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Diet can be a serious risk factor for a number of diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and some cancers, but the exact effect of different components of food may depend on your individual genetic makeup. For example, a single letter change in DNA in people living in Scandinavia 10,000 years ago allows most Caucasian adults today to drink milk without getting sick due to lactose intolerance.

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Patrice Esseff is a regional coordinator for Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, one of the largest social service providers in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties since 1919. Clients come for emergency food and shelter, low-cost before-and-after-school childcare, immigration and refugee assistance, psychological services, computer and jobs skills training, and other supportive services. All services are available regardless of a client's race, ethnicity, income, gender or religious belief. Esseff coordinates with St.

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Margo Wootan is director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, or CSPI, a leading consumer advocacy organization that specializes in food, nutrition and public health issues. She co-founded and coordinates the activities of the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA), a coalition of national, state and local organizations. She is a member of the National 5 A Day Partnership steering committee and co-chairs the Policy Subcommittee for the Partnership.

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Dr. Laurene Mascola is chief of the Acute Communicable Disease Control (ACD) unit for the Los Angeles County Department of Health's Public Health Programs & Services, which performs disease surveillance and epidemic control activities for more than 60 diseases. Mascola oversees the County's programs for immunization, food and water safety epidemiology, vectorborne (insect) disease, hospital outbreaks and bloodborne diseases. Mascola has extensive experience in epidemiology and disease prevention, publishing more than 100 articles and abstracts in numerous medical and public health journals.

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Estela Casas is executive director of Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, a nonprofit organization that promotes social change and justice by providing high-quality legal services to the low-income community. For over 35 years, the law practice has helped thousands of Kern County's poorest and most vulnerable residents with an array of legal issues, predominantly involving housing, family and children services, senior services, and maintaining economic stability.

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Dr. Frazao worked several years as an International Nutrition Planner helping to develop multisectoral nutrition programs, which led to her interest in applying economic theory to nutrition-related problems.

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Native Americans experience higher disease rates than other Americans for problems ranging from diabetes and heart ailments to mental illness and suicides, which contribute to their lower life expectancy. Get tips from a veteran journalist for covering these health issues.

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