THE CLAIM

THE FACTS

It is one of those eternal quirky questions, at least for dog owners. But only recently have scientists taken a close look at actual studies of the resemblance between dog owners and their pets. In 2004, researchers in San Diego found that subjects in a study were able to correctly match pictures of dog owners with their pets more often than not, but only when the dogs were pure-breds. Simple traits such as hair and size played a smaller role than facial expressions. The same year, a University of South Carolina psychologist challenged the findings in a separate study. The San Diego researchers countered with a reanalysis that confirmed their initial findings.

Earlier this year, a scientist in England undertook a study in which 70 subjects were asked to match pictures of 41 dog owners with a breed. They were able to match successfully at least half the time, far better than chance. Similar to the San Diego study, the subjects said they matched the pictures mostly by personality traits that they believed the dogs and their owners shared. Scientists suspect that some people look for certain traits, which reflect their own personalities, when choosing a dog.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Some studies argue that dogs can resemble their owners, but the research is debatable.

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THE CLAIM

Drinking tea can lower your iron levels

THE FACTS

With its bounty of antioxidants and relatively moderate levels of caffeine, tea is one of the healthiest beverages around. But drinking tea is said to block the body’s absorption of dietary iron, potentially causing a deficiency.

Studies have shown that there is some truth to the idea. Compounds in tea called tannins can act as chelators, binding themselves to minerals and inhibiting the body’s ability to absorb them. In one study, scientists examined the effect by getting people to have a meal consisting of a hamburger, string beans and mashed potatoes with various drinks. When the subjects had tea, there was a 62% reduction in iron absorption. Coffee resulted in a 35% reduction. Orange juice increased iron absorption by approximately 85%.

But there was a twist. Coffee and tea affected only levels of non-heme iron, the kind found in grains and vegetables. Heme iron, found in meat, fish and poultry, was unaffected.

In India, where anaemia is common across age, gender and economic levels, it may pay to limit these beverages, particularly for vegetarians dependent on non-heme iron.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Compounds in coffee and tea can affect iron absorption.

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THE CLAIM

Eating parsley can eliminate bad breath

THE FACTS

People have long tried to freshen their breath with parsley. Its fresh, strong flavour would seem to make it a natural deodorizer. And its green colour is a sign of chlorophyll, thought to have antibacterial properties (sulphur compounds that cause bad breath are produced by various strains of bacteria in the mouth). But researchers have found little evidence to corroborate this. While it may have an initial effect on odour by masking it, it does little to reduce the concentration of volatile sulphur compounds. One unlikely food that has been shown to reduce levels of sulphur compounds is green tea, although the effect may be temporary, lasting no more than an hour or two.

Mouthwashes can be effective when they contain two ingredients in particular— zinc and chlorhexidine. But those that contain alcohol may make the problem worse by drying the mouth. Several studies have also identified a number of other factors that contribute to bad breath, including being overweight, drinking heavily and smoking.

THE BOTTOM LINE

There is little proof that parsley counteracts bad breath.

©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES

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