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Letters to the Editor: Probiotics, Uber, and More Probiotics

Understandably, people have strong feelings about probiotics.

by Emanuel Maiberg
May 29 2016, 5:00pm

Image: Flickr/llee_wu.

Something we've noticed since we killed the comments section in favor of publishing and responding to reader mail is that stories about health, diet, and fitness get a much stronger reaction than the average story.

That makes sense. Not everyone cares about bitcoin or video games, but until we figure out how to upload our consciousness to a computer, we all have these squishy bodies to take care of. A lot of people think they figured out the optimal way to do that, and when we publish something that contradicts their methods, they will let us know they disagree.

That's why we got so many letters about a recent story about a story that claimed Probiotics Are Useless, GMOs Are Fine, and Gluten Is Necessary. Those are three hotly contested issues packed into one story, and we got a lot of great feedback from people who thought we're dead wrong. You can read some of those emails and our responses to them below.

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RE: Probiotics Are Useless, GMOs Are Fine, and Gluten Is Necessary

The legitimacy of this fledgling "news source" has taken yet another hit over its sensationalist claims in an article that basically tows the line for big business and supposedly debunks the need for Non GMO food as well as gluten etc...

When will you people have enough money? When will you realize that half baked news is as bad as propagating straight lies to your ever decreasing audience?

Journalists? Jokers would be a better classification.

-- Justin

My, my. Here we go again. People mindlessly circulating misrepresentations of so-called science. Not interested in the GMO and gluten debate, but let's take a look at this claim about probiotics. I doubt that many if any re-circulators bothered to read the actual study, but I did, so let's look at what it actually says. First off, it doesn't say "probiotics are useless," but rather starts by stating that numerous studies have shown the benefits of probiotics for "unhealthy people". This recent study wants to determine if probiotics are useful for "healthy people." More specifically, the authors want to know if probiotic supplements provide protective levels of bacteria in the colon. They are testing fecal matter, not the stomach—a very significant difference. They then review ALL scientific studies, find 1368 citations that apply, whittle them down to 7 by eliminating any that don't meet their very strict criteria. And then they conclude "we find there is a lack of evidence to conclude whether or not there is an effect of probiotics on fecal microbiota composition in healthy adults". A "lack of evidence" on "fecal microbiota" does not say "probiotics are useless". Keep eating that yogourt!

-- Lee

You left out two extremely important pieces of information about the probiotic study in this kurt article.

First: The study was co-funded by Novo Nordisk, a pharmaceutical company.

Second: The results of the study do not in any way examine the efficacy of probiotics. Simply reporting on the bacterial makeup in fecal matter does not consider the increase/decrease of actual bacteria in the colon nor does it examine the health benefits from probiotics which have been corroborated in over a dozen separate studies in the past 2 decades.

Lumping probiotic treatment into an article discussing GMOs and gluten allergies is mixing science with pseudoscience.

-- David

Hi David:

Thanks very much for reading and for sharing your thoughts on this topic. It's true the researchers are part of the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research at the University of Copenhagen, which has partially funding from the Novo Nordisk Foundation, it's an independent center and the foundation has no influence over the research there.

It's also true that these studies only looked at one potential measure of probiotic effectiveness, which I clearly state in the story. While probiotics can serve a function in certain cases (while taking antibiotics, for example) there's not a lot of scientific evidence that they have much benefit for healthy individuals.

Still, I appreciate your feedback.

Thanks kindly,

-- Kaleigh Rogers, Motherboard Staff Writer

I am pretty sure that arsenic is NOT used in processing of rice. It's actually worse than that; arsenic is fed to chickens and pigs(?) to aid growth and improve the colour of the meat. Manure is used to fertilize the rice crops (this is even considered "organic"), providing a source of arsenic that is absorbed by the rice.

If you're going to talk about bad science and debunk studies, it's best not to do so with bad information, otherwise your credibility isn't worth much.

Thanks,

-- Tom

Hi Tom,

Thanks very much for writing and for pointing out the error about how rice absorbs arsenic. I've updated the story and added a correction notice at the bottom.

Cheers,

-- Kaleigh Rogers, Motherboard Staff Writer

RE: Uber Earth, Motherboard's week of stories about Uber.

Hi there,

Just a quick question: is Motherboard or VICE being compensated or incentivized by Uber or any of its affiliates to dedicate the month of May to articles about Uber?

Thanks!

-- Drew Hurdle

Hey Drew,

Thanks for your interest. No, we're not getting any compensation or incentives for Uber week. It was a purely editorial decision.

We explain the reasons why we thought one company was interesting enough to merit a theme week here.

We have a range of stories planned for the week, some of which could be considered negative toward Uber and the ride hailing industry, some which might be considered positive, and some that would be considered neutral. But if you take a look at the first round of stories that came out today, it should be pretty obvious that it's not sponsored content for Uber or any of its affiliates.

-- Adrianne Jeffries, Motherboard

Re: Why Everyone Hates UberPOOL

Hi. Read the article on Uber Pool.

I think it is safe to say Uber is a scam anyway. It's just amazing how people went for it... but I suppose a lot of taxi companies are bad too.

There's one new thing, or maybe just another way. It seems very simple, but of course you will have the richness of meeting, shall we say, colourful individuals at times...

It's called Vedia taxi. It's currently on Android, soon on IOS. It's developed in Finland.

Basically you would add your bank info, your profile pic and then announce your starting point and destination. Others will pay you direct on your bank account if they want in.

After the ride, you pay the driver like always, with a card or cash.

This of course needs a fixed price environment. We still have the government [regulating taxis] so every fee is determined with collaboration and no taxis are allowed to overprice. The meters are all calibrated so you will always know the price even by counting mileage on Google map.

As an example, a 20km, 25 minute ride from airport to center will set you back roughly 45 Euros. You can expect more if you have more than two passengers. I will estimate 45 to 55 Ruros, depending on traffic situation. Maxicabs with +5 passengers have a higher rate.

This is controlled and it aims at meeting both the best availability and and at least some profit for the taxis. Nothing is 100 percent perfect ever, but I'd say this one comes close. Prices apply in all of Finland. Always the same and tediously predictable if you will.

I drive the taxi myself. Not an owner. I'll get myself yet another education next year because the pay isn't very good. You'll survive with long shifts but no riches there, never was and never will be.

For further info just go to vedia.fi, Google Play or ask me anything. I have pretty much nothing to do with Vedia, by the way. It just seems something usable.

Have a nice one.

Erkki

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That's it for this week. If you want to share your thoughts with us, we'd love to read them. You can contact us here.