Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wanna Buy some Snake Oil?

Every once and a while someone walks into my office holding a lengthy printout.

Sometimes the printouts are from "hair analyses", sometimes from "blood analyses" and sometimes from "electrical skin analyses".

In every case the printouts detail all sorts of foods that person is supposedly intolerant of.

While I do indeed believe that folks may well be intolerant of specific foods, I take issue with testing methodologies that are not in and of themselves scientifically explicable or whose results are non-reproducible.

[FYI - Food intolerances generally are identifiable via strict exclusion diets, IgE-mediated skin prick or radioallergosorbent test. IgG testing is not useful as IgG antibodies to food are common in the general population and thus are considered physiological]

The BBC recently ran an expose on some of these practices.

They sent one of their reporters to get tested by two separate "Vega Machines" which according to a website that promotes their use,

"The VEGA comes with a hand-held electrical probe which the physician presses against the individual acupoint of interest. The patient holds a brass tube in one hand, which is connected by a wire to the VEGA Machine. By holding this tube, the patient permits a completed electrical circuit to occur when the metal-tipped probe touches the acupoint. The probe relays micro voltage electrical information from the acupoints to the VEGA Machine, where it is displayed on a type of voltmeter readout.

Certain levels of electrical norms for the acupoints have been established by Voll's previous research. The electrical voltage level for a particular acupoint reflects the energy level of its meridian associated organ(s). The direction of electrical deviation from the norm can have important implications about the nature of the underlying problem in a particular meridian. For instance, an acupoint voltage that is lower than normal may be caused by degenerative disease within an organ system or by conditions which produce a low general vitality. Conversely, higher than normal acupoint voltage readings can be indicative of an underlying inflammatory process.

The VEGA Machine allows one to carry out an energetic inventory of the functions of the different organs in a very detailed fashion. The energetic information may be in the form of too little or too much meridian electrical energy. This first step may give a clue as to the presence of degeneration or inflammation in the organ in question."
These two Vega machines gave the reporter two completely different sets of results - results that also differed from those he obtained from his hair and blood sample testing.

He also sent off two samples of his blood to the same lab and received two separate reports. In one he was told he didn't have any intolerances, while the other showed a "reaction" to cow’s milk, grapefruit, lemon, lime and orange.

If you click on the video below you can watch how the "MD" from Bionetics (the online hair analyses folks) tries to explain how hair analysis works.

Quantum physics apparently - according to their website,
"The Bionetics test is a practical application of the principals of quantum physics, which state that all atoms (living or non living) emit their own specific energy vibrations or frequency pattern. These energy patterns can be effected by interferance [sic] from the energy patterns of other atoms. This interference can have either a positive and negative impact on your health.

We share the belief that the negative disruption of the frequency of certain atoms, in your body, at a molecular level can cause ill health and lead to disease, and that the positive interference of other atoms can have a positive effect that can greatly enhance your wellbeing. The test includes capturing and interpreting your body energy outputs..

Your hair has an amazing ability to store these complex energy patterns. At bionetics, we scan your hair sample with a very sensitive digital radionics machine, which can capture the energy patterns that represent your unique frequency, and can identify any negative interference factors present. This data is then processed again to identify the remedies which have a positive influence on your frequency and that have proven effective in helping the body to eliminate the negative influences detected by the scan."
I wonder if their radionic scanner is sensitive enough to discern between the two equally powerful frequencies coursing through me right now - scorn and disbelief.

To read Quackwatch's take on electrodiagnosis (Vega machine) and hair analysis make the respective clicks.

If your gut immediately makes you angry at Quackwatch because you have an ill founded belief that Western medicine's desire for empirical evidence somehow reflects its shortsightedness, how about the paper by the Institute of Food Technologists' Expert Panel on Food Safety and Nutrition entitled, "Food Allergies and other Sensitivities"?