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Yogurts do not aid digestion

A leading European food watchdog has claimed that probiotic drinks and yogurts, popular with millions of consumers trying to eat healthily, do not boost the immune system or aid digestive health.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has examined more than 800 health claims from food companies, including those submitted by the multi-billion pound probiotic industry. EFSA’s independent panel of scientists found that the claims that these products could strengthen the body’s defences, improve immune function and reduce gut problems were either so general as to be inadmissible, or could not be shown to have the claimed effect.

In a separate ruling, the panel examined a dossier of 12 studies submitted by Yakult for its own strain of probiotic bacteria, Lactobacillus casei shirota. It found that all were inadequate to support the company’s claim that its products maintained immune defenses against the common cold.

Drug marketing influences docs’ prescribing habits

A new study has revealed that under the influence of pharmaceutical promotion, doctors are likely to prescribe more expensively, less appropriately and more often.

The findings have offered a broad look at the relationship between doctors’ prescribing habits and their exposure to information provided by drug companies. Researchers analysed 58 separate studies of this phenomenon from Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia, dating from the 1960s.

“Many doctors claim they aren’t influenced by the information provided by pharmaceutical companies. Our research clearly shows that they are and the influence is negative,” said Joel Lexchin, York University, Toronto. “Unfortunately, patients are the ones getting a raw deal. If doctors are inundated with advertising from brand name companies, they are more likely to prescribe that brand name, regardless of whether it’s best for the patient.”
Overall, researchers found no evidence that drug companies’ promotional efforts improve prescribing behaviour in any way.

Our brain can see an object just by listening to it

Scientists at The Montreal Neurological Institute and McGill University have discovered that our brains have the ability to determine the shape of an object simply by processing specially-coded sounds, without any visual or tactile input.

The research provides important new possibilities for aiding those who are blind or with impaired vision.

“The fact that a property of sound such as frequency can be used to convey shape
information suggests that as long as the spatial relation is coded in a systematic way, shape can be preserved and made accessible - even if the medium via which space is coded is not spatial in its physical nature,” said Jung-Kyong Kim, Dr Robert Zatorre’s lab at The Neuro.

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