9

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Does anyone know when, who, what originally tied 'paleo' and low-carbohydrate together that people constantly have to say it isn't?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created March 26, 2013 at 1:22 AM

I am trying to work out when, who, what somehow tied the 'paleo' diet together with a low-carbohydrate, very-low-carbohydrate diet in the first place?

From what I assume when people mean it:
LC: < 100g of carbohydrate a day
VLC: < 50g of carbohydrate a day
XLC: < even a smell of starch a day

From what I recall Mark Sisson never pushed for staying under 100g of carbohydrate per day. I mean he used the phrase "Effortless Weight Maintenance" for between 100g - 150g.

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/press/the-primal-blueprint-diagrams/
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-primal-carbohydrate-continuum/

Also and I can't find a direct quote from Robb Wolf about his original carbohydrate recommendations, but will have a scan through his book tomorrow. A quick search gave me this 2009 blog post: http://robbwolf.com/2009/07/01/post-workout-nutrition-high-or-low-carb/

I think Loren Cordain just wrote contrasting the palaeolithic diet with the standard high-carbohydrate diet (> 200g per day?). I need to check what his recommendations were in the first place.

Anyway these three are generally thought of as the front-runners of 'paleo', and until I can see it specifically I just wonder how all this "eat no carbs!" came about and is still almost synonymous with 'paleo'. I guess everyone assumed that they were insulin resistant or something?

I mean all the Ray Peat fans get uppity about 'paleo' because apparently there is no sugar in 'paleo'. Also the Jaminets are still fighting the "safe starches" corner because somewhere along the way apparently 'paleo' wasn't about eating starches?

I am generally confused, is Jimmy Moore to blame for this all, or perhaps Gary Taubes, or actually is PaleoHacks to blame for all this carbophobic shenanigans?

I would love to know, because if I read another blog post from someone who is disillusioned with 'paleo' because apparently eating meat and vegetables with a some more fat is not working for them; I just might just do an Alex Owens!

Note: I put 'paleo' in quotes because I find it embarrassing to type it without them.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 27, 2013
at 03:40 AM

True, I don't remember why I read his huge-ass book back in the day, I wasn't paleo then.

32652cb696b75182cb121009ee4edea3

(5802)

on March 27, 2013
at 02:50 AM

Taubes isn't paleo, but he's kind of a gateway drug...

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 26, 2013
at 11:47 PM

Ancestor survival = food drying for the starving times. Pre-agriculture the most easily dried foods were meats and nuts. Fruits and roots are seasonally available, but are much harder to dry.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:42 PM

Which came first, the data or the authors preoccupation with low-fat diets and exercise? The data presented in some of the papers does not support their low-fat diet conclusions, the exercise conclusions however do follow the data.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:41 PM

Not quibbling with your point, just your language... I just wonder if a common scale of carbohydrate amounts could be agreed upon.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:24 PM

Lately I've been thinking and reading about the desperation-state of survival. Explorers, starving on a diet of cooked flour, desperate for meat. When they could kill some they immediately gorged on the fatty elk liver and bear grease, stuffed themselves with as much as they could at the kill-site and dried the rest. Meat was scarce therefore precious. 50 miles away coastal Salish ate a very high meat diet but would trade with distant tribes to get starchy carbs, and gave up local root-eating when flour became available. Carbs were scarce therefore precious.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:04 PM

This is the one I carry: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16002825?ordinalpos=9&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum The 80% long term failure rate is the sad part. The rest is just the tweaks the 20% use to keep their weight off.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 26, 2013
at 03:48 PM

I'll cite a page. I can't get all of these abstracts open, though most are based on analyses of the population over the last 15 years. I carry one of the summary papers around which describes the successful traits; low carb dieting is not among them. http://www.nwcr.ws/Research/published%20research.htm

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 03:45 PM

I mean, one paper I looked at had a scary graph showing that gainers increased their fat intake 1 year post-weight loss (change of 2% in a self-reported study, probably lucky to beat the error bars with that, LOL!), while maintainers did not. But the numbers showed: gainers increased calories (not just from fat), maintainers actually decreased their calories, gainers drastically decreased their activity, while maintainers only moderately decreased their activity.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 03:37 PM

Which papers based on the NWCR data are relevant then?

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on March 26, 2013
at 03:37 PM

Great, thanks Paul.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 26, 2013
at 02:54 PM

NWCR is a pretty big population study @matt, over a long period which covers paleo and atkins. No one has a financial interest, and it is academically vetted. Surveys are how you do a population study, and in a broad sense it's better than controlled studies of very small groups. The sad part is the high rate of failure on any DIET plan. As CD said a few days ago, you're better off not getting fat in the first place because it's near impossible to break the habit.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 02:04 PM

An internet survey, to boot, I don't put stock in that. Ron Paul is our president, right?

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 02:03 PM

NWCR a self-reporting study... eh.... it's not really a study, just a survey. Nearly every study I've seen discussing low carb show it is as or more effective than other strategies.

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on March 26, 2013
at 12:59 PM

I think a lot of people would be surprised what 100-150 carbs are made up of. A typical sweet potato is 20-25g, so that is 4-7 sweet potatoes per day. A lot of Paleo and low carb folks would be aghast at eating that many carbs.

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on March 26, 2013
at 12:45 PM

And how would you quantify exactly how many grams of carbs per day people ate 25,000 years ago?

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 26, 2013
at 12:23 PM

The Brown NWCR population doesn't show that low carb has a benefit for weight loss maintenance. http://www.nwcr.ws/ Low carb weight loss dieters may be successful initially, but like almost all weight loss dieters they don't persist.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 12:12 PM

"Lots of carbs" - what a precise term! ;)

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 12:11 PM

In the end, I think most all early paleo authors were quite low-carb, bordering on ketosis most of the time, it was an off-shoot from Atkins to some degree. The problem is that many of them have progressed and revised their thoughts on the carbohydrate conundrum. (Robb Wolf being one that comes to mind.)

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 12:07 PM

I'd love to see him (or somebody) revise the H-G diet data. Weight it for population. Look at the median or mode rather than the mean. Hint, hint, AHS!

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on March 26, 2013
at 11:14 AM

Nicely said Matt.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 10:55 AM

Taubes is not paleo.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on March 26, 2013
at 10:37 AM

But what if, like, paleo can also higher carb? Whoaaa mind blown right? Don't let *the man* put your diet in a little box and tell you how to live your life.

211d4075d68b24cd0aa7ebfa94262bb9

on March 26, 2013
at 05:16 AM

But is Taubes actually Paleo? The only reason he was invited to speak at the first Ancestral Health Symposium was because he was staunchly low-carb and this appealed to those looking for a weight loss gimmick.

211d4075d68b24cd0aa7ebfa94262bb9

on March 26, 2013
at 04:47 AM

Good question. I suspect that a large portion of the Atkins 2.0 people here came here via Jimmy Moore.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:18 AM

I don't know that wishing for what they didn't have always led the towards meat, or even something better for them. But they probably didn't wish for the same thing they barely survived on. Reading about the Press party of explorers starving in the Olympics, they devoured meat when they could get it, especially fatty bear and elk livers with bacon. Once the meat was gone they were back to flour, which kept them alive.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 26, 2013
at 02:45 AM

I use a cap, and sometimes spell it out Atkins Paleo. Two years ago here many people here talked about Atkins and Paleo as if they were synonymous. Enter Guyenet stage left...and with The Quilt barking at the moon, the real fun began...

89fa2da4805b0b4e54b77a5a20a2e206

(2097)

on March 26, 2013
at 02:26 AM

lol..noooo.!!..a 1/2 to 1 cow a day keeps the doctor away.. :) hehehe

Medium avatar

(39831)

on March 26, 2013
at 02:15 AM

It's only a pound a day, mary! Sheesh!

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10989)

on March 26, 2013
at 01:39 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTUeXX8BP_M&feature=youtube_gdata_player

89fa2da4805b0b4e54b77a5a20a2e206

(2097)

on March 26, 2013
at 01:29 AM

good question and in addition to that so has eat 1/2 a cow a day become synonymous

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11 Answers

14
9e20abb05f3f6e3cc4bb107f8980aecd

on March 26, 2013
at 12:54 PM

Hunter-gatherer diets are lower carb than contemporary diets just because of the arithmetic of food gathering. Paleolithic plant foods typically had ~200 calories per pound, whereas animal meats are typically more like 1500 calories per pound and fat is almost 4000 calories per pound. So a little bit of marrow could provide as much energy as large numbers of plants.

Cordain made the mistake of excluding starches, which others copied. That drove Paleo toward lower carb as well. There just aren't many sources of carbs once you exclude all starches as well as grains, legumes, and sugars. This effectively made Paleo lower-carb than Paleolithic hunter-gatherer diets.

Then there was a separate low-carb thread initiated by Atkins, and so once Paleo became low-carb it was a natural union: Paleo provided an evolutionary/anthropological/intellectual story for low-carb, low-carb provided a large market for Paleo and a number of weight loss success stories.

So I don't see it as an individual "who" driving it, it was more the logic of people's ideas and experiences that drove them together.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 26, 2013
at 11:47 PM

Ancestor survival = food drying for the starving times. Pre-agriculture the most easily dried foods were meats and nuts. Fruits and roots are seasonally available, but are much harder to dry.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on March 26, 2013
at 03:37 PM

Great, thanks Paul.

5
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 11:01 AM

Loren Cordain did a study on hunter-gatherer diets (or rather, he simply reanalyzed some data that was previously collected). If you look at that data/analysis, he comes up with a rather low-carb recommendation for what hunter-gatherer (read: paleo) people ate. The problem with his take on the data is that if you look at distribution of hunter-gatherer groups, they are quite biased towards Northern latitudes, so groups like the Inuit had undue influence over the macronutrient ratio consumed by H-Gs.

Though, compared to every other modern diet, save Atkins, paleo is low(er) carb. The quibble is whether it is nearly at Atkins levels, slightly above, significantly above Atins, or just below SAD. Even if you eat upwards of 200-300 grams of carbohydrate per day, you're still lower carbohydrate than a significant portion of the population.

And, low carb/Atkins/ketogenic diets generally have better than average results when it comes to weight loss/maintenance, so it's no surprise that those writing popular books for a mainstream audience make that sort of recommendation.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on March 26, 2013
at 11:14 AM

Nicely said Matt.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:04 PM

This is the one I carry: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16002825?ordinalpos=9&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum The 80% long term failure rate is the sad part. The rest is just the tweaks the 20% use to keep their weight off.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 02:03 PM

NWCR a self-reporting study... eh.... it's not really a study, just a survey. Nearly every study I've seen discussing low carb show it is as or more effective than other strategies.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 26, 2013
at 02:54 PM

NWCR is a pretty big population study @matt, over a long period which covers paleo and atkins. No one has a financial interest, and it is academically vetted. Surveys are how you do a population study, and in a broad sense it's better than controlled studies of very small groups. The sad part is the high rate of failure on any DIET plan. As CD said a few days ago, you're better off not getting fat in the first place because it's near impossible to break the habit.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 26, 2013
at 12:23 PM

The Brown NWCR population doesn't show that low carb has a benefit for weight loss maintenance. http://www.nwcr.ws/ Low carb weight loss dieters may be successful initially, but like almost all weight loss dieters they don't persist.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 03:37 PM

Which papers based on the NWCR data are relevant then?

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:42 PM

Which came first, the data or the authors preoccupation with low-fat diets and exercise? The data presented in some of the papers does not support their low-fat diet conclusions, the exercise conclusions however do follow the data.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 03:45 PM

I mean, one paper I looked at had a scary graph showing that gainers increased their fat intake 1 year post-weight loss (change of 2% in a self-reported study, probably lucky to beat the error bars with that, LOL!), while maintainers did not. But the numbers showed: gainers increased calories (not just from fat), maintainers actually decreased their calories, gainers drastically decreased their activity, while maintainers only moderately decreased their activity.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 12:07 PM

I'd love to see him (or somebody) revise the H-G diet data. Weight it for population. Look at the median or mode rather than the mean. Hint, hint, AHS!

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 02:04 PM

An internet survey, to boot, I don't put stock in that. Ron Paul is our president, right?

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 26, 2013
at 03:48 PM

I'll cite a page. I can't get all of these abstracts open, though most are based on analyses of the population over the last 15 years. I carry one of the summary papers around which describes the successful traits; low carb dieting is not among them. http://www.nwcr.ws/Research/published%20research.htm

5
Ed7403e397077dd1acdbf25c7f6e56ce

on March 26, 2013
at 10:03 AM

I think it's as simple a fact as not eating grains vs eating grains. Comparable to SAD or vegan/vegetarian Paleo is low carb, like it or not.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on March 26, 2013
at 10:37 AM

But what if, like, paleo can also higher carb? Whoaaa mind blown right? Don't let *the man* put your diet in a little box and tell you how to live your life.

3
C68f0b374156e5ce7a9b8358232bfed0

on March 26, 2013
at 10:53 AM

I'm not sure it's a case of anyone to blame; it's more a matter of statistics.

Paleo isn't a low carb diet but it does delve into nutrition and explains the science behind nutrition. No other 'diet' really did that. If it did, we weren't ready for it. Nowadays people are becoming more and more health conscious and disgruntled with their lives as the 'obesity epidemic' rises and so does life's stresses; they want to change their lives somehow and weight loss or activity levels are the first to be targeted. Enter Paleo.

The science involved in and explored by the Paleo community explains how when carbs are eaten there is an insulin response; the insulin response makes it easier for fat to enter cells and be stored as fat. Ergo carbs+fat isn't the best combination for weight loss. For weight management be it to lose, maintain or increase, monitor and tweak carbs (calories come into play as well but people don't understand them so ssshhhh). This is where the statistics comes in.

Majority of people who wish to alter their lives via food or exercise are those who can afford to do so, those in the developed world. In the developed world, obesity is rife. So the majority of people who digress from a SAD/CW lifestyle choice to Paleo are those who wish to lose weight. There are of course those who choose it for weight gain and health reasons but the majority want to lose weight. Statistics.

A good few entered into Paleo knowing it's more than just diet, they understand it really is a lifestyle choice: there to empower you, arm you with knowledge to facilitate more informed life decisions; it just so happens alot of it is food based. The rest, the rest heard about Jimmy down the road who lost 10 stone on the this 'Pallyo thingy'. He did it by not eating carbs. I think I'll give it a go. I need to lose weight.

So really I guess that darned bandwagon is to blame. People don't care about health improvements that Paleo provides. If they don't suffer the ailment themsleves, they'll pat you on the back, say "Well done!" and be very pleased for you as they bite into their double cheeseburger with large fries. They don't care about sleep improvements and cortisol reduction. Mention you lost weight, 'toned up' and suddenly they're all over it. That grows and spreads like mould on Starbucks coffee beans.

Lose fat, get noticed.

EDIT: Relating to ealier answers, also consider how carbs are defined: we define carbs in their truest sense ie food not fat or protein. Others define it as pasta, bread, rice, biscuits, crisps ie anything that isn't fuit, veg, protein and fat.

3
9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

on March 26, 2013
at 03:15 AM

Good question. I think some just use the diet as an excuse to eat a lot of bacon and/or meat, and low carb has some science and people behind it?

Many ancient cultures clearly ate lots of carbs, but many also had lots of health problems and died young. This is something that many people miss when trying to justify Paleo diets - many of our Paleo ancestors struggled to survive and probably wished they had a diet better than they did.

So really the optimal diet would be the diet that our Paleo ancestors wished they could eat, but not necessarily what they actually ate. I am sure there are entire cultures that survived on some starchy plants but may have done better if they had more game meat?

I personally love my meat but definitely need large portions of vegetables too. As I get older and have been with the Paleo diet longer I find that I want more vegetables, about 2/3 of the plate.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:18 AM

I don't know that wishing for what they didn't have always led the towards meat, or even something better for them. But they probably didn't wish for the same thing they barely survived on. Reading about the Press party of explorers starving in the Olympics, they devoured meat when they could get it, especially fatty bear and elk livers with bacon. Once the meat was gone they were back to flour, which kept them alive.

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on March 26, 2013
at 12:45 PM

And how would you quantify exactly how many grams of carbs per day people ate 25,000 years ago?

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 12:12 PM

"Lots of carbs" - what a precise term! ;)

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:41 PM

Not quibbling with your point, just your language... I just wonder if a common scale of carbohydrate amounts could be agreed upon.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:24 PM

Lately I've been thinking and reading about the desperation-state of survival. Explorers, starving on a diet of cooked flour, desperate for meat. When they could kill some they immediately gorged on the fatty elk liver and bear grease, stuffed themselves with as much as they could at the kill-site and dried the rest. Meat was scarce therefore precious. 50 miles away coastal Salish ate a very high meat diet but would trade with distant tribes to get starchy carbs, and gave up local root-eating when flour became available. Carbs were scarce therefore precious.

1
Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 26, 2013
at 02:37 AM

Gary Taubes. Atkins wanted to publish his books in the first place. He's in the front row center cheering for Atkins in 2002: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/07/magazine/what-if-it-s-all-been-a-big-fat-lie.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm And he certainly had trouble with this tidbit: http://reason.com/archives/2003/03/01/big-fat-fake

In other words believing Taubes makes you an Atkins believer. It's ALL about restricting carbs, not about how our ancestors lived their lives or what they ate. I've always been surprised at how uncritically paleos accept this.

211d4075d68b24cd0aa7ebfa94262bb9

on March 26, 2013
at 05:16 AM

But is Taubes actually Paleo? The only reason he was invited to speak at the first Ancestral Health Symposium was because he was staunchly low-carb and this appealed to those looking for a weight loss gimmick.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 26, 2013
at 10:55 AM

Taubes is not paleo.

32652cb696b75182cb121009ee4edea3

(5802)

on March 27, 2013
at 02:50 AM

Taubes isn't paleo, but he's kind of a gateway drug...

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on March 27, 2013
at 03:40 AM

True, I don't remember why I read his huge-ass book back in the day, I wasn't paleo then.

0
32652cb696b75182cb121009ee4edea3

(5802)

on March 27, 2013
at 02:58 AM

I think part of the low-carb philia stems from the fact that when people first go paleo, they usually, even if by accident, go low carb. I have to eat THAT many veggies to get to 100g? And it kind of sticks in their head that this is paleo.

It honestly took me a while to ramp up to the amount of veggies I needed to be eating. Wrapping my mind around eating more fat was easy; wrapping my mind around eating 2 bell peppers, 3 cups kale, 1 cup blueberries, 2 zucchinis, 1 sweet potato, and 1 cup of carrots (that's 100g folks) in ONE day, and then repeating the next? (btw, I can hit the same carbs with 2 bagels on SAD). That took a lot longer. Holy chopping Batman ... I go through about 6 knives a day!

0
028e70a250f38bd61fa81b0e0789bb6e

on March 27, 2013
at 02:42 AM

I also want to add something else.

Conventional wisdom has been high carb, low fat for a long time.

While paleo isn't necessarily low carb, it is low carb friendly. Palo acknowledges the possibility that a macro-nutrient structure of low carb and relatively higher fat could be good for a lot of people.

I am not talking about like VLC or <50g daily. I am talking about around 100g of carbs a day. In fact in my first year eating paleo I did not know what ketosis meant.

Also it is easy to push into lower carb range if you exclude grains.

0
Eed7dabde3d61910685845e04605267f

on March 26, 2013
at 04:43 AM

I've seen mention of people on low carb forums being a big contributing part re this sort of thing. Seems plausible... (It also can account for links between people automatically associating 'paleo' with weight loss.)

0
5dd50f78f47b8848d93724d6eb38d4c1

on March 26, 2013
at 04:29 AM

100g to 150g of carbs coming from vegetables and fiber is definitely low carb. Paleo and low carb are melted together, especially a few years ago when nearly everyone was low carb. The emphasis on protein and fat is still entrenched, it's basically the paleo default, you always here people talking about the low carb flu when going paleo.

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on March 26, 2013
at 12:59 PM

I think a lot of people would be surprised what 100-150 carbs are made up of. A typical sweet potato is 20-25g, so that is 4-7 sweet potatoes per day. A lot of Paleo and low carb folks would be aghast at eating that many carbs.

0
1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

on March 26, 2013
at 02:06 AM

One of the major one's was probably Mark Sisson's Carbohydrate Curve, where he suggests that anything beyond 150 grams of carbs leads to "insidious obesity." Another influence could be Gary Taube's book where he comes up with the idea that carbs drive insulin drive fat gain. "Good calories (fat and protein) Bad Calories (carbs).

Neither of these are true of course.

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