Every year, South Africans – desperate for help and advice – spend thousands on tests to determine allergies and food intolerances.
The question is do allergy tests really work – or are they just a
money-spinning racket? By Elise-Marie Tancred
Coughing, sneezing, itching and unsightly rashes aren’t
simply irritating; they can be highly debilitating too.
More serious allergic reactions such as wheezing, gasping
for breath and anaphylactic shock can even be lifethreatening.
It’s no surprise desperate sufferers are willing to dig deep into their
pockets for tests they hope will pinpoint the cause of their discomfort.
Following the “diagnosis” they usually embark on stringent diets in the
hope of scratching, or calming, the allergy itch.
When described by their practitioners, some of these allergy tests
sound wonderful, logical and like the answer to your prayers. Especial-
ly when the “doctor” also carefully explains your illness, takes a blood
sample or uses special equipment and procedures with names like Vega,
Scio Quantum, Alcat or kinesiology.
Practitioners claim some tests can
measure up to 3 000 substances in your body in just three minutes.
Some healers even claim to be able to “read vibrations” over the phone
and diagnose your allergies that way. Then there are the home test kits
that can be ordered off the internet.
Some of these tests may sound believable, even scientific – but the
simple truth is they don’t work. nor do the outlandish tests that
measure your body’s energy fields or use pendulums and magnets
None of them is based on reliable,
scientific proof or research. Instead they
rely on extremely controversial and shaky
Even the two most popular food
allergy tests, the ImuPro and Alcat tests,
supported by British nutrition pioneer Patrick Holford are
at the centre of a scientific storm.
People who have these tests done are wasting their time and
putting their faith in dubious, unscientific “diagnoses”, warns
world-renowned allergy specialist Dr Adrian Morris of the Sur-
rey Allergy Clinic in Britain.
There are only four standard allergy tests in the world that
take a scientific approach to diagnosing allergies: skin testing
using a prick or puncture technique, the RAST/IgE blood test,
and the CAST and APT Patch tests.
These four are literally the
only allergy tests registered and ratified by the South African
Medicines Control Council (MCC) and supported by both
doctors and registered homeopaths.
“Even so, thousands of rands are paid to the so-called guru
who swings his pendulum to treat headaches, gas, forgetfulness
and tiredness, while serious allergies could remain undiagnosed,”
Dr Morris tells YOU Pulse.
The story is almost always the same: first come the unscientific
tests, then unscientific diagnoses are made for a variety of ail-
ments – usually Candida albicans syndrome, metal toxicity, food
intolerances, hormone imbalances or allergies to ordinary medi-
cines, colourants or preservatives.
Everything from hyperactivity
to autism is blamed on an incorrect diet. “Often illnesses and
allergies that don’t exist are diagnosed, such as a yeast or sugar
allergy. Sugar isn’t even an allergen – an allergen must have a
protein or protein bond,” Dr Morris says.
The treatments also always follow the
same formula: a strict diet without wheat,
dairy, sugar and coffee combined with
bottles of herbal supplements and even
claims of healing.
Many people find their condition improves while on the strict
diet but medical researchers say this is due to the placebo effect
(the patient is reassured but the remedy has no therapeutic
Many alternative practitioners have published research
on successful outcomes or presented their findings at confer-
ences, but on closer inspection their results have been ascribed
to the placebo effect.
The diet and supplements also detract from the real cause of
the patient’s physical discomfort, which is often a genuine
allergy. It then delays effective treatment and, if left untreated,
can even result in death.
Dr Morris recently came across the case of a small boy with
a serious nut allergy. His mom took him to an alternative
therapist who diagnosed a yeast allergy and encouraged the child
to eat nuts.
Yet a piece of peanut the size of a pinhead is big
enough to kill children allergic to nuts. Fortunately a correct
diagnosis was made before a catastrophe occurred.
Strict diets can also be dangerous for growing children as they
don’t offer a balanced array of food necessary for normal growth.
Plus, too much of certain herbs can damage developing organs
or interfere with the workings of other medications.
studies of some Chinese herbal remedies have proved that while
a few can relieve allergic reactions such as eczema, some can also
cause liver damage.
It’s therefore essential to know which allergy tests work and
which are just fads.
per cent of
them, but this
the type and
degree of the
What are allergies and how do they affect the body?
An allergy is your body’s abnormal reaction to
certain “ordinary substances” (proteins) in your
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 lifethreatening 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.
(known as the Nutron
test in Britain and as
Bryan’s test or the
Leukocytotoxic test elsewhere)
The test was developed in
1956. Every few years it’s marketed under a new
name with great media fanfare.
According to the test’s marketers,
a patient’s white blood cells swell when they’re
mixed with the troublesome allergen.
swelling exceeds a certain limit it indicates a posi-
tive result for an allergy.
According to AlcatSA’s
medical adviser Dr John Pridgeon, Alcat is a revolu-
tionary food allergy test that measures delayed al-
lergy 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.
Based on a number of studies,
the world’s foremost allergy experts are unanimous:
the test is diagnostically unsound.
he only study
in the past 20 years to show Alcat tests work was
discredited shortly after publication.
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
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 in-
stantly cure the allergy.”
The Alcat machine is FDA-registered but the
clinical conclusions drawn from the results are not.
(also known as the
York test in Britain
and the IgG ELISA allergy test)
It’s simply the 30-year-old IgG ELISA test in a new form.
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 es-
pecially with the diagnosis of illnesses such as coeliac disease, where people
develop a gluten or wheat intolerance as a result of a genetic predisposition.”
Measuring IgG levels to indicate a specific food as an aller-
gen is meaningless, Steinman warns. There is no proof the test has any diag-
nostic value. In fact there is proof IgG antibodies can protect you from devel-
oping a food allergy!
The ImuPro equipment has FDA registration but not the
clinical conclusions drawn from the results.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(QX quantum machine)
This is actually a biofeed-
back machine used to teach people to self-regulate
their stress levels, which practitioners have adapted to
diagnose allergies and illnesses.
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
It can “observe” an overload of certain sub-
stances in the body and even “redirect” it.
correct 50 per cent of these so-called overloads by eat-
ing correctly and taking supplements, you can im-
prove 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 indi-
cate irritants and allergies in the body and, according
to him, to heal cancer.
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
The machine may be used in America for bio-
feedback only. There is no scientific proof it’s useful for
anything other than this.
The Vega test
The Wheatstone Bridge Galvanometer is used to
measure energy build-up on the skin.
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 electromag-
netic conductivity indicates an allergy.
A study led by respected international medical researcher
and allergy specialist Prof Stephen Holgate could find no scientific accuracy.
The background :
Your finger is pricked; a drop of blood is placed
on a slide and is “read” by a computer.
The “health” of red and white blood counts is determined and
deductions are made about “parasite contamination” and allergies.
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.
tests measure antibodies (IgE), delayed hypersensitivity
reactions or the release of histamine.
Tests that work
The tests below are used by doctors and often by registered homeopaths.
A needle prick deposits the allergy
serum in the skin. The area around the prick will either
become red and swollen or not react at all.
is regarded as a positive result for the allergen. The test
doesn’t measure the delayed allergic reaction that in-
dicates a certain type of sensitivity to an allergen. For
this the PATCH test is required .
RAST/UniCAP IgE blood tests:
These measure IgE
antibody levels in the blood. There are two kinds: a
total or a specific RAST test.
Usually both are done so a
full diagnostic history can be used to make a diagnosis.
CAST (Cellular Allergen Stimulation Test)
This blood test has been available for the past 10 years. It isn’t a
good test for a food or pollen allergy and is mostly
used to test allergies to preservatives, medications and
Atopy Patch Test (PATCH) This tests for delayed
food allergies and hypersensitivity. Small containers
of fresh food are glued to the skin for 24 hours, after
which skin inflammation reaction is analysed.
test is especially useful in diagnosing allergies in
Dr Neil Gower, national secretary of the Homeo-
pathic Association of South Africa, says the association
doesn’t support the use of any unregistered machines,
computer programmes, techniques or tests to diag-
nose allergies and illnesses “especially when the peo-
ple using them aren’t registered practitioners”.