Denying Christ in Our Everyday Lives

If you read the pocket New Testament published by Scepter Publishing as a basis for your mental prayer, you read this, this morning:

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the high priest’s maids came along. 67Seeing Peter warming himself, she looked intently at him and said, “You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68* But he denied it saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.” So he went out into the outer court. [Then the cock crowed.] 69The maid saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70Once again he denied it. A little later the bystanders said to Peter once more, “Surely you are one of them; for you too are a Galilean.” 71He began to curse and to swear, “I do not know this man about whom you are talking.”

Given what’s going on in the world today — from  beheadings by the Islamic State, to the Obama Administration’s refusal to recognize IS’s religious underpinnings, to the government’s efforts to restrict the right to practice one’s own religion in the contraceptive mandate of ObamaCare — it’s worth taking to prayer the question of whether we, in what we are doing and what we are leaving undone, are, like Peter, denying Christ.

These are times when believers need to step up and publicly acknowledge Christ.  There is strength in numbers, and we should be supportive of each other.

The least we can do is a silent witness by always wearing a cross.

One who does nearly all the time since her conversion to Catholicism is Laura Ingraham, the talk show pundit.  So does Scottie McCreery,  the entertainer.  Katie and Paige Rees of the Langelus Band nearly always wear a religious medal.

To be sure, wearing a cross can be, well, a cross.  The British Government actively sought to prevent Christians from having the right to wear a cross while at work.

If you choose to wear a cross, it doesn’t have to be large or garish.  Here’s a selection of cross necklaces, and here’s a cross lapel pin.

Rather than complain about the rising tide of secularism in the country, maybe the first thing we should do is simply silently profess our faith by consistently wearing a cross, whether as a necklace or a lapel pin.

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2 Ways Spirituality Helps Marriage Health of New Parents

Each year, millions of U.S. couples walk down aisles in churches, temples and mosques to get married. Many only occasionally return to a place of worship together. Does that mean their marriage is devoid of spirituality? Do spiritual dimensions of marriage help or hurt couples’ unions, especially when they become parents?

A recent study by researchers at Bowling Green State University identified two ways that spirituality helps the marriages of new parents fare better. The results were published in the October 2014 issue of the Journal of Family Psychology.

First, the more spiritual intimacy the couples said they shared, the higher the positivity and the lower the negativity the couples exhibited when they discussed high-conflict topics. Second, viewing their marriage as sacred facilitated more positive marital interactions.

“These two spiritual factors motivate couples to manage their conflicts in a kind and collaborative way,” said Dr. Annette Mahoney, a professor of psychology at BGSU, who led the study, which was funded by a $1.3 million grant from the Templeton Foundation. The study included analysis of couples’ videotaped interactions as well as husbands and wives’ responses to survey instruments.

Couples’ ratings of their spiritual intimacy were based on how often they revealed their spiritual beliefs, questions and doubts to each other, and listened supportively to each other’s spiritual disclosures without judgment. It didn’t matter whether the spouses were blue-collar employees with high school educations or wealthy professionals with advanced college degrees—the results were the same. The more spiritual intimacy the couples said they shared, the better they handled their top three conflicts.

“Spiritual intimacy is very, very important and undeniably a construct that matters,” said Mahoney.

Second, couples’ views on the “sanctification of their marriage”—how much they perceived their union as having divine significance and character—was predictive of more positive behavior by the spouses.

It is rare for what people say about the quality of their relationship to predict how they behave when their interactions are directly observed by researchers, Mahoney said, which is why the findings were remarkable.

“Sanctification of Marriage and Spiritual Intimacy Predicting Observed Marital Interactions Across the Transition to Parenthood,” was published in a special issue of the Journal of Family Psychology focused on spirituality and marriage. Joining her in the research were BGSU graduate student Katherine Kusner and Drs. Kenneth Pargament, a professor of psychology, and Alfred DeMaris, a professor of sociology.

The study involved 164 heterosexual married couples having their first biological child together. Previous studies have shown that there is potential for increased marital stress during the transition to parenthood, which makes it a prime time for analyzing the impact of spirituality on a marriage.

The couples’ interactions were videotaped in their homes during late pregnancy and when their child was 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months old. Couples then rated their own and their partner’s spiritually intimate behaviors, as well as their views on the sanctity of their marriage.

A unique feature of the study is that husband’s self-reports on the couple’s spiritual intimacy predicted not only his behavior, but also his wife’s. It was also true of the wife’s self-reports of the husband’s spiritual intimacy, according to study results.

Mahoney and her colleagues would like to see more research conducted on spiritual intimacy and sanctification among same-sex couples. “There’s no reason to believe the concepts are restricted to heterosexual couples. They could apply to same-sex couples as well,” she said.

And while 92 percent of the couples in the study reported they were Christian, Mahoney said she would expect that the two concepts in this study would also apply to couples, married or unmarried, of any religious community, and perhaps to some atheists as well. But more research is needed to confirm such hypotheses.

Mahoney also plans additional studies to identify additional spiritual factors that could harm couples’ marriages.

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Today’s news was a study in contrasts.  In Oregon, a woman  with terminal brain cancer whom ABC News called an “advocate for death with dignity” committed suicide. She said it was cancer that was ending her life, she was simply choosing when.

But CBS News reported that in Cincinnati, Ohio, a college freshman who also has with terminal brain cancer achieved her dream — to play a college basketball game.  You can see the very moving story  here.

We don’t know the religious background of either woman, but Lauren Hill is attending Mount St. Joseph University, a Catholic liberal arts university in Cincinnati.  Her attitude toward her disease is reflective of the best of Catholic thought and teaching.  Rather than wallow in self-pity and despair, she’s living her life to the fullest as long as she can.  And others — including Hiram College, which is affiliated with the Disciples of Christ, and the NCAA — moved heaven and earth to accommodate her.

On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal had a story about the personal journeys of each of the U.S. doctors who have had Ebola and been treated in the U.S. Each of them suffered immensely, and each noted that at their darkest hours, in the midst of incredible suffering, it was the hope inspired by a faith in God that kept them going.

To me, at least, that sums up the difference between Catholicism and atheism or agnosticism:  Catholicism gives one the courage and the strength live life to the fullest, to carry on, even in the face of certain death.  For those who lack a faith in God, who lack hope, it’s not a matter of living life as long as one can, but rather simply choosing when to die.

Lauren Hill is showing heroic virtue.  Pray for her, for her family and her friends.

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What Companies Can Learn from Pope’s Management Style

Pope Francis I is changing centuries of Church practice by decisively detaching prelates accused of severe wrongdoing from their positions rather than waiting years, or even decades, for determinations of guilt, and University of Chicago Booth School of Business Prof. Luigi Zingales believes he is setting an example that companies across the globe should follow.

The Pontiff’s decisions to reorganize the Vatican Bank, to lay off controversial and spendthrift Church leaders (“the Bishop of Bling”) and to approve the arrest of a former Vatican ambassador on charges of pedophilia “communicate to the outside, in credible ways, the values of those who sit at the top and, therefore, of the organization itself.”

Zingales explains that others who run large businesses should emulate Francis’ actions. “Too often, company leaders make proclamations solely for the purpose of image. Employees know it and ignore them. Only when statements are followed by facts do employees begin to listen. From today on, the Church’s war on pedophilia is not only a proclamation: it is a reality.”

Key to this new corporate behavior, according to the professor, is the understanding of the difference between criminal and managerial responsibility. He points out that while citizens have the constitutional right to be considered innocent until proven guilty, organizations do not have a duty to protect powerful members until definitive sentence is pronounced.

For a criminal conviction, Zingales says, one needs proof beyond reasonable doubt. While for disciplinary action, removal or layoff, the standards are and should be much lower, especially in the case of top managerial positions.

“In fact, in some cases, like that of the bishop, proof is not even needed: it is enough to have a reasonable doubt. It is a merely managerial ‘cost vs. benefits’ calculation.”

“If laws and rules are enforced, the first who should follow them are the leaders. Pope Francis has nothing to fear: he, himself, is an example. But is the same true for the summits of our large companies?” Zingales asks. Clearly, he thinks it should be, and with more companies taking responsibility for their leaders, they might be.


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The Church Gets It Right Again: This Time on Premarital Relationships

The Catholic Church is being proven right again.  This time by a serious academic study conducted at the University of Denver.

It finds the more people who attend your wedding to share in the launch of your marriage, the better the chances you will be happily married years down the road. And, reaffirming church teaching which urges chastity and opposes living together before marriage, the study also finds that the more relationships you had prior to your marriage, the less likely you are to report a high-quality marriage.

The study, “Before ‘I Do’: What Do Premarital Experiences Have To Do With Marital Quality Among Today’s Young Adults?,” from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia challenges the idea that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” – the general notion that what happens in one’s younger years, before marriage, stays there and doesn’t impact the remainder of one’s life.

How people conduct their romantic lives before they tie the knot is linked to their odds of having happy marriages, the study’s authors argue. Past experiences, especially when it comes to love, sex and children, are associated with future marital quality.

Those who have had more romantic experiences – for example, more sexual or cohabiting partners – are less likely to forge a high-quality marriage than those with a less complex romantic history, the researchers found.

Raising children from prior relationships can add stress to a marriage. For women, but not for men, having had a child in a prior relationship was associated, on average, with lower marital quality.

In Marriage, More Experience Isn’t Better

Study co-author Galena K. Rhoades, research associate professor of psychology at the University of Denver, said, “In most areas, more experience is better. You’re a better job candidate with more experience, not less.

“When it comes to relationship experience, though, we found that having more experience before getting married was associated with lower marital quality.”

More experience may increase one’s awareness of alternative partners, the researchers speculate. People who have had many relationships prior to their current one can compare a present partner to their prior partners in many areas – like conflict management, dating style, physical attractiveness, sexual skills, communication ability and so on. Marriage involves leaving behind other options, which may be harder to do with a lot of experience, the researchers say.

More relationship experiences prior to marriage also means more experience breaking up, which may make for a more jaundiced view of love and relationships, Rhoades said. It’s also possible that some people have personality characteristics – such as liking to take risks or being harder to get along with – that both increase their odds of having many relationship experiences and decrease their odds of marital success, she added.

Rhoades and co-author Scott M. Stanley came to these insights by analyzing new data from the Relationship Development Study, an ongoing national study based at the University of Denver and funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Between 2007 and 2008, more than 1,000 Americans who were unmarried but in a relationship, and between the ages of 18 and 34, were recruited into the study.

Over the course of the next five years and 11 waves of data collection, 418 of those individuals got married. The authors looked closely at those 418 new marriages, examining how the history of the spouses’ relationships and their prior romantic experiences were related to the quality of their marriages. The 418 subjects were reasonably representative of unmarried adults in the United States in terms of race and income. All analyses in the report control for race and ethnicity, years of education, personal income, religiosity and frequency of attendance at religious services.

Sliding vs. Deciding

Past studies show that couples often “slide” into living together rather than talking things out and making a decision about it. In this study, participants who lived together before marriage were asked directly if they made a considered decision about premarital cohabitation or slid into it; they indicated their degree of “sliding versus deciding” on a five-point scale. The more strongly respondents categorized the move as a decision rather than a slide, the greater their marital quality later on.

“We believe that one important obstacle to marital happiness is that many people now slide through major relationship transitions – like having sex, moving in together, getting engaged or having a child – that have potentially life-altering consequences,” said Stanley, research professor and co-director of the Center for Marital & Family Studies at the University of Denver, as well as a senior fellow for both the National Marriage Project and for the Institute for Family Studies.

Often these risks co-occur. For example, those who have multiple cohabiting partners are also more likely to have children before marriage and with more than one partner.

“Another way to think about ‘sliding versus deciding’ is in terms of rituals,” Stanley said. “We tend to ritualize experiences that are important. At times of important transitions, the process of making a decision sets up couples to make stronger commitments with better follow-through as they live them out.”

This finding could also simply reflect that couples who deliberately decided to cohabit are better at talking about important transitions in general, a skill that could help them build a happy marriage, he added.

More Guests, More Stable

Having more guests at one’s wedding – the biggest ritual in many relationships – is associated with higher marital quality, even after controlling for income and education, which may be proxies for how much the wedding might have cost, the study found.

Among couples who had weddings, the sample was divided into those who had weddings with 50 or fewer attendees, 51 to 149 attendees, or 150 or more attendees. Among each grouping, 31 percent, 37 percent, and 47 percent, respectively, reported high marital quality.

“In what might be called the ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ factor, this study finds that couples who have larger wedding parties are more likely to report high-quality marriages,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and a professor of sociology at U.Va. “One possibility here is that couples with larger networks of friends and family may have more help, and encouragement, in navigating the challenges of married life.

“Note, however, this finding is not about spending lots of money on a wedding party. It’s about having a good number of friends and family in your corner.”

Stanley added, “Our bottom-line advice to Americans hoping to marry is this: Remember that what you do before you say ‘I do’ may shape your odds of forging a successful marital future.”

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New Study Finds Hormonal Contraceptives Increases Risk of Gestational Diabetes

While the Obama Administration is pushing the use of contraceptives — and demanding Catholics pay for them — evidence continues to accumulate showing the health dangers of using hormonal contraceptives.

The latest, released today by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, found women who used hormonal methods of birth control had higher odds for gestational diabetes than did women who used no contraception.

Researchers analyzed data collected in 2007 and 2008 by the Missouri Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) to determine if type of contraception before pregnancy influenced maternal risk for GDM.

Of the 2,741 women who completed the 2007–2008 PRAMS survey, 8.3% were diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and 17.9% of the respondents had used hormonal contraceptive methods. Women who used hormonal methods of birth control had higher odds for gestational diabetes than did women who used no contraception.


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Why Most Catholics Don’t Practice Adoration

Trying to get adoration started in any parish is a really difficult job.  In one parish, just one person plus a deacon showed up for adoration followed by benediction — a commitment of just 20 minutes for adoration itself.

That wouldn’t be a surprise to University of Virginia psychologist Timothy Wilson, who in a series of 11 studies found most people ages 18 to 77 would rather be doing something – possibly even hurting themselves – than spending even brief periods of time alone in a room with nothing to do but think, ponder or daydream.

The participants, by and large, enjoyed much more doing external activities such as listening to music or using a smartphone. Some even preferred to give themselves mild electric shocks than to think.

“Those of us who enjoy some down time to just think likely find the results of this study surprising – I certainly do – but our study participants consistently demonstrated that they would rather have something to do than to have nothing other than their thoughts for even a fairly brief period of time,” Wilson said.

The period of time that Wilson and his colleagues asked participants to be alone with their thoughts ranged from six to 15 minutes. Most of whom reported that this “thinking period” wasn’t very enjoyable and that it was hard to concentrate.

“That was surprising – that even older people did not show any particular fondness for being alone thinking,” Wilson said.

He does not necessarily attribute this to the fast pace of modern society, or the prevalence of readily available electronic devices, such as smartphones. Instead, he thinks the devices might be a response to people’s desire to always have something to do.

In his paper, Wilson notes that broad surveys have shown that people generally prefer not to disengage from the world, and, when they do, they do not particularly enjoy it. Based on these surveys, Americans spent their time watching television, socializing or reading, and actually spent little or no time “relaxing or thinking.”

Most reported they found it difficult to concentrate and that their minds wandered, though nothing was competing for their attention. On average the participants did not enjoy the experience. A similar result was found in further studies when the participants were allowed to spend time alone with their thoughts in their homes.

“We found that about a third admitted that they had ‘cheated’ at home by engaging in some activity, such as listening to music or using a cell phone, or leaving their chair,” Wilson said. “And they didn’t enjoy this experience any more at home than at the lab.”

An additional experiment randomly assigned participants to spend time with their thoughts or the same amount of time doing an external activity, such as reading or listening to music, but not to communicate with others.

Those who did the external activities reported that they enjoyed themselves much more than those asked to just think, that they found it easier to concentrate and that their minds wandered less.

The researchers took their studies further. Because most people prefer having something to do rather than just thinking, they then asked, “Would they rather do an unpleasant activity than no activity at all?”

The results show that many would. Participants were given the same circumstances as most of the previous studies, with the added option of also administering a mild electric shock to themselves by pressing a button.

Twelve of 18 men in the study gave themselves at least one electric shock during the study’s 15-minute “thinking” period. By comparison, six of 24 females shocked themselves. All of these participants had received a sample of the shock and reported that they would pay to avoid being shocked again.

“What is striking,” the investigators write, “is that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid.”

Wilson and his team note that men tend to seek “sensations” more than women, which may explain why 67% of men self-administered shocks compared to 25% of women.

Wilson said that he and his colleagues are still working on the exact reasons why people find it difficult to be alone with their own thoughts. Everyone enjoys daydreaming or fantasizing at times, he said, but these kinds of thinking may be most enjoyable when they happen spontaneously, and are more difficult to do on command.

“The mind is designed to engage with the world,” he said. “Even when we are by ourselves, our focus usually is on the outside world. And without training in meditation or thought-control techniques, which still are difficult, most people would prefer to engage in external activities.”

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Supreme Court Invalidates Massachusetts’ 35-Foot Buffer Zone Around Abortion Clinics

The Supreme Court unanimously held Massachusetts’s law establishing a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics violates the First Amendment.  The decision appears to focus on the fact that the zone includes public sidewalks and roadways.

It’s not a sweeping decision.  It says states can pass laws that specifically insure access to clinics.  But states can’t more broadly restrict speech on public sidewalks and roads.

It also rejected the protestors’ argument that such restrictions are viewpoint-based and require strict scrutiny.

the Massachusetts law violates the First Amendment. This is a law that imposes a thirty-five-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics. – See more at:
the Massachusetts law violates the First Amendment. This is a law that imposes a thirty-five-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics. – See more at:
the Massachusetts law violates the First Amendment. This is a law that imposes a thirty-five-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics. – See more at:
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Gay Marriage Legalization May Lead to More Breakups

Gay marriage may lead to increasing breakups by homosexual couples, and the more states that adopt such statutes, the more breakups there are likely to be.

That’s the finding of a study by University of Arkansas researchers.

The researchers started with the fundamental assumption that couples who live in a state where same-sex marriage is illegal will weigh both the possibility of moving to a currently legal state and the probability of future legalization where they live.

The model included three stages. Stage one began with participants in a dating relationship revealing their preferences for cohabitation or continued dating. If both players chose the same preference, they moved up to stage two and were placed in those respective categories – “cohabitation” or “continue dating.” This move required agreement. Stage three was defined by participants, whether cohabitating or dating, choosing to continue in their current state, get married or exit the relationship. If exit was chosen, they incurred costs that depended on the relationship type. It was assumed that exit costs for a cohabitating player exceeded those from a dating player. Also, the choice to marry also incurred a relocation cost.

Results revealed that falling migration costs and the greater probability of legalization actually increased relationship hazard rates among same-sex couples.

This is possible, said said Farmer, professor in the Sam M. Walton College of Business, because when migration costs fall marriage is more possible, and all is well if both partners want to marry. In fact, the likelihood that they will want to marry rises. However, if one member of the couple really doesn’t want to marry, now they have a point of disagreement, something that wasn’t on the table before.

“So the marriage option can create friction if preferences differ,” Farmer said. “That friction might result in a relationship hazard.”

The model also generated surprising predictions regarding why and how marriage would improve household economics. The researchers found that for some same-sex couples, marriage would not improve the economics of their households, and in some cases it would worsen them.

As of March 2014, 17 of the world’s 193 countries legally recognized same-sex marriage at the national level. In the United States, same-sex marriage is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Through legislation or constitutional amendments, 33 states explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage, a situation similar to the variety of U.S. anti-miscegenation laws that were eliminated by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1967.

The researchers’ study will be published in the Southern Economic Journal.

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Fasting Is Good Spiritually — And Can Improve Health

For prediabetics, many interventions focus on lifestyle changes and weight loss, but new research on periodic fasting has identified a biological process in the body that

After 10 to 12 hours of fasting, the body starts scavenging for other sources of energy throughout the body to sustain itself. The body converts bad (LDL) cholesterol in fat cells to energy, combating diabetes risk factors.

“Fasting has the potential to become an important diabetes intervention,” says Benjamin Horne, PhD, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, Murray, Utah, and lead researcher on the study. “Though we’ve studied fasting and it’s health benefits for years, we didn’t know why fasting could provide the health benefits we observed related to the risk of diabetes.”

Prediabetes means the amount of glucose, also called sugar, in the blood is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes.

Fasting Most Impactful

Prior research done by Dr. Horne and his team in 2011 focused on healthy people during one day of fasting and showed that routine, water-only fasting was associated with lower glucose levels and weight loss.

“When we studied the effects of fasting in apparently healthy people, cholesterol levels increased during the one-time 24-hour fast,” said Dr. Horne. “The changes that were most interesting or unexpected were all related to metabolic health and diabetes risk. Together with our prior studies that showed decades of routine fasting was associated with a lower risk of diabetes and coronary artery disease, this led us to think that fasting is most impactful for reducing the risk of diabetes and related metabolic problems.”

Due to the findings in 2011, Dr. Horne launched this new study to look at the effects of fasting in prediabetics over an extended period of time. The study participants were prediabetics, including men and women between the ages of 30 and 69 with a least three metabolic risk factors. These risk factors include:

  • A large waistline. This also is called abdominal obesity or “having an apple shape.”
  • A high triglyceride level. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.
  • A low HDL cholesterol level, the “good” cholesterol. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease.
  • High blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood.
  • High fasting blood sugar. Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.

Cholesterol Levels Dropped 12%

In the pool of participants qualifying for the study were people with different weights, some obese and some not. In previous fasting research performed by a few other institutions, those studies have all only examined obese participants and focused on weight loss due to fasting. Though weight loss did occur in the Intermountain Medical Center study, three pounds over six weeks, the main focus of the study was diabetes intervention.

“During actual fasting days, cholesterol went up slightly in this study, as it did in our prior study of healthy people, but we did notice that over a six-week period cholesterol levels decreased by about 12 percent in addition to the weight loss,” said Dr. Horne. “Because we expect that the cholesterol was used for energy during the fasting episodes and likely came from fat cells, this leads us to believe fasting may be an effective diabetes intervention.”

The process of extracting LDL cholesterol from the fat cells for energy should help negate insulin resistance. In insulin resistance, the pancreas produces more and more insulin until it can no longer produce sufficient insulin for the body’s demands, then blood sugar rises.

How Fat Cells Can Lead to Diabetes

“The fat cells themselves are a major contributor to insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes,” he said. “Because fasting may help to eliminate and break down fat cells, insulin resistance may be frustrated by fasting.”

Dr. Horne says that more in-depth study is needed, but the findings lay the groundwork for that future study.

“Although fasting may protect against diabetes,” said Dr. Horne. “It’s important to keep in mind that these results were not instantaneous in the studies that we performed. It takes time. How long and how often people should fast for health benefits are additional questions we’re just beginning to examine.”

The research was presented at the 2014 American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions.


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