funded research —it claims there is no difference between hormones that occur “naturally” in the human body and synthetic hormones, and it claims there are no residues of the latter. If synthetic hormones are so safe, why would we mind residues? The European Union disagrees about the dangers and boycotts US beef, which is swimming in the hormones oestradiol-17, trenbolone acetate, zeranol and melengestrol.

As for “no residues,” a scientific paper called “Detection of Six Zeranol Residues in Animal-derived Food by HPLC-MS/MS,” disputes the claim. Zeranol, an estrogen-like drug widely used in US livestock production is especially controversial. “Our laboratory has reported that long-term exposure to either Z [zeranol] or E2 [estradiol-17β] can induce transformation of human breast epithelial MCF-10A cells,” says a 2009 paper in Anticancer Research.Translation: it can contribute to breast cancer: “The proper evaluation of the safety of Z [zeranol] is of both public health and economic  importance.”Another paper reports “breast irritation” in people exposed to nothing but the clothing of those working around zeranol. This is an ingredient used in US meat?

A paper which appeared in Science of the Total Environment examines the outbreak of precocious puberty and breast development of children in Italy and Puerto Rico in the late 1970s and 1980s and attributes the symptoms to zeranol-like “anabolic estrogens in animal foods.” In both occurrences, the symptoms disappeared when the hormone-laced food was removed. Zeranol is found in meat, eggs and dairy products “through deliberate introduction of zeranol into livestock to enhance meat production,” says the paper. It is “banned for use in animal husbandry in the European Union and other countries, but is still widely used in the US. Surprisingly, little is known about the health effects of these mycoestrogens, including their impact on puberty in girls, a period highly sensitive to estrogenic stimulation.”

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter and the author of “Born With a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Random House).”


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An Excerpt from “What Are You Hungry For?” by Deepak Chopra

Margaret Manning

In his new book What Are You Hungry For? The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Well-Being, and Lightness of Soul bestselling author Deepak Chopra discusses how overeating is really just a symptom of a much larger problem – an inability to find true fulfillment in our lives. Since living a healthy life after 60 is a goal of many members of our Sixty and Me community, I reached out to Deepak and his team to see if they would be willing to give us a sneak peek at his new book. I am delighted to let you know that they have given me permission to publish the following excerpt, so that you can be among the first to benefit from the insights in this important book.

Eating, Weight, and Hunger

If you want to return to your ideal weight, two choices face you. You can go on a diet or do something else. This book is about that something else. Dieting involves the wrong kind of motivation, which is why it rarely leads to the desired goal. You are taking the route of self-denial and doing without. Every day on a diet involves struggling against your hunger and fighting for self-control. Is there a more unsatisfying way to live?

Weight loss needs to be satisfying in order to succeed—this is the “something else” that works after dieting has failed. If you bring the body’s hunger signals back into balance, your impulse to eat becomes your ally instead of your enemy. If you trust your body to know what you need, it will take care of you instead of fighting back. It’s all about getting the messages straight that connect mind and body.

Medically, I was trained to analyze hunger in terms of the rise and fall of certain hormones. Hunger is one of the most powerful chemical messages sent by the body to the brain. It shouldn’t happen that a person can feel hungry right after eating a meal or that having a snack in the afternoon should lead to a second snack or a third. But I’ve experienced these things—as have millions of people—which means that the experience of hunger can exist even when the need for food doesn’t.

It’s this experience of hunger that you need to change when you find yourself overeating. Cravings and false hunger aren’t the same as giving your body the fuel it needs. Your body isn’t like a gas-guzzling car. It’s the physical expression of thousands of messages that are being sent to and from the brain. In the act of eating, your self-image is involved, along with your habits, conditioning, and memories. The mind is the key to losing weight, and when the mind is satisfied, the body quits craving too much food.

A mind-body approach will work for you because it asks you for only one thing: Find your fulfillment. To be fulfilled is something that food alone can’t do. You must nourish

  •     the body with healthy food
  •     the heart with joy, compassion, love
  •     the mind with knowledge
  •     the spirit with equanimity and self-awareness

With awareness, all of these things become possible. But if you neglect them, they move further and further out of reach.

It sounds like a paradox, but to lose weight, you need to fill yourself up. If you fill yourself up with other kinds of satisfaction, food will no longer be a problem. It was never meant to be. Eating is a natural way to feel happy. Overeating isn’t. For centuries life has been celebrated at feasts, and some of these celebrations, such as wedding banquets and retirement dinners, can be the highlight of a person’s life. What child doesn’t brighten up when the birthday cake appears? But the delight that food brings makes overeating a peculiar and unique problem. Feeling happy, which is good for you, slides into something that’s bad for you.

At this moment you fall somewhere on the sliding scale that connects food with happiness:

Normal eating => Overeating => Cravings => Food Addiction

Eating normally feels good.

Overeating feels good in the moment but leads to bad results in the long run.

Giving in to cravings doesn’t feel good at all—remorse, guilt, and frustration set in almost immediately.

Being addicted to food brings suffering, declining health, and total lack of self-esteem.

The slippery slope to becoming overweight starts with something that’s actually positive: the natural goodness of food. (You can’t say the same about drugs and alcohol, which can be toxic substances even when a person isn’t addicted to them.) Food nourishes us, and when eating goes wrong, we are torn between short-term pleasure (such as a delicious bite of chocolate ice cream) and long-term pain (the many drawbacks of being overweight for years at a time).


An Excerpt from What Are You Hungry For? by Deepak Chopra

So why does normal eating start to slide into overeating? The simple answer: lack of fulfillment. You start overeating to make up for a lack somewhere else. Looking back on my medical residency, when I was still in my twenties, I can see now how bad eating habits insinuate themselves. I’d come home from a grueling shift at the hospital feeling stressed out. My mind was still filled with a dozen cases. Some patients were still in jeopardy. What awaited me at home was a loving wife and a home-cooked meal.

In terms of getting enough calories, sitting down to dinner met all the requirements. You had to look at the human situation to see the hidden problems. I had hit the coffee machine and grabbed snacks on the run at work. From lack of sleep I didn’t really notice what I was eating. The minute I walked in the door I usually had a drink, and there was a half-empty pack of cigarettes lying around somewhere.

In the seventies I was a normal working male following the same habits as every other young doctor I knew. I counted myself extremely fortunate to have such a loving wife and two beautiful babies at home. But the ravenous way I dug into a nourishing home-cooked dinner, combined with all the other signs of stressed eating, was setting a pattern that was desperately wrong. Ironically, even back then I considered myself pretty aware.

What turned the corner was becoming much more aware—the solution I’m proposing in this book. No matter how much it gets abused, the body can restore balance. The first rule is to stop interfering with nature. In its natural state, the brain controls hunger automatically. When your blood sugar falls below a certain level, messages are sent to an almond-sized region of the brain known as the hypothalamus, which is responsible for regulating hunger. When it receives messages of decreased blood sugar, your hypothalamus secretes hormones to make you feel hungry, and when you’ve eaten enough, the hormones reverse, making you no longer hungry. This feedback loop between blood and brain operates on its own, as it has for millions of years. Any animal with a spinal cord (vertebrate) has a hypothalamus, which makes sense, because hunger is so basic.

But in humans, hunger can get interfered with quite easily. The way we feel emotionally can make us ravenous or unable to eat at all. We can be distracted and forget to eat, or we can be obsessed and think about food all day. However, we are always in search of satisfaction. There are lots of things you can fill up on besides food. Desire comes from need, starting with the most basic ones:

  •     Everyone needs to feel safe and secure.
  •     Everyone needs to feel nurtured.
  •     Everyone needs to feel loved and appreciated.
  •     Everyone needs to feel that their life is relevant and meaningful.

If you have filled these needs, food will be just one delight out of many. But countless people turn to overeating to substitute for what they really want. It becomes a game of switch-up, and often they don’t even see what’s happening. Is that the situation you find yourself in? Here are some common indicators.

  •     You don’t feel secure unless you are dulled by eating too much. Dullness brings a kind of calm that lasts a short while.
  •     You don’t feel nurtured except when your taste buds are overstimulated with sugar, salt, and fat.
  •     You don’t feel loved and appreciated, so you turn eating into “giving myself some love.”
  •     Your life lacks meaning, but at least when you eat, the emptiness inside can be ignored for a little while.

If you stop focusing so hard on diet and calories, the story of overweight in America is the story of missed fulfillment. We have the best foods in the world at our disposal, but we gorge on the worst. We have blessed opportunities to grow and evolve, but instead we feel empty.

My goal is to bring you to a state of fulfillment. Once that begins to happen, you will stop eating for the wrong reasons. The solution is simple but profound: To lose weight, every step of the way must be satisfying. You don’t have to psychoanalyze yourself; you can stop obsessing about your body and dwelling in disappointment and frustration. There is only one principle that applies: Life is about fulfillment. If your life isn’t fulfilled, your stomach can never supply what’s missing.

Reprinted from the book What Are You Hungry For? The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Well-Being, and Lightness of Soul by Deepak Chopra. Copyright 2013 by Deepak Chopra. Published by Harmony Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.

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Why Materialistic People Are Less Happy and Less Satisfied

New research explores the fact that materialistic people are more likely to be depressed and unsatisfied with life.

The study finds that a focus on what you want — and therefore don’t currently have — makes it more difficult to appreciate what you already have, according to the Baylor University research.

The study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, recruited 246 people at a private university (Tsang et al., 2014).

The researchers tested:

  •     how materialist and needy they were,
  •     how satisfied they were with life,
  •     and their levels of gratitude.

They found that people who were more materialistic also felt less gratitude which, in turn, was associated with lower levels of life satisfaction.

Psychologists have consistently shown how important gratitude is for both life satisfaction and happiness.

The study’s lead author, Jo-Ann Tsang, explains:

    “Gratitude is a positive mood. It’s about other people.

Previous research that we and others have done finds that people are motivated to help people that help them — and to help others as well.

We’re social creatures, and so focusing on others in a positive way is good for our health.”


“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have
was once among the things you only hoped for.”
~ Epicurus
Image credit: Drew Bandy

In contrast to the positive power of gratitude, materialism tends to make people unhappy.

As one of the study’s co-authors, James Roberts, explains:

    “Our ability to adapt to new situations may help explain why ‘more stuff’ doesn’t make us any happier.

As we amass more and more possessions, we don’t get any happier — we simply raise our reference point.

That new 2,500-square-foot house becomes the baseline for your desires for an even bigger house.

It’s called the Treadmill of Consumption.

We continue to purchase more and more stuff but we don’t get any closer to happiness, we simply speed up the treadmill.”

The authors quote the words of Greek philosopher Epicurus, who said:

    “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

By law, all credit cards should have this quote across the front in fluorescent pink.

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by Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN

What They Are

Flax, a crop cultivated since ancient times, produces fibers that are processed into linen cloth. The plant’s seeds (aka linseeds) are used as cattle feed and, when eaten regularly by humans, impart fantastic health and nutritional benefits.

Flax seeds are coated in shells that serve as armor against your digestive system. For this reason, they need to be ground up in order to release their nutrients. You can grind the seeds yourself or look for ground flaxseed (aka flax meal) in the cereal aisle of your grocery store. A tablespoon of flax meal offers 37 calories, about 2 grams of fiber, over a gram of protein and 3 grams of omega-3- and omega-6-loaded fat. In addition, flax meal is an excellent source of magnesium, manganese, fiber, thiamin and selenium. All that nutrition, and it tastes pretty good too!

Flax contains lignans, substances in plants that act like the hormone estrogen. Specific research on colorectal, breast and lung cancer points to lignans as the phytonutrients responsible for cancer prevention.
Counterintuitive but true: Eating mostly fat-based flaxseed has been linked to lowering abdominal obesity. Other potential benefits include a decrease in blood pressure and glucose levels. Who couldn’t use a bit of ground flax a day to help keep the doc at bay?
Flax is good for the noggin, too. Those amazing omega-3s have been linked to the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, the support of brain development, the lessening of symptoms associated with depression and ADD/ADHD and improved immunity.

How To Chow Down

Because flax meal has the texture of flour and is pretty undetectable to the taste buds, you can blend it into virtually anything. Picky eaters won’t even notice!

Mix it into yogurt, a smoothie or your favorite batter. Because flax meal withstands high temps, it works well as a breading or in a quiche crust.
Ground flax mixed with water is a great egg or fat substitute. If you decide to switch to flaxseed oil, look for a variety that says “Lignan SDG,” which means that lignans removed from the oil were added back in.
Flax meal works beautifully in meatballs, over a bed of zucchini noodles… yum!

In The Know

Flaxseed lasts several months in the fridge or freezer, but flax meal needs to be cold-stored and used within a couple of weeks or it goes rancid. And remember to go slow: Start with small doses so your body has time to adjust to all that good fiber. You’ll feel flax-tastic in no time.

source: http://upwave.com/nutrition/flaxseed-nutrition

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4 Health Benefits of Chamomile

Kara, selected from TreeHugger    April 7, 2014

Chamomile is one of the oldest and most popular medicinal herbs, but it has also become one of the best studied by modern medicine. According to one medical paper, more than one million cups of camomile tea are consumed per day around the world. For good reason, as this little white flower can have some big benefits for your health.

There are two types of chamomile typically used for medicinal purposes, German Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) and Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). There’s a very low risk of side effects to using chamomile as a tea or extract, however some people can be allergic to its pollen. People who suffer from ragweed allergies should be cautious.

1. Fall asleep faster

Chamomile tea and and essential oil aromatherapy are widely used to help induce sleep. Yet the effectiveness of chamomile as a sleep aide hasn’t been subjected to much clinical study. However on a chemical level, chamomile extracts have been shown to have sedative properties. So, go ahead and take your grandmother’s advice and have a cup of this herbal tea before bed.

2. Sooth common cold symptoms

We can’t say that chamomile is a cure for the common cold, but it can reduce suffering from its symptoms. Preliminary studies show that inhaling steam containing chamomile extract soothes the discomfort caused by an upper respiratory infection. Chamomile contains anti-inflammatory compounds, which may explain these benefits.

3. Reduce stress

Chamomile contains apigenin, a compound that has anti-anxiety effects. One study found that patients suffering from generalized anxiety disorder showed moderate benefits from taking camomile extract capsules when compared to a placebo.

4. Boost the immune system

A small study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that drinking chamomile tea boosts antibacterial compounds in the body. The researchers think this could explain why regular consumption of chamomile seems to fight colds, although more study would be needed to establish a definitive link.

Other traditional uses for chamomile are treating upset stomach, easing cramps, and as a topically for wounds, eczema and chickenpox. However, its usefulness for these conditions have been studied less.

article by Margaret Badore
source: www.care2.com


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Does junk food make you lazy?

Relaxnews    Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A diet rich in processed foods and fat – and the extra weight that comes along with it – may actually cause fatigue, a lack of motivation and decreased performance, according to a recent study involving lab rats.

It’s a generally accepted fact that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity. But according to the study led by biologist Aaron Blaisdell at UCLA in California, obesity can also lead to a sedentary lifestyle, indicating something of a vicious cycle. If the effects seen in the rats in the study can be applied to humans, excessive consumption of processed and fat-rich foods affects our motivation as well as our overall health.

For the study, published in the April 10 issue of Physiology & Behavior, Dr. Blaisdell and his team of researchers divided a sample group of 32 female rats into two groups. The first group was fed a diet of relatively unprocessed foods, while the second was given a “junk food” diet of highly processed foods rich in sugar and saturated fat. All of the rats were required to complete a basic task – pushing a lever – to receive a food or water reward.

Three months into the experiment, the researchers observed, unsurprisingly, that the rats on the junk food diet had grown significantly fatter than the others. The more interesting finding, however, was that these obese rats’ performance of the lever task had become impaired, as they took much longer breaks than the lean rats between performing the task. The researchers refer to this lack of motivation as “cognitive impairment.”

At the end of six months, the researchers reversed the rats’ diets. But after nine days on the less-processed foods, the obese rats showed little change in weight and no change in their response to the lever task. Similarly, the lean rats remained lean and showed no decrease in motivation after nine days on junk food. According to the researchers, these findings indicate that it is long-term habits, rather than occasional health kicks or junk food binges, that are responsible for our weight and motivation.

The researchers indicate that the findings are very likely to apply to humans, whose physiological systems are similar to those of rats. For Blaisdell, the study suggests that current societal attitudes towards obesity should be reconsidered.

“Overweight people often get stigmatized as lazy and lacking discipline,” Blaisdell said. “We interpret our results as suggesting that the idea commonly portrayed in the media that people become fat because they are lazy is wrong. Our data suggest that diet-induced obesity is a cause, rather than an effect, of laziness. Either the highly processed diet causes fatigue or the diet causes obesity, which causes fatigue.”


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