October 20/London/Indo-Asian News Service -- Probiotic drinks and yogurts, popular with millions of consumers trying to stay healthy, do not really help people's digestion, finds a recent study.

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 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, reports the Telegraph. It found that all were inadequate to support the company's claim that its products maintained immune defences against the common cold.

EFSA's ruling is being challenged by the industry, but if these appeals fail, the companies will no longer be allowed to market the foods as aiding digestion or helping the immune system in future.

Yakult in its most recent TV advertisement asserts, "Yakult's billions of friendly bacteria help keep your gut healthy, and a healthy gut helps make for better digestion and stronger natural defences."

Danone, Britain's biggest manufacturer of probiotic drinks and yogurts, said none of its products was subject to the ruling, as it had withdrawn its claims that Actimel and Activia boosted the immune system and aided digestive health.

Nearly 60% of British households regularly buy probiotic drinks.

From the November 1, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition