Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR)

David Tomen
David Tomen
Jill Corleone, RD
Fact Checked:
Jill Corleone, RD
10 minute read
Acetyl-L-Carnitine may reverse age-related cognitive decline, boost energy, and improve memory.

Key Takeaways

  1. Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) is a synthesized version of L-Carnitine that enhances energy production, supports fat burning, and improves cognitive function.

  2. ALCAR facilitates fatty acid transport to mitochondria, boosts acetylcholine formation, and exhibits antioxidant properties.

  3. ALCAR benefits brain health by supporting mitochondrial function, protecting brain cells, and improving cerebral blood circulation.

  4. It has potential therapeutic effects on conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, depression, and mild cognitive impairment.

  5. ALCAR supplementation dosage recommendation is 500 – 1,500 mg per day depending on the desired goal.

Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR, ALC or LAC) is a synthesized version of L-Carnitine. Which is a derivative of the amino acids lysine and methionine.

ALCAR is more bioavailable than L-Carnitine. It easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. And delivers L-Carnitine across cell membranes and into your brain (which L-Carnitine would not be able to cross on its own).

L-Carnitine is naturally made in your liver and kidneys. And then transported to other tissues including your brain and heart.

ALCAR helps:

Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) Overview

L-Carnitine is an amino acid that’s synthesized in your body. You also get it from red meat and dairy.

High quality Acetyl L-Carnitine is found naturally in grass-fed beef and mutton.L-Carnitine is considered a “conditionally essential” nutrient because when your body uses it faster than it can produce it, you need supplemental L-Carnitine either from food or a supplement.

L-Carnitine is used throughout your body. Here we’re talking about the Acetyl-L-Carnitine form of L-Carnitine because of its affects on brain health and chemistry.

L-Carnitine vs. Acetyl-L-Carnitine: What’s the Difference?

L-Carnitine and Acetyl-L-Carnitine are often referred to as Carnitine. But each are structurally different, and each has its advantages.

L-Carnitine: Helps produce energy within the mitochondria of your cells, but is not capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier. Supplemental L-Carnitine is difficult for your body to absorb; only 18% of it reaches your bloodstream.

L Carnitine supplements are favored by athletes and dieters who want Carnitine’s fat-metabolizing benefits. But are not seeking any brain benefits.

L-Carnitine chemical structure

Acetyl-L-Carnitine: Is easier to absorb and used by your body than L-Carnitine. In one animal study, who were given 2 grams of ALCAR daily for 50 days, ALCAR boosted blood levels of ALCAR by 43%.[i]

Acetyl-L-Carnitine chemical structure

ALCAR does everything that L-Carnitine does, but by adding an acetyl group, it but can also cross the blood-brain barrier. In another animal study, researchers found that ALCAR supports mitochondrial function which then protects brain cells from oxidative stress, while L-Carnitine does not.[ii]

How does Acetyl-L-Carnitine Work in the Brain?

Acetyl-L-Carnitine boosts brain health and function in several ways. But two in particular stand out.

  1. ALCAR boosts acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter tied to memory and overall brain function. Acetyl-L-Carnitine is a precursor to acetylcholine in the presence of Coenzyme-A. Test tube studies shows that ALCAR donates a “methyl group” to help make acetylcholine.[iii]

Alzheimer’s-diseased brains show a 25% to 40% reduction in carnitine acetyltransferase, an enzyme that works with L-Carnitine & Acetyl-L-Carnitine.

This enzyme decline led researchers to link low ALCAR with low acetylcholine, and Alzheimer’s onset. They went on to suggest that the therapeutic properties of ALCAR supplementation is a viable therapy for brain regeneration.[iv]

  1. ALCAR promotes brain energy metabolism by supporting your brain cell’s mitochondria in creating ATP which is your main source of cellular energy.[v]

ALCAR works as a shuttle transport for fatty acids through cell membranes into mitochondria to assist with adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis.[vi]

ALCAR is essential for fatty acid oxidation:

  • ALCAR shuttles fatty acids into mitochondria, for the creation of ATP.
  • ALCAR then shuttles fatty acids out of mitochondria, and flushes out tox ic byproducts.

ALCAR helps maintain mitochondrial function in nearly every cell of your body and brain.
ALCAR helps maintain mitochondrial function in nearly every cell of your body. Your brain consumes at least 20% of your body’s energy. And generates a lot of toxic byproducts as well as different chronic intermittent stressors. . So ALCAR supplementation is particularly important for a healthy brain.

How things go bad

As we get older, our brain chemistry and energy metabolism changes.[vii]

↓ Nerve growth factor in the brain declines

↓ Acetyl-L-Carnitine levels decline

↓ Acetylcholine levels decline

↓ Mitochondria loses efficiency

All of these age-related changes are contributing factors to cognitive impairment and the neurodegenerative diseases of aging, including Alzheimer’s and dementia.

ALCAR Nootropic benefits

Animal research conducted at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University shows that Acetyl-L-Carnitine will:[viii]

  • Restore efficient mitochondrial energy production
  • Replenish age-related changes to mitochondrial structure
  • Replenish ALCAR and acetylcholine levels in the brain and body

One of the most potent Acetyl-L-Carnitine benefits is that it has the ability to boost acetylcholine and rejuvenate brain cells (including mitochondria). This has been proven to benefit those with age-related brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and major depressive symptoms.[ix]

And one animal study conducted in New Delhi showed that Acetyl L-Carnitine reduces lipofuscin in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, striatum and thalamus.

How does Acetyl-L-Carnitine feel?

You may not feel ALCAR… unless you’re elderly, have low energy levels, or have Erectile Dysfunction. Within those specific groups, users of Acetyl-L-Carnitine report it helps with memory, mental fatigue, mood, mental performance and the ability to get and maintain an erection.

How does ALCAR make you feel?ALCAR’s brain support and its ability to support the mitochondria in your brain cells should boost cognition in all age and gender groups.

As a nootropic, ALCAR user reviews report a boost in energy and quicker thinking.

ALCAR Clinical Research

In one study, researchers showed that ALCAR may have beneficial effects for depression and dementia in the aging brain.[x]

Another study out of Italy; researchers showed that Acetyl-L-Carnitine stimulated the growth of new neurites. More of these minute projections from nerve cell bodies meant increased signaling between cells throughout the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).[xi]

And a study conducted at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York found that ALCAR has potential in treating the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. By directly affecting mitochondrial respiration and assisting dopamine receptors and the use of dopamine in the brain.

ALCAR helps with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

A gold-standard double-blind, randomized controlled trial on 1,204 people showed significant effect on attention, mental performance, memory and higher mental functions.[xii]

In this study ALCAR seemed to ward off further brain deterioration. And could be considered as therapy for brain degeneration.

Acetyl-L-Carnitine slows rate of cognitive decline

130 Alzheimer’s patients were given ALCAR or a placebo daily for a year. They were tested across 14 points of cognitive performance.

This research showed a slower decline in cognitive performance with the ALCAR group compared to the placebo group.[xiii]

ALCAR effective for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

acetyl-l-carnitine helps reduce chronic fatigueAcetyl-L-Carnitine has been shown to improve fatigue in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.

In a randomized, double-blind, crossover study; 36 people were treated for 3 months with either amantadine (used to treat Chronic Fatigue), or 1 gram of ALCAR twice daily.

The results of the study showed that ALCAR was better tolerated and more effective for brain function than the pharmaceutical for fatigue.[xiv]

Acetyl-L-Carnitine protects from oxidative damage of Ecstasy (MDMA)

Research has shown ALCAR to be effective in protecting your mitochondria from oxidative stress. But these guys took it a step further.

Male rats were given Acetyl-L-Carnitine before a dose of Ecstasy (MDMA). ALCAR pretreatment “exerts effective neuroprotection against MDMA-induced neurotoxicity at the mitochondrial level”, said the researchers.[xv]

Keep that in mind before your next party.

ALCAR for Erectile Dysfunction?

Carnitine versus androgen administration. In this study, 120 patients were split into 3 groups. Group 1 was given 160 mg of testosterone per day. The 2nd group was given 2 grams of Propionyl-L-Carnitine plus 2 grams of Acetyl L Carnitine hcl per day. And the 3rd group a placebo.

Did you know that there’s an International Index of Erectile Function?

Turns out the Propionyl-L-Carnitine/Acetyl-L-Carnitine stack was better than testosterone for sexual dysfunction. Without the side effects of an enlarged prostate, better orgasms, more sexual desire and improved mood.[xvi]

Propionyl-L-Carnitine chemical structure

ALCAR Recommended Dosage

  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine suggested dosage for cognitive benefits is 1 – 4 grams per day.
  • For improved mood and elimination of chronic fatigue, 1 – 3 grams of ALCAR per day.
  • For age-related memory concerns, 1 – 2 grams of ALCAR per day.

ALCAR is water-soluble and can be taken on an empty stomach with water. A few supplement manufacturers recommend taking their Acetyl-L-Carnitine with a meal. Which may imply that it’s fat-soluble although I’ve found no evidence in the scientific literature.

ALCAR Side Effects

Acetyl-L-Carnitine is produced naturally in your body. So is considered well-tolerated and safe.

Side effects are rare but can include nausea, vomiting, increased agitation, weight loss, and restlessness.

You can also see an increase in seizure frequency if you have any kind of seizure disorder.

ALCAR and thyroid hormones. L-carnitine inhibits both triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) entry into the cell. Which means ALCAR supplementation may make thyroid hormone replacement therapy less effective. But could also help someone suffering from hyperthyroidism.

Types of ALCAR to buy

  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine: L-Carnitine with an extra acetyl group. This version of l carnitine is more bioavailable and easily crosses the blood-brain barrier.
  • L-Carnitine: This is the standard form of l carnitine found in food.
  • Lipo-Carn®: A proprietary blend of Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Acetyl-L-Carnitine. Studies show this combination is a powerful anti-aging duo.
    Performance Lab Energy contains an effective dose of ALCAR
    Performance Lab Energy contains an effective dose of ALCAR

    Together, these two help combat diabetes, glucose metabolism, boost energy production, lower high blood pressure, fat metabolism, maintain proper cognitive function, protects the body from radiation and chemical toxins and helps immunity.[xvii]
  • Propionyl-L-Carnitine: L-Carnitine combined with propionic acid. This form is noted for its antioxidant activity, reducing oxidative stress biomarkers, and is used for heart health applications. Also useful for erectile dysfunction.
  • Biosint™ is pharmaceutical grade Acetyl-L-Carnitine that is manufactured in Italy by Sigma Tau HealthSciences

You can also get 500 mg Acetyl L-Carnitine, 100 mg BioEnhanced R-Lipoic Acid, 100 mg CoQ10, 10 mg BioPQQ®, and 2.5 mg BioPerine® in one dose of my favorite energy supplement Performance Lab® Energy.

Nootropics Expert Recommendation

Acetyl-L-Carnitine 500 – 1,500 mg per day

Nootropics Expert Tested and Approved I recommend using Acetyl-L-Carnitine as a nootropic supplement.

Your body does synthesize some ALCAR on its own. And from the food you eat. But most L-Carnitine comes from red meat. And unless you eat a lot of great quality grass-fed beef or mutton you can not produce sufficient amounts, and likely have an Acetyl-L-Carnitine deficiency.

ALCAR is especially helpful for those suffering from age-related cognitive decline. Studies show it helps stop or reverse brain degeneration with Alzheimer’s Disease, and geriatric depression. Particularly in the early stages of the disease.

I suggest starting with a dose of 500 mg ALCAR daily. ALCAR is a great compliment to a stack including any of the racetams. Take enough Alpha GPC or CDP-Choline to eliminate a racetam-induced headache. Then add 500 mg of ALCAR.

Some have found ALCAR stacked with Coenzyme Q-10 has a profound effect on everything from mood to bipolar disorder. Especially combined with Alpha-Lipoic Acid.|

You can also get 500 mg Acetyl L-Carnitine, 100 mg BioEnhanced R-Lipoic Acid, 100 mg CoQ10, 10 mg BioPQQ®, and 2.5 mg BioPerine® in one dose of my favorite energy supplement Performance Lab® Energy.

Age-related cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s may want to up the dose to 1,500 mg per day.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This post may also contain other affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

[i] Rebouche C.J. “Kinetics, pharmacokinetics, and regulation of L-carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine metabolism.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 2004 Nov;1033:30-41. (source)

[ii] Liu J., Head E., Kuratsune H., Cotman C.W., Ames B.N. “Comparison of the effects of L-carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine on carnitine levels, ambulatory activity, and oxidative stress biomarkers in the brain of old rats.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences2004 Nov;1033:117-31. (source)

[iii] White H.L., Scates P.W. “Acetyl-L-carnitine as a precursor of acetylcholine.” Neurochemical Research 1990 Jun;15(6):597-601. (source)

[iv] Kalaria R.N., Harik S.I. “Carnitine acetyltransferase activity in the human brain and its microvessels is decreased in Alzheimer’s disease.”Annals of Neurology 1992 Oct;32(4):583-6. (source)

[v] Berg J.M., Tymoczko J.L., Stryer L. Biochemistry. 5th edition. New York: W H Freeman; 2002. (source)

[vi] Berg J.M., Tymoczko J.L., Stryer L. Biochemistry. 5th edition. New York: W H Freeman; 2002. (source)

[vii] Costell M., O’Connor J.E., Grisolía S. “Age-dependent decrease of carnitine content in muscle of mice and humans.” Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 1989 Jun 30;161(3):1135-43. (source)

[viii] Gomez L.A., Heath S.D., Hagen T.M. “Acetyl-L-carnitine supplementation reverses the age-related decline in carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 (CPT1) activity in interfibrillar mitochondria without changing the L-carnitine content in the rat heart” Mechanics of Aging Development 2012 Feb-Mar; 133(0): 99–106. (source)

[ix] Pettegrew J.W., Levine J., McClure R.J. “Acetyl-L-carnitine physical-chemical, metabolic, and therapeutic properties: relevance for its mode of action in Alzheimer’s disease and geriatric depression.” Molecular Psychiatry 2000 Nov;5(6):616-32. (source)

[x] Ferrari F., Gorini A., Villa R.F. “Functional proteomics of synaptic plasma membrane ATP-ases of rat hippocampus: effect of l-acetylcarnitine and relationships with Dementia and Depression pathophysiology.” European Journal of Pharmacology 2015 Jun 5;756:67-74. (source)

[xi] Taglialatela G., Navarra D., Olivi A., Ramacci M.T., Werrbach-Perez K., Perez-Polo J.R., Angelucci L. “Neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells stimulated by acetyl-L-carnitine arginine amide.” Neurochemical Research 1995 Jan;20(1):1-9. (source)

[xii] Montgomery S.A., Thal L.J., Amrein R. “Meta-analysis of double blind randomized controlled clinical trials of acetyl-L-carnitine versus placebo in the treatment of mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzheimer’s disease” International Clinical Psychopharmacology 2003 Mar;18(2):61-71. (source)

[xiii] Spagnoli A. et. Al. “Long-term acetyl-L-carnitine treatment in Alzheimer’s disease.” Neurology. 1991 Nov;41(11):1726-32. (source)

[xiv] Tomassini V., Pozzilli C., Onesti E., Pasqualetti P., Marinelli F., Pisani A., Fieschi C. “Comparison of the effects of acetyl L-carnitine and amantadine for the treatment of fatigue in multiple sclerosis: results of a pilot, randomized, double-blind, crossover trial.” Journal of Neurological Science 2004 Mar 15;218(1-2):103-8. (source)

[xv] Alves E. et. Al “Acetyl-l-carnitine provides effective in vivo neuroprotection over 3,4-methylenedioximethamphetamine-induced mitochondrial neurotoxicity in the adolescent rat brain” Cellular Neuroscience Volume 158, Issue 2, 23 January 2009, Pages 514–523 (source)

[xvi] Cavallini G., Caracciolo S., Vitali G., Modenini F., Biagiotti G. “Carnitine versus androgen administration in the treatment of sexual dysfunction, depressed mood, and fatigue associated with male aging.”Urology 2004 Apr;63(4):641-6. (source)

[xvii] Liu J., Head E., Gharib A.M., Yuan W., Ingersoll R.T., Hagen T.M., Cotman C.W., Ames B.N. “Memory loss in old rats is associated with brain mitochondrial decay and RNA/DNA oxidation: partial reversal by feeding acetyl-L-carnitine and/or R-alpha -lipoic acid.” Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2002 Feb 19;99(4):2356-61. (source)

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Join The Discussion - 344 comments

October 24, 2020

Hello David
Can L-carnitine lower prolactin levels?

October 21, 2020

Hello David,
Can ALCAR help/reduce hyperthyroidism symptoms?

    David Tomen
    October 21, 2020

    Sven, several decades of studies show that L-Carnitine can help reduce the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Recommended dosage of Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR) is 800-2,000 mg/day.

October 20, 2020

When you say that alcar helps the transport of fatty acids, does this mean that alcar improves the effectiveness of dha?
taking alcar together with dha has additional benefits?

    David Tomen
    October 23, 2020

    Paul, fatty acids used in the synthesis of ATP.

    Sure, ALCAR stacked with DHA works great. But I don’t believe they provide a synergistic type of benefit.

September 25, 2020

Please i need to know the safest dose for my son he is 8 years , may it help his memory and focusing

    David Tomen
    September 25, 2020

    Yassmine, the lowest recommended dose of ALCAR for adults is 500 mg. There is no known dosage for children. This is something you should check with your doctor. If it was my child I’d try 1/4 the adult dose.

September 13, 2020

Whew! I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll start by saying I have combo ADHD, but it doesn’t behave like most people’s I’ve encountered. 1) I’m not impulsive at all, but my hyperactivity is insane. 2) I didn’t always have combo. Inattentiveness only manifested later in life. Also, I was diagnosed as an adult, not a child, even though I clearly had it from childhood. With all that said, here is my stack

Phosphatidylserine – 300mg
CDP-choline – 250mg
Acetyl-L-Carnitine – 1000mg
Alpha lipoic acid – 400mg
L-Theanine – 200mg
Pine Bark extract – 100mg
Lions Mane – 500mg
Ashwagandha – 125mg
Vegan Omega 3 – 2000mg (800mg DHA)
Magnesium – 200mg
Sam-e – 600mg
Performance lab multi
Vyvanse – 50mg

These are total numbers for the day; they are broken into three dosages with a separate time given to Vyvanse. I have been doing fairly well on this combination, and am actually dropping to 40mg Vyvanse at my next refill. My question is do you see anything that looks too low or to high? I’m asking because I am making tweaks to really get the best result. I have no problem focusing once I get going, but I do still have problems getting started. I’m still quite hyper, but I’m fine with this level of hyperactivity. My main hurdle is the ability to start. I’m trying to figure out what it could be.

    David Tomen
    September 14, 2020

    K, I don’t see any L-Tyrosine or NALT in your stack. If that’s the case then I think that’s your problem. Try adding 500 mg L-Tyrosine twice a day and see if that helps.

      September 14, 2020

      Thank you! Will do

      September 22, 2020

      Okay, I have been taking 500 mg of L-Tyrosine every morning since I last left this comment. I wanted to start at 500 mg before increasing. What I have noticed is that I have a bout of dizziness that lasts for roughly 15 minutes everytime I take my afternoon stack. That contains 500mg Lion’s mane, 400mg Sam-e, 100mg phosphatidylserine, 500mg ALCAR, 200mg alpha lipoic acid, multivitamin, and Omega.

      I have also noticed that I am exhausted by 9pm, and have been falling asleep between 9-10pm each time. What do you think is causing this?

      Also, I haven’t felt much improvement in my executive function. I’m still struggling to get started. I am well aware that supplements take time to work, but my body has always responded fairly quickly to anything I take. Usually no later than a week I will feel something.

        David Tomen
        September 23, 2020

        K, while have haven’t the evidence handy I think it’s likely 500 mg ALCAR in the afternoon. Try eliminating only ALCAR from your afternoon stack and see if that solves the problem.

August 16, 2020

I have been taking Acetyl Carnitine for cognition but its only partially effective, and i have had to escalate the dosage to keep functioning. Without it i am almost a vegetable, unable to think straight, make decisions, concentrate, follow instructions or a recipe, watch TV shows, read books or anything as complex as news articles.
With it (now at 4500mg/day) i can read simple stuff, post replies, follow conversations (for a while) and make simple decisions.
I don’t know what to try next as the dose escalations are too expensive to maintain on my income and i don’t know what the long term effects are of going above the recommended dose (the package says do not exceed 2000mg/day).

    David Tomen
    August 17, 2020

    Bob, ALCAR is likely effective for you because it helps transport fatty acids into brain cells where mitochondria uses L-Carnitine for ATP production. Which is your primary source of energy.

    Where do you get your ALCAR from? Is it powder from a company like Bulk Supplements?

    You can further support this energy product function by using R-Lipoic Acid, CoQ10 and PQQ. You can save some money by getting all 4 of these nootropics in Performance Lab Energy:

Andrew Robinson
August 2, 2020

David, I have read one of your free e booklets, very helpful. I take 550 MG ALCAR / 225 MG ALA & 500 MG. NAC.At 70 years of age I wanted the benefits of ALCAR; for my brain and non diabetic neuropathy pain.First started with 4 days on 3 off. Then I began taking ALCAR/ALA every day. During the last few months I began to notice sleep disruption every night. I would wake in 3 hours, stay awake for 1/2 hr to an hour then go back to bed. I blamed it on stress from COVID / working from home but I stopped taking ALCAR / ALA for 7 days before a minor surgery and noticed the sleeping through the night resumed! Have you heard of sleep problems wit ALCAR before? I can feel a change in my mood and the return of sluggishness. Can you make any suggestions or possibly a replacement nootropic with similar properties to ALCAR? I would be all ears to learn your opinion. Regards, Andy

    David Tomen
    August 2, 2020

    Andrew, there really isn’t an ‘alternative’ to ALCAR other than L-Carnitine. An acetyl group is added to L-Carnitine to improve bioavailability. It’s a necessary cofactor in the synthesis of acetylcholine. And helps transport fatty acids into cells for mitochondrial metabolism (i.e. to make ATP).

    Insomnia is a rare side effect of ALCAR and hardly ever happens. No one has a good explanation for why this happens when it does. Seems you’re one of the lucky ones. 🙂 You could try reducing your doses in half and try 250 or 300 mg and see if that helps. And make sure you’re taking it first thing in the morning.

    You can try replacing it with a direct precursor to acetylcholine such as Alpha GPC or CDP-Choline.

July 30, 2020

I just started using ALCAR powder. I’m getting minor headaches and hypertension. I don’t have a scale, but I use a 1/8 tsp measure and only fill it 1/4 of the way full. So around 1/32 of a tsp. I can’t imagine it’s more than 100-200mg.

So I have two questions,
1. Is there an other supliment/Nootropics I could take that would help with tension? Like maybe NALT?

2. How safe is ALCAR and other Nootropics on the stomach lining?


I have ADHD and really really bad memory. Did I mention I have a bad memory? Word recall, names, and anything beyond yesterday are very difficult to access for me.

I also have crazzy leaky gut and so everything effects me extra powerfuly. I only just reallized that I should be using tiny servings of supliments. Using half or less of what is suggested. Thats why I’m really taking as little ALCAR as possible, but it’s still effecting me. Magnesium L Threonate did the same thing with tension, but no headache. the Caffeen in a tsp of cocoa and keep me focused buy also gives me tension.

I’m guessing that I should probably stick to less concentrated supplements like bacopa?

Thanks so much!

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