Wowcher promote useless hair analysis tests

Wowcher are promoting dodgy diagnostic tests that have no scientific basis.

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The ad relates to a bioresonance hair analysis test from BMT Food Tests.

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.

Further reading

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

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7 responses to “Wowcher promote useless hair analysis tests

  1. Pingback: Food intolerance test sellers try to cash in from BDA’s fad diet list | Josephine Jones

  2. Most people I have found to be allergic to the gluten containing grains: otats, barley, rye, and wheat. Most can give them up for awhile until their health improves on a healing program and then eventually add them back slowly if they wish. If they do not want to add these grains back in their diet, that is ok too. brown rice, blue corn, quinoa, millet, and others are excellent grains. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I would like to say I had my own suspicions that I was intolerant so thought I would send of the tests. My dairy test was exactly as expected top of the list blue cheese. I had a allergic reaction to this one Christmas. Camabert 2nd. Which if i eat sends my stomach into knots. Then lactose 3rd.
    I have been suffering with bloated, stomach pains, farts and diahorrea for years. Soya was 4th this was a surprise. The test confirmed all my suspicions and was 100% accurate. My sister also did her test and her result different to my own. She had. Result of yeast . This is also a on going problem she has had.
    Our. GP was useless. I was told cut it out and do a poop chart. That was it. No help at all. So I am glad groupon had the offer on.
    I have removed all lactose , dairy and soya from my diet and my tummy is 100% improved
    My hubby is very glad also. If I slip and eat things im not allowed he suffers lol
    I am waiting for the next offer so I can do the gluten as I also think I am wheat intolerant also ;-(

  4. Andrew Robinson

    You are totally correct. As a gastroenterologist I frequently see patients who have made drastic dietary changes as a result of these meaningless tests. The process is bizarre and random yet the sellers and Wowcher imply that it has validity. They should be shut down and fined for blatent fraud.

  5. Who is right? Seems scientists are arguing whether hair anaylsis is actually more accurate than blood… how does anyone know who to believe? Most of the sites claim that even standard tests are not 100% accurate.

    Also I’ve asked several times to be allergy tested by my GP, their advice was to avoid something, keep a food diary etc , I have done this in the past and its tedious and I would prefer to just have a result so I can eliminate the culprit and get on with me life..who wants to spend years of their life on elimination diets and spending money on expensive food they might not need to be eating or starving themselves. Most elimination diets say to cut meat out..what if you have b12 or iron deficieny? its much easier to just be given an answer quick.

    NHS said unless I was having severe reaction ie. needing to visit A&E or breaking out in extreme rashes(not just hives) that I couldn’t be tested for having continuous runny nose, itching, digestive problems, rashes i could go on and on…..they blame it all on my anxiety or say its IBS, which IBS is basically ‘we dont know what it is and don’t have the funds to be testing you any further so unless you get rushed into A&E or come in bleeding just put up with it’..
    I was eventually tested for dairy and gluten by a great doctor but anything else they will not test for presumably funding again…

    So why should people not pay to have themselves tested when these tests are not available through the NHS, quite often people are made to feel that they have hyprocondria and don’t get any apologies when they are eventually diagnosed with something so are forced by these bad types of doctors to be their own doctors and find tests elsewhere.

    • Sorry made an error and it will not let me edit it..my anxiety was also misdiagnosed for years by the NHS and I get the feeling a few of them have believed I had hyprocondria, to the extent one rolled his eyes at me before diagnosing me with something minor , when i brought my past health issues up he said its irrelevant, he ‘doesn’t care about where I was or what I was doing a few years ago’ which I was then rushed into A&E for something far more serious, interestingly connected to the issue I was trying to tell him about.
      I was told I had generalised anxiety and social phobia for over 15 years and eventually got diagnosed as PTSD, despite me informing my doctor, councellors, a psychiatrist several times about the situation/situations that was/had contributing/contributed towards it .. i was told to make a timeline of events that I found ‘anxious'(apparrently this was suppose to heal me) and had a councellor try to force me to confront me ‘anxiety’… really the worst thing you can do for someone who has PTSD.. I don’t rate most GP’s… many get google up whilst your there to look for your symptoms..or tell you to google something about your health, they dont all research the medicines they give out, I’ve been given a few over the years that have been banned in the states and thats saying something…if you have any knowledge about general health they get defensive like you are challenging their expertise or ‘ why bother coming if your an expert’ type attitude. God bless those that are good at their jobs and are very helpful and investigative, but they are few and far between sadly… out of all of the years of health problems i’ve only had two doctors that put my symptoms together… the others say ‘ lets treat each symptom’ … if everything is to save money then your health will suffer… if everythings about treating a symptom and just taking painkillers when others have managed to cure their illness or found the source of something it gives little insentive other than finances to take their advice 100% seriously… who wants to be in pain their entire life when they could try other alternatives that might even cure them…

  6. Very interesting. I came across this because Wowcher are currently offering this again 4 years later! – i guess they havent listened to your advice.

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