Wowcher are promoting dodgy diagnostic tests that have no scientific basis.
Hair analysis is not a valid way of diagnosing coeliac disease or any kind of food allergy or intolerance. If you think you might have any of those conditions you should consult your GP who can refer you for tests.
The ad continues:
If you constantly feel bloated or irritated after meals but can’t put your finger on what’s upsetting your stomach, we’ve got just the thing with these wheat and gluten and dairy and lactose food sensitivity tests. The non-invasive test is an alternative approach to food testing that uses bio-resonance therapy and is conducted remotely by experienced professionals, meaning that you won’t need to make any pesky clinic visits. Simply post a hair sample and filled out health form to BodyMind Therapy and you’ll receive your results within 21 working days via email.
I raised concerns with Wowcher when I saw the ad on 17th November and again today, but have had no reply.
A current Wowcher promotion, for Nutrition to Go, advertises Food Intolerance Testing, again by hair analysis:
Based in Liverpool, Nutrition To Go is the ideal place for anyone looking to get their body back on track. You’ll simply need to send them a small sample of your hair and fill out a health form which they’ll then use to test your tolerance for over 220 various foods, drinks and preservatives which can all cause a grumbling tummy. Simply sit back and wait for the postman to deliver your results within 21 days – it really is as simple as that! Let’s just hope turkey, mince pies, chocolates, brandy sauce and Champagne aren’t on the all-important banned list…
The Advertising Standards Authority have already ruled against similar ads (for example here and here). They judged that the ads were misleading, unsubstantiated and could discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. They ruled that the ads must not appear again in their current form.
Before writing to the ASA, I decided to contact BMT Food Test to Ask for Evidence. I asked them how the tests work and whether they have evidence that the tests are reliable. I also asked if they know of any reason that the tests are not available from NHS clinics.
The reply suggests that the only evidence they have is in the form of positive testimonials:
We do not think that these food tests are available because they offer an alternative approach to testing for sensitivities based on a hair sample. There do not appear to be any food tests available in the NHS that can offer 100% results. Most GP’s will suggest trying a exclusion diet.
Our many customers/client/patients have reported excellent results, some can be seen on our web site where you will find the information you have requested. I have also been part of a research study that has reported a very good response from these tests.I hope this helps.
The research study itself seems to consist of patient testimonials. According to the BMT Food Tests website…
There is no clinical research that has been carried out with bioresonance therapy and food testing. However, there is a qualitative research study which is anecdotal and based on people’s experience of having had these tests.
The testimonials they quote are in no way reassuring.
Since the test has no scientific basis, the results are entirely unreliable. There is likely to be a high rate of false positives, leading patients to be shocked and to drastically alter their diet for no good reason.
Thank you ever so much for everything and your shock findings with some items. I will do my best to change my diet and i hope i will see an improvement in my health sometime soon.
The test may seem to be effective if it confirms the patient’s suspicions (which they might have already mentioned in the form they posted together with the hair):
I just wanted to say thankyou for this analysis, I already had an idea that dairy food was not agreeing with me and so you have confirmed that, and also given me ideas for other things i would never have even thought of avoiding. And you have also picked up that I eat too much sugary stuff!
Results of the test are also likely to leave patients confused and worried:
It says I am intolerant to bread. Does this mean I can eat gluten free bread? And does it mean I should avoid gluten typed products. Or what would it be in bread that does not agree with me? Is there a way to find out?”
And even if the patient reports good results, there is no reason to believe it these are down to the test and the subsequent alterations to their diet.
I would like to say a very big thank you for these results the difference has been unbelievable I had constant swelling of my stomach and pain its gone I stopped eating fish as I ate a lot of this,I have also given up the Brazil nuts, its amazing thank you
Food intolerances can be difficult to tell apart from other digestive disorders that can produce similar symptoms, such as inflammatory bowel disease, gastrointestinal obstructions or irritable bowel syndrome.
Quack diagnostic tests such as hair analysis can mislead patients, giving them false reassurance and causing them to delay consulting their doctor or to ignore medical advice.
Wowcher say they believe in honesty and that a great price isn’t everything – it’s also got to be a great product or service. You should feel comfortable trying something simply because they have featured it.
If Wowcher care about their reputation, they should take note of concerns, remove these promotions and take steps to vet their ads more carefully.
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