Updated 20 February 2015

Allergy tests that don't work

There are many allergy tests on the market. Some are scientific and have been proven to work, while others are based on pseudo science and wishful thinking.

What are allergies?

An allergy is your body’s abnormal reaction to certain “ordinary substances” (proteins)
in your environment.

People with allergies develop anti­ bodies called IgE, which trigger the secretion of
histamines that make you sneeze or puff up, cause your chest to feel tight or even
result in a life­-threatening shock reaction.

Just the smell of shellfish or a single bee sting can cause a deadly allergic reaction
within minutes in someone who suffers from allergies.


Everything you need to know about allergies
Allergy tests that do work

Allergy tests that don’t work

1. ALCAT (known as the Nutron test in Britain and as Bryan’s test or the Leukocytotoxic test elsewhere)

The background

The test was developed in 1956. Every few years it’s marketed under a new name with great media fanfare.

The claim
According to the test’s marketers, a patient’s white blood cells swell when they’re mixed with the troublesome allergen.

When this swelling exceeds a certain limit it indicates a positive result for an allergy.

According to AlcatSA’s medical adviser Dr John Pridgeon, Alcat is a revolutionary food allergy test that measures delayed allergy response and is registered by America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

He accuses South African doctors of waging a vendetta against Alcat. “I believe in this with all my heart and can state I have helped hundreds of people with it,” he says.

Alcat’s website claims patients can be cured of all sorts of allergies with a three-month exclusion diet based on the test.

The conclusion
Based on a number of studies, the world’s foremost allergy experts are unanimous: the test is diagnostically unsound.

The only study in the past 20 years to show Alcat tests work was discredited shortly after publication.

During studies done over many years it’s become apparent that the Alcat test will reveal a positive allergy test for broccoli on one day, only to reveal a negative one two days later and another positive one a few days after that. This is impossible – you either have a food allergy or you don’t.

“The test is measuring something but it’s not something that’s scientifically useful,” says Harris Steinman, an international allergy expert linked to the Allergy Association of South Africa (Allsa).

“Claims that illnesses such as nettle-rash and Crohn’s disease can be cured through treatment based on the test are excessive and give false hope.

"A food allergy can’t be cured overnight. One has to wait for it to run its course. Some people may outgrow it. Currently no treatment can instantly cure the allergy.”

The Alcat machine is FDA-registered but the clinical conclusions drawn from the results are not.

 2. The Imupro test (also known as the York test in Britain and the IgG ELISA allergy test)

The background
It’s simply the 30-year-old IgG ELISA test in a new form.

The claim
It measures various IgG antibodies to certain foods. According to Dr Denis York of ImuPro, IgG levels show whether a person is allergic to a specific food or not.

Dr York says the ImuPro Test has FDA registration. “ImuPro helps especially with the diagnosis of illnesses such as coeliac disease, where people develop a gluten or wheat intolerance as a result of a genetic predisposition.”

The conclusion
Measuring IgG levels to indicate a specific food as an allergen is meaningless, Steinman warns. There is no proof the test has any diagnostic value. In fact there is proof IgG antibodies can protect you from developing a food allergy!

The ImuPro equipment has FDA registration but not the clinical conclusions drawn from the results.

3. Applied kinesiology

The background

The tests involve your arm being pushed down, a pendulum being swung over you, or a magnet being held in front of you in order to measure your energy field.

They were developed in 1964 by American chiropractor George J Goodheart.

The claim
Its proponents say energy fields exist inside the body and these can be used to test for allergies and food intolerances.

The practitioner usually asks you to hold a test tube containing the allergen. You then hold out your arm and the practitioner tries to push it down.

Read: The main allergy triggers

If this can be done easily the test for the allergen is diagnosed as positive. The antidote to the allergy is then held in front of you and if your arm can’t be pushed down easily it’s regarded as the correct one.

The conclusion
There is no scientific proof to show the strength of your arms, a pendulum or a magnet can help diagnose an allergy in any way, says Dr Morris, citing the findings of international allergy researchers.

4. SCIO (QX quantum machine)

The background

This is actually a biofeedback machine used to teach people to self-regulate their stress levels, which practitioners have adapted to diagnose allergies and illnesses.

The SCIO biofeedback machine


The claim
Electrodes are placed on your ankles, wrists and head, after which a computer does a “scan” for imbalances. According to Cape Town naturopath Dr Charl du Randt the Scio works like an ultrasound scan (sonar).

It can “observe” an overload of certain sub- stances in the body and even “redirect” it.

Should you correct 50 per cent of these so-called overloads by eating correctly and taking supplements, you can improve your quality of life by 60 per cent, he says.

Dr Du Randt is the author of the book Demonising Doctoring, in which he says satan is behind classic medical thinking, immunisations are the mark of the devil and make people ill, and the medical industry “chemically maims, murders and maltreats the public” with ordinary medications.

He uses the Scio (QX) Quantum machine and a “living blood analysis” to indicate irritants and allergies in the body and, according to him, to heal cancer.

The conclusion
Neither the FDA in America nor the MCC in South Africa register the Scio machine as a device for the testing or diagnosis of allergies or other illnesses.

The machine may be used in America for bio-feedback only. There is no scientific proof it’s useful for anything other than this.

5. The Vega test

The background

The Wheatstone Bridge Galvanometer is used to measure energy build-up on the skin.

The claim
The test is an electronic adaptation of acupuncture. It’s based on the idea that the body has measurable energy lines. The patient has one electrode placed over acupuncture points and the other applied to a battery of allergens and chemicals in a metallic honeycomb. A fall in the electromagnetic conductivity indicates an allergy.

The conclusion
A study led by respected international medical researcher and allergy specialist Prof Stephen Holgate could find no scientific accuracy.

6. Living chemical blood analysis

The background

Your finger is pricked; a drop of blood is placed on a slide and is “read” by a computer.

The claim:
The “health” of red and white blood counts is determined and deductions are made about “parasite contamination” and allergies.

The conclusion
International allergy experts say the test has no scientific value and nothing that can be seen in a drop of blood under a microscope can tell you anything scientific about allergens or an allergy.

What does a proper scientific test involve?

An allergy test must be registered with the South African Medicines Control Council, be based on solid scientific research, be reliable and reproducible.

Established scientific tests measure antibodies (IgE), delayed hypersensitivity reactions or the release of histamine.

Read more:

Allergy tests and procedures
Allergy testing scams exposed 
How allergies are diagnosed   

Allergy tests that actually work


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Allergy expert

Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies. obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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