My Plantcentric Journey

Posts tagged ‘Dr. Dean Ornish’

Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue America’s Healthcare

This is available in theaters in select cities and also on pay-per-view.  We watched in our own home for only $5.99.  It was so worthwhile.

Doctors are paid for the number of patients they see and the number of procedures they perform.  If they spend 5 minutes with the patient and then put in at stent, they get paid about $1,500.  If they want to spend 45 minutes with a patient to try to find out what their true problem is, they’d get paid about $15.  It’s a completely irrational system.  There is one hospital mentioned in the film that pays their doctors a salary, so they’re not pushing unwarranted procedures on patients:  The Cleveland Clinic.

Please take the time to watch, so you are in the know when you or your loved ones go to the doctor.

Thirty Days, Thirty Reasons, Thirty Ways: Go Vegetarian In October!

Kathy Stevens

Founder and director, Catskill Animal Sanctuary

So on Monday, October 1, is World Vegetarian Day–the kickoff for Vegetarian Awareness Month than runs throughout October. If you’ve been toying with the idea of going vegetarian, then let me be your cheerleader, and let the following lists inform and inspire! Good luck…and please share your journey!

A Reason a Day to Go Vegetarian
1. Because there are thousands of reasons to go vegetarian (only room for 30 here), and only two not to: 1. because you’re afraid to try something new 2. because you don’t know what to eat. Thousands of reasons outweigh two, don’t they?

2. Because if you want to get healthy, you should start with food! Replace cancer-causing, fat, pesticide and hormone-laced meats with cancer-preventing, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol lowering foods like apples, broccoli, blueberries, carrots, flax, garlic, leafy greens, nuts and sweet potatoes.

3. Because vegetarians are about 40% less likely to develop cancer than meat eaters.

4. Because our meat and dairy-centric diet is woefully lacking in health-giving fiber, contained only in plant-based foods. A minimum of 35 grams per day is recommended; the typical American consumes only 12.

5. Because four out of five Americans with cardiovascular disease who switch to a healthy (low-fat, whole foods) vegetarian diet reverse their symptoms completely.

6. The news gets better. Heart and blood-vessel diseases, diabetes, and of course obesity are preventable for 95% of us if we follow a healthy vegan diet, exercise, and manage stress.

7. Because I’ll bet you agree with Dean Ornish, one of the researchers who proved statement #4: “I don’t understand why asking people to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered drastic while it is medically conservative to cut people open or put them on powerful cholesterol-lowering drugs.”

8. Because humans are the only species that drinks the milk of another species, and that fact alone should give you pause. Think about it for a moment. Isn’t it logical that cow’s milk is designed to feed baby cows? When ingested by humans, cow’s milk is linked to constipation, allergies, obesity, acne, childhood diabetes, and much more. It’s chock full of cholesterol (plant foods have none), and likely filled with antibiotics, growth hormones, and pesticides.

9. Because of pink slime. PERIOD.

10. Because 70% of our antibiotics are fed to livestock. Doesn’t that scare you…just a little?

11. Because we are going to run out of food if we keep growing most of it to feed animals, who in turn feed far fewer peoplepeople than if we grew the food to feed directly to people. (One can feed 16 to 20 vegetarians with the same amount of natural resources as a single meat eater.)

12. In 2006, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concluded that worldwide livestock farming generates 18% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions — compared with 13% generated by all transportation combined. In 2009, however, WorldWatch Institute reported that the more accurate figure may be as high as 51%. Our diet is cooking our planet.

13. Because along with hundreds of scientists and many major media, the head of the U.N.’s Nobel Prize-winning panel on climate change urged people to cut back on meat to combat climate change.

14. Because it takes over 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef, vs. 49 gallons to produce a pound of apples. We’re using so much water for beef production that many leading environmentalists are predicting that Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado, and New Mexico will soon be virtually uninhabitable. Why? We’re taking 13 trillion gallons of water per year from theOgallala aquifer, the largest body of fresh water on earth. Its water is left from the melted glaciers of the last Ice Age. Once the water is gone, it’s gone.

15. Because vast bodies of water like the Chesapeake Bay are becoming toxic waste sites. Due to massive algae blooms from chicken and dairy factories that line the Eastern Shore, only ten percent of the Bay has enough oxygen in the summer. It’s so depleted that animals leap from the water to breathe. We humans have given their desperate act the ironic name of “jubilee.”

16. Because 75% of our topsoil has been depleted primarily due to growing animals to feed people. It takes 500 years to replace one inch of topsoil–the stuff that food grows in. “A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself,” said Franklin D. Roosevelt.

17. Because there are no septic systems on factory farms. Americans eat around 9 billion animal each year: that makes for a lot of poop. Some manure goes directly into waterways, and some is stored in giant pits called “lagoons.” When they leech, crack, or overflow, feces goes directly into our rivers, streams, lakes…and our drinking water.

18. Because chickens, cows, and pigs aren’t fed what they’re designed to eat. They’re fed what’s cheap and what makes them grow incredibly fast. Some of what they eat is rendered animals – the boiled and ground up remains of dead and diseased animals, including roadkill and euthanized pets.

19. Because in ways that truly matter, we are all the same. Think about it. Whether human or non-human animal, we all seek happiness and pleasure, we all try to avoid pain and suffering. We all have rich and complex emotional lives.

20. Because when folks sneak into chicken and turkey factories, here’s what they see: gas masks hanging inside buildings in which the animals lived, the lack of anything resembling farm life–not a single window to let in fresh air, not a tiny patch of earth. Dead and dying animals…lots of them: the bruised and bloodied ones, the ones struggling for air, the deformed ones, the ones covered in sores. As Jonathan Saffran Foer writes, “the power brokers of factory farming know that their business model depends on people not being able to see (or hear about) what they do.”

21. Because of “flip-over syndrome.” It’s the term used by the poultry industry to describe sudden death. Forced to grow more quickly than their bodies can handle, about five percent of chickens die this way prior to their predetermined death sentence at 42 days.

22. Because terms like humanely-raised, free-range, and all-natural are…um…bullshit. Sorry. Utterly meaningless. The definitions are ludicrous and the industries regulate themselves.

23. Because brain scientists have recently acknowledged that most animals are conscious and aware in the same way that humans are, and confirmed that virtually all animals have at least some degree of sentience — even bees, according to Christof Koch in his Huffington Post blog, “Consciousness is Everywhere.”

24. Because of the hundreds of moments we’ve witnessed at Catskill Animal Sanctuary: pigs laughing, sheep protecting other species, turkeys cuddling up in our laps to fall asleep, tender friendships among goats and chickens.

25. Because it’s plain and simply wrong for a newborn animal to be ripped from its mother, terrified and hungry, and driven into a crowded pen with other terrified babies, purchased and slaughtered immediately or caged in darkness for four months, then slaughtered. (Veal).

26. Because here’s one of many examples of why switching to fish doesn’t help. During the process of fishing for tuna, 150 other species are routinely killed and thrown back into the ocean. Among them are great white sharks, swordfish, sea horses, bluefish, albatross, gulls, bottlenose dolphins, harbor porpoises, killer whales, pilot whales, humpback whales, loggerhead turtles.

27. Because unless we reverse course, there will soon be no more edible fish in our mighty, majestic oceans.

28. Because I’ve barely scratched the surface here in depicting how animals suffer under our modern agribusiness system. I haven’t even mentioned pigs, who, like the rest, suffer mightily.

29. Because my guess is that you try hard to be a good human being, yet as a carnivore, you unwittingly subject hundreds of living beings each year to a level of suffering that you wouldn’t wish upon the vilest human being you could conjure up.

30. Because in the time that it took me to write this article, the USDA reports that almost 1 million chickens, 28,526 turkeys, 23,027 pigs and many thousands more animals — animals brain scientists have just said are conscious and aware, just like humans — were killed to feed us.

Reeling? GOOD! Here are 30 ways to get started on your vegan journey!

1. Wanna learn about this lifestyle? Order the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine’svegetarian starter kit,
2. or download a veg starter kit from Mercy For Animals.
3. PCRM even helps pregnant women take care of themselves—and the baby!
4. And they help parents get the diet thing right from the beginning!
Oprah to the rescue! From her ‘Vegan Starter Kit’ website, here are:
5. Three weeks of what to eat 3x/day,
6. answers to lots of questions you probably have,
7. a pretty awesome shopping list,
8. and vegan alternatives to everyday foods.
9. No matter where you live or travel, Happy Cow will help you locate somewhere good to eat!
10. So will VegGuide!
11. Pam Rice’s fabulous publication, 101 Reasons Why I’m a Vegetarian, will inform and inspire (thanks to Pam for supplying some of the information in my lists!)
12. Think your favorite chain restaurant won’t have food for you? Think again! Moe’s, Subway, Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, California Pizza Kitchen, PF Changs, and Taco Bell have several options; some, like Moe’s, have lots! Even Burger King has a veggie buger. Go here to see for yourself.
13. If you live in New York City, Westchester, or most of the Hudson Valley, Healthy Gourmet to Go will deliver your meals for the week. And they’re good!
14. Let Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s books help you get cookin’!
15. On a budget? No problem! Veg diets don’t have to be expensive.
16. If you navigate life via your iphone/ipad, download helpful apps!
17. Ellen (as in DeGeneres) offers a short list of films to rock your world and inspire you onward.
18. To her list, I’d add Peaceable KingdomThe WitnessSuperSize Me,
19. Let’s not forget Catskill Animal Sanctuary. Our GO VEG page answers your questions and gives you and helpful resources. My first book, Where the Blind Horse Sings, will help you see farm animals from a whole new perspective, as will a weekend visit. Finally, meet great folks and hone your skills at a CAS vegan cooking class! Sign up early: they sell out fast!
20. As soon as you check out, you’ll be hooked. Betcha.
21. Shop for products from food to clothes at Vegan Essentials and Pangea online.
22. Need some hand-holding or some know-how? You can still access PCRM’s 21-day VeganKickstart Program. (It’s even offered in Spanish!)
23. Here are some more replacements for your current — I MEAN FORMER — dairy and meat choices. (Many items are available in your local grocery or health food store).
24. Explore what various religions have to say about animal cruelty.
25. Follow CAS on Twitter for vegan recipes and breaking animal agriculture news.
26. For inspiration, education, shopping and so much more, read GirlieGirl Army and Our Hen House. And check out Our Hen House’s award-winning podcast!
27. For fun and good vegan gossip: Ecorazzi.
28. Relax at night with your copy of VegNews–celebrate your new life!
29. Attend an animal welfare conference or an animal rights conference to meet like-minded people. Or google “vegan meet-up” where you live.
30. Take your journey one day at a time, and remember that every step you take towards a vegan lifestyle is a powerful step in the right direction!

Eating for Health, Not Weight

Andrea Tsurumi

ALMOST half of Americans are on a diet — not surprising, since two-thirds are overweight or obese, a frightening statistic that inspired Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to push through a ban on large soft drinks in New York City. The country is preoccupied with calories. McDonald’s, for instance, is now posting them. But our widespread hope for weight loss makes us vulnerable to all kinds of promises, even ones that aren’t true, when it comes to food.

Perhaps the biggest misconception is that as long as you lose weight, it doesn’t matter what you eat. But it does. Yet being thin and being healthy are not at all the same thing. Being overweight is not necessarily linked with disease or premature death. What you eat affects which diseases you may develop, regardless of whether you’re thin or fat. Some diets that may help you lose weight may be harmful to your health over


A widely publicized study earlier this year showed that a low-carb Atkins-type diet might be a faster way to lose weight. That may have given many people the idea that eating meat and butter is the route to thinness and thus health.

In 35 years of medical research, conducted at the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute, which I founded, we have seen that patients who ate mostly plant-based meals, with dishes like black bean vegetarian chili and whole wheat penne pasta with roasted vegetables, achieved reversal of even severe coronary artery disease. They also engaged in moderate exercise and stress-management techniques, and participated in a support group. The program also led to improved blood flow and significantly less inflammationwhich matters because chronic inflammation is an underlying cause of heart disease and many forms of cancer. We found that this program may also slow, stop or reverse the progression of early stage prostate cancer, as well as reverse the progression of Type 2diabetes.

Also, we found that it changed gene expression in over 500 genes in just three months, “turning on” genes that protect against disease and “turning off” genes that promote breast cancer, prostate cancer, inflammation and oxidative stress.

The program, too, has been associated with increased telomerase, which increases telomere length, the ends of our chromosomes that are thought to control how long we live (studies done in collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, who shared the Nobel Prize in 2009 with Carol Greider and Jack Szostak for discovering telomerase). As our telomeres get longer, our lives may get longer.

In a randomized controlled trial, patients on this lifestyle program lost an average of 24 pounds after one year and maintained a 12-pound weight loss after five years. The more closely the patients followed this program, the more improvement we measured in each category — at any age.

It’s not low carb or low fat. An optimal diet is low in unhealthful carbs (both sugar and other refined carbohydrates) and low in fat (especially saturated fats and trans fats) as well as in red meat and processed foods.

WHAT you eat is as important as what you exclude — your diet needs to be high in healthful carbs like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, soy products in natural, unrefined forms and some fish, like salmon. There are hundreds of thousands of health-enhancing substances in these foods. And what’s good for you is good for the planet.

Calories do count — fat is much denser in calories, so when you eat less fat, you consume fewer calories, without consuming less food. Also, it’s easy to eat too many calories from sugar and other refined carbs because they are so low in fiber that you can consume large amounts without getting full. Sugar is absorbed so quickly that you get repeated insulin surges, which promote Type 2 diabetes and accelerate the conversion of calories into body fat.

But never underestimate the power of telling people what they want to hear — like cheeseburgers and bacon are good for you. People are drawn to Atkins-type diets in part because, as the study showed, they produce a higher metabolic rate. But a low-carb diet increases metabolic rate because it’s stressful to your body. Just because something increases your metabolic rate doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Amphetamines will also increase your metabolism and burn calories faster, which is why they are used to help people lose weight, at least temporarily. But they stress your body and may mortgage your health in the progress.

Patients on an Atkins diet in this study showed more than double the level of CRP (C-reactive protein), which is a measure of chronic inflammation and also significantly higher levels of cortisol, a key stress hormone. Both of these increase the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases. A major research article published recently in the British Medical Journal studied 43,396 Swedish women over 16 years. It concluded that “low carbohydrate-high protein diets … are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.” An important article in The New England Journal of Medicine examined data from a study showing that high-protein, low-carb diets promote coronary artery disease even if they don’t increase traditional cardiac risk factors like blood pressure or cholesterol levels. A diet low in fat and high in unrefined carbohydrates caused the least amount of coronary artery blockages, whereas an Atkins-type diet caused the most.

Outcomes from more than 37,000 men from the Harvard-sponsored Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and more than 83,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study who were followed for many years showed that consumption of both processed and unprocessed red meat, a mainstay of an Atkins diet, is associated with an increased risk of premature death as well as greater incidence of cardiovascular disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes.

About 75 percent of the $2.8 trillion in annual health care costs in the United States is from chronic diseases that can often be reversed or prevented altogether by a healthy lifestyle. If we put money and effort into helping people make better food and exercise choices, we could improve our health and reduce the cost of health care. For example, Medicare is now covering this program for reversing heart disease. In an increasingly polarized political landscape, this approach provides an alternative to some Republicans who want to privatize or dismantle Medicare and some Democrats who want to simply raise taxes or increase the deficit without addressing the diet and lifestyle choices that account for so much health spending.

This way of living helps you lose weight and keep it off while enhancing rather than harming your health.

A clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and thefounder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on September 23, 2012, on page SR4 of the New York edition with the headline: Eating for Health, Not Weight.

Why Not Just Take Drugs for Health? Why Bother Changing Your Lifestyle?

The Mediterranean Diet Myth – Vegetables, Fruit, Naturally Low Caloric Density, Hard Physical Work, Yes! Olive Oil, Nuts, Seeds, & Chocolate? I Don’t Think So!

The Mediterranean Diet Myth – Vegetables, Fruit, Naturally Low Caloric Density, Hard Physical Work, Yes! Olive Oil, Nuts, Seeds, & Chocolate? I Don’t Think So!

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I Thought Those High HDL’s Were My Ace in the Hole – Until I Read Dr. Lawrence Rudel’s Research

The Green African monkeys metabolize fat in the same way as humans, so they’re good stand-ins.. 

At the end of five years, their autopsies showed that the monkeys who were fed monounsaturated oil (olive) had higher HDLs (the good cholesterol) and lower LDLs (the bad cholesterol) than the ones fed the saturated fat diet.  The big surprise here:  Both groups had exactly the same amount of coronary artery disease.  The higher HDLs & lower LDLs of the olive oil group were meaningless.

Dr. Lawrence Rudel

If you received this post via email, click here to get to the web version with all the links–and to post a comment.

One week until my Utah “Centenarian Strategies” presentation–and except for some minor tweaking, it’s finished!

After May 3rd I’ll be back to blogging!  I’ve really missed it.  Posting on Facebook is just not the same.

I wanted to share a few slides that help explain why in spite of eating what I thought was a healthy diet–and exercising regularly–my weight continued to climb as I got older.

Maybe you’ve noticed the same thing yourself–& wondered why.

My weight continued to climb.

My cholesterol continued to climb.

My blood pressure continued to climb.

The Myth of the Mediterranean Diet – It Can Get You Fat

After seeing the Greek islands for myself last May, I understood why the Mediterranean Diet got its reputation for being heart healthy.  Steep hills, homegrown food, and isolation.

Imagine living on a craggy isolated Greek island, post-World War II.  You had to walk up and down steep hills everyday to tend to your garden and your animals.  There was no processed food coming onto the island.

You lived off of what you could grow yourself–tomatoes, greens, vegetables, fruits, and the wild purslane (high in omega-3s) growing on the hillside.  Sure you had a little cheese, fish, wine & olive oil–and fava beans.

You were heart-healthy because you worked hard, ate lots of plants, a little fish, and a little wine.  And that heart health came in spite of the olive oil–not because of it.

What’s the real story behind the virtues of the Mediterranean Diet?

The authentic post-World War II Mediterranean diet of Crete–lots of physical labor coupled with lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and just a little bit of olive oil, wine, & fish.

Br J Nutr. 2004–when researchers went back to Crete to look at the health of the islanders 50 years later–the group with the highest olive oil (MUFA) consumption had the highest heart disease, and those with the lowest olive oil intake had the the lowest heart disease.  Click here and here for more about why olive oil & the monounsaturated fats aren’t exactly health food.

The data on which the Mediterranean Diet is based came from the 1950’s.

At that time the people on the Isle of Crete had the lowest all-cause mortality. It was post-WWII, they were poor, didn’t have a lot to eat, ate mostly fresh fruits & veggies from their gardens, walked 9 miles a day, worked at hard physical labor and the highest consumption of oil was 3 TBS a day–and small amounts of fish. Big difference from how we live today.
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Drs. Lawrence Rudel, Dean Ornish & Robert Vogel on Olive Oil

  • Vogel:  Contrary to our hypothesis, our study found that omega-9 (oleic acid)–rich Olive Oil, impairs endothelial function after eating.  If you’ve been using olive oil because you think it’s healthy, it’s time to think again. The olive oil constricted blood flow by a whopping 31% after a meal in a Vogel’s study.  Dr. Robert Vogel
  • Rudel:  Rudel ran a five year study feeding olive oil and saturated fat to African Green monkeys.  The monkeys metabolize fat in the same way as humans, so they’re good stand-ins.. At the end of five years, their autopsies showed that the monkeys who were fed olive oil had higher HDLs (the good cholesterol) and lower LDLs (the bad cholesterol) than the ones fed the saturated fat diet.  The big surprise here:  Both groups had exactly the same amount of coronary artery disease.  The higher HDLs & lower LDLs of the olive oil group were meaningless.  Rudel later repeated the study on rodents, and got the same results.  Dr. Lawrence Rudel
  • Ornish:  It’s 100% fat and 14% of it is saturated. At 120 calories a tablespoon it’s very easy to eat too much of “a bad thing”.  It won’t raise your LDL as much as butter or other saturated fats will,  so it might look like it’s reducing your cholesterol, but it’s still raising it.  It’s just not raising it as much other fats would!  It’s the omega-3’s that reduce inflammation and are “heart healthy”, and olive oil has very little omega-3, maybe 1%. It’s mostly omega-9, which has been shown to impair blood vessel function. 

The Myth of High HDL’s

There’s no doubt about it.

Eat a lot of nuts & olive oil, drink alcohol & you’ll raise your HDL’s.  But, are all high HDL’s created equal?

Turns out, there’s good HDL & there’s bad HDL.  Bet you didn’t know that!

It’s not about how high your HDL’s are.  It’s about how effective they are–and that’s called “Efflux Capacity”.

The HDL Catch-22:  HDL is altered in the presence of systemic inflammation and its ability to inhibit inflammation & transport LDL becomes compromised.

  • Nuts are loaded with inflammatory omega-6s, that could impair HDL.
  • Belly fat is an engine for inflammation, that could impair HDL.
  • Olive oil is inflammatory, and may impair HDL.
  • The typical Western DIet is inflammatory, and may impair HDL.
  • A diet devoid of vegetables & fruit is inflammatory, and impair HDL.
  • A diet where the omega-6s (found in oil, nuts, saturated fat, animal products, & processed foods) far exceeds the omega-3s (found in flax, chia, greens, vegetables, & fish) is inflammatory, and may impair HDL.
  • Worry less about how high or low your HDL’s are–and worry more about what you’re eating that’s inflaming your blood vessels.

Read more about HDL’s & Efflux Capacity here.  A must read!

Read more about Olive Oil here.

Check Out the Omega-6 to Omega-3 Content of Nuts & Seeds

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Chart Created by Joanne L. Mumola Williams, PhD, Foods for a Long Life

The ideal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio should be between 1:1 to 4:1, to prevent inflammation–and it’s not so easy to do!  The typical Western diet has a ratio of 17:1.

Oil, nuts, seeds, corn-fed animal products, trans-fats, & processed foods are the biggests sources of inflammatory omega-6’s.

The more omega-6’s you are eating, the harder it is for plant-based omega-3’s like greens/flax/chia to convert into the kind of omega-3’s you need to prevent inflammation!

But, if you cut out the oil & nuts–then the chia/flax/greens REALLY DO CONVERT into DHA and EPA–the kind of anti-inflammatory omega-3s we need for a healthy brain/arteries/body.   I had mine tested.  I know that plant-based no-added oil or nuts really works!

Why I Gained Weight & Inflammation on the Mediterranean Diet

Eating just a small 1/3 cup of almonds a day.

Eating just a few squares of super-dark 85% cacao chocolate a day.

Eating just 3 TBS. of olive oil a day. I used it to cook with, to roast vegetables, in my salad dressings, & as a “dip” for my bread.

I had no idea how much fat & calories were in these Mediterranean gems until I tracked them for this presentation slide.

846 extra calories a day from chocolate, nuts, & olive oil.

84% of those calories are from fat.

21% of those calories are from saturated fat.

I was consuming 84.3 grams of fat  (21.1 grams as saturated fat) just from nuts, olive oil & chocolate – and that’s a conservative estimate.

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The Veg-Heavy Green Smoothie Snack Compared to Handful of Almonds????  No Contest!!


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Compare the Nutrients in the Green Smoothie to the Nuts?

For some perspective–those 5815 mgs of omega-6’s from almonds are practically a day’s worth–although it’s relative to how many omega-3’s you consume.  If you’re also eating tahini, more nuts & seeds, oils, meat, & processed foods—you can only imagine what your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio looks like!

Anyone as surprised as I was from these statistics?

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