Food intolerance test sellers try to cash in from BDA’s fad diet list

I’ve just spotted this news and thought I’d post it here as an afterword to yesterday’s post on dodgy food allergy/intolerance tests.

The British Dietetic Association recently published their annual list of the Top 5 Celebrity Diets to Avoid in the New Year. They have now heard that some are using the surrounding publicity in an attempt to sell food allergy/intolerance tests.

A spokesperson for the BDA, Sian Porter, commented:

The BDA strongly advises that if anyone thinks they have a food allergy or food intolerance, they should contact their GP to establish if this is the case, which will often result in a referral to a dietitian, which is a free NHS service.

The true prevalence of food hypersensitivity is very difficult to establish, but it is estimated that between 1 – 10% of children and adults have a food allergy, depending on the population studied.  However as many as 20% of the population experience some reactions to foods which make them believe they do have a food hypersensitivity.  It is important to understand the difference between a food allergy and intolerance, as these conditions are diagnosed differently and dietary management may also vary.

The BDA don’t mention who has been trying to sell allergy/intolerance tests or how they are going about it, so I can only speculate.

The Top 5 diets are the Breatharian diet, Biotyping, Gluten Free Diet, Alcorexia and the Dukan Diet.

I think Fad Diet no. 3 could be the culprit:

Gluten-Free Diet (new entry)

Celebrity Link:  Gwyneth Paltrow allegedly advocates this.

What’s it all about?  Cutting out gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley rye and oats and foods containing it is a healthier option for all and can lead to weight loss.

BDA Verdict: Whilst important for those with coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity, there is no credible published research showing that a gluten-free diet per se leads to weight loss in those without.  Many foods that contain gluten, like breaded products, pastries, cakes and biscuits, are high in calories, so by avoiding them, many lose weight. Many believe, wrongly, they can eat as much as they like of gluten-free substitutes like biscuits, sausages and beer. Gluten-free does not mean calorie free.

It occurs to me that people could be using this to push dodgy diagnostic tests for gluten intolerance, such as those mentioned in my last post. There would be a high rate of false positives, leading people without coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity to adopt the very diet the BDA are warning against.

Fad Diet no. 2 could also be of relevance:

Biotyping (new entry)

Celebrity Link:  In 2013, singer Boy George reportedly cited this as attributing to his weight loss.

What’s it all about?  There are various approaches with this. The BioSignature system relates to six different hormone types and fat accumulation in different body sites and aims for ‘site’-specific body fat reduction, measured by skinfold calipers, through hormone balance. By choosing only certain foods, thus cutting out others, adding a training programme and taking supplements the promise is it will ‘spot reduce’ fat.

BDA Verdict: Bio-nonsense! This diet relies too heavily on supplements and pseudo-science with only a selective grain of robust science (that hormones are involved in fat metabolism) and does not even mention visceral fat (internal fatty tissue). Many people will lose weight on this type of approach because it restricts certain foods.  It also restricts calorie intake and it involves physical activity.

Again, those pushing biotyping such as BioSignature are also pushing questionable allergy/intolerance tests. According to Charles Poliquin, who developed BioSignature, one of the most common stressors is the consumption of foods to which we are intolerant.

And according to Laura Power’s ludicrously inaccurate BioType Diet theory, there are four kinds of food allergies and intolerances, which correlate with blood groups. While implying every blood group is associated with some sort of allergy, the BioType website suggests that a questionnaire would enable you to determine if  you have a food allergy.

While some recommend utterly implausible tests such as hair analysis and VEGA testing, many nutritionists, including Poliquin and Power, recommend IgE and IgG food tests.

The Committee of Advertising Practice warns that IgE tests should not be interpreted uncritically, marketers should not claim that they can “clinically validate” test results with design certificates or that IgE can function as a sole diagnostic tool. And while IgG testing could conceivably work, consistent evidence that it is accurate or useful is lacking. Of course, some advertisers are not aware of this warning or choose to ignore it.

Once more, if you have symptoms which you suspect may be caused by a food allergy or intolerance or by coeliac disease then see your GP, who can refer you to a dietitian.

While many people claim to be experts in nutrition, some have very limited (or very questionable) knowledge and training. Dietitians are regulated by law and governed by an ethical code. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist.

Further reading

Top 5 Worst Celebrity Diets to Avoid in 2014

Food allergy NHS Choices

Coeliac disease NHS Choices

Food Allergy and Intolerances The British Dietetic Association

Food Allergy and Intolerance Testing The British Dietetic Association

Top 5 Worst Celebrity Diets to Avoid in 2014 The British Dietetic Association, 25/11/13

Dietitian, Nutritionist, Nutritional Therapist or Diet Expert? The British Dietetic Association

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One response to “Food intolerance test sellers try to cash in from BDA’s fad diet list

  1. Pingback: Daily Overload – News in short (30-11-2013) « The Skeptical Bear

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