Controversial Food Allergy Tests: Do They Work?

Food Allergy Diagnosis: Controversial and Unproven Diagnostic Methods

There are a number of unproven or controversial tests for diagnosing food allergies. These tests include:
  • Cytotoxicity testing
  • Provocative challenge
  • Immune complex assay
  • IgG subclass assay.
Cytotoxicity Testing
One controversial diagnostic technique is cytotoxicity testing, in which a food allergen is added to your blood sample. A technician then examines the sample under the microscope to see if white cells in the blood "die." Scientists have evaluated this technique in several studies and have found it does not effectively diagnose food allergy.
Provocative Challenge
Another controversial approach is called sublingual (placed under the tongue) or subcutaneous (injected under the skin) provocative challenge. In this procedure, diluted food allergen is put under your tongue if you feel that your symptoms (arthritis, for instance) are due to a food allergy. The technician then asks you if the given dose of food allergen has made your arthritis symptoms worse. In clinical studies, researchers have not shown that this procedure can effectively diagnose food allergy.
Immune Complex Assay
An immune complex assay is sometimes done on people suspected of having food allergies to see if groups, or complexes, of certain antibodies connect to the food allergen in the bloodstream. Some think that these immune groups link with food allergies. But the formation of such immune complexes is a normal offshoot of food digestion, and everyone, if tested with a sensitive enough measurement, has them. To date, no one has conclusively shown that this test links with allergies to foods.
IgG Subclass Assay
Another questionable food allergy test is the IgG subclass assay, which looks specifically for certain kinds of IgG antibody. Again, there is no evidence that this test can effectively diagnose food allergy.
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