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‘There is no validity’: Unproven blood tests for food sensitivity widely offered in Canada

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Feeling fat, itchy or bloated? Got tummy trouble? Want to help your hair or fix your skin? Could what you’re eating be ailing you? That’s certainly the sales pitch from companies behind food sensitivity tests.

They’re often advertised as a quick solution to a range of health issues, including by two of Canada’s biggest labs — despite the fact the science behind these questionable tests has been discredited by medical groups around the world.

And consumers, including Laura Chapnick, are buying in.

While waiting for other blood tests and an ultrasound in a Dynacare clinic, Chapnick saw an ad stating that 45 per cent of people suffer from food intolerances. Desperate for answers to her ongoing stomach problems, Chapnick later asked to take the $325 food intolerance test.

She said she “genuinely believed that doing … the blood test was going to give me absolute factual answers that I needed.”

Laura Chapnick decided to ask for an IgG blood test for food sensitivities after seeing an ad in a Dynacare clinic. She was there for other blood tests and an ultrasound. (CBC)

Within weeks, she received a report outlining 26 foods she should reduce or eliminate altogether. Many were foods she had been eating regularly, including corn, potatoes, peanuts, wheat, milk and eggs.  

“These tests scared the crap out of me,” she said. “These food tests scared me into believing that whatever I put in my mouth was toxic.”

Grocery shopping and eating quickly became a challenge. “I felt like a prisoner in my own head almost,” Chapnick said, “and became very obsessive, trying to figure out what can I eat.”

  • Also on Marketplace this week: Investigating the rise of ‘tech abuse’ and the truth about popular (and pricey) ‘teatoxes.’ Watch at 8 p.m. Friday on CBC TV or online.

Chapnick is not alone. The value of the global food allergy and sensitivity industry is expected to hit a whopping $24.8 billion US by 2020. And with food sensitivity tests specifically ranging in cost from more than $100 to nearly $400, companies are cashing in on the craze.

Two of Canada’s biggest labs, Dynacare and LifeLabs, promote and offer something known as IgG food tests at their labs, marketed as a way to test for food sensitivities.

But medical experts, including the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (CSACI), call IgG tests for food sensitivities “unvalidated,” and more than two dozen organizations warn about the misuse of such tests.

The reports being generated by the IgG test taken by Chapnick and countless others are being grossly misinterpreted, critics say.

Food sensitivities are different from food allergies. An allergy is an immediate, immune response, and foods like nuts and seafood are often known to cause allergic responses that can be life-threatening.

Sensitivities or intolerances, on the other hand, are not related to the immune system and often take hours, if not days, to take effect — and are therefore very difficult to diagnose.

Exposure not intolerance

Dr. Douglas Mack, a pediatric allergy, asthma and immunology specialist, argues the results of an IgG test are an indication that you had exposure to the foods — not an intolerance of them.

IgG tests measure levels of an antibody known as Immunoglobulin G — or IgG, for short.

“It should be used to track whether a patient actually is developing tolerance, not intolerance,” he said.

Dr. Douglas Mack is a pediatric allergy, asthma and immunology specialist. (Dave MacIntosh/CBC)

Interpreting the test otherwise is not only incorrect, but potentially hazardous to your health, Mack argues. By unnecessarily eliminating foods, he says he sees “kids that are coming in with nutritional deficiencies, with failure to grow very well.”

Removing foods from your diet could also lead to development of a food allergy, especially in children, says Mack. One young patient of his developed a milk allergy after eliminating it from his diet when a food sensitivity test suggested he had a milk intolerance.

“If these tests result in the harm of a child, we really gotta think twice about whether or not these labs should be offering these,” he said.

Putting the test to the test

To test the accuracy of these food sensitivity tests, Marketplace ran several different kinds on host Charlsie Agro, including drawing blood for the IgG tests offered by Dynacare and Rocky Mountain Analytical, which is owned by LifeLabs.

Both tests require a requisition from a naturopathic doctor or licensed physician. LifeLabs’ test is typically offered through naturopaths or other health outlets, however, while Dynacare’s food intolerance test is advertised and promoted directly to the consumer in its clinics.

The results from the Rocky Mountain Analytical test reported intolerances to 52 foods, while Dynacare reported 30 intolerances.

The tests offered by both Dyancare and Rocky Mountain Analytical require a requisition from a naturopathic doctor or licensed physician. (Tyana Grundig/CBC)

Before taking the tests, Agro had tracked what she was eating. Yet both tests reported intolerances to foods she regularly consumed, with absolutely no adverse reactions.

For example, Agro had a smoothie, which included flax seeds, for breakfast daily. Yet both tests suggested Agro is intolerant to flax. She also ate vegetable soup — containing barley, kidney beans and corn — without problem. Both IgG tests again claimed Agro is intolerant to these foods.

Both sets of lab results also showed Agro is “intolerant” of egg whites, all milks, wheat and gluten — all foods she eats regularly without issue.

What the results say

IgG is really a memory antibody, says Dr. David Stukus, an associate professor of pediatrics with the allergy and immunology department at the Ohio-based Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

“Measuring specific IgG levels merely detects that the person has eaten it at some point in the past,” he said. “It is a normal physiological response to eating.”

Stukus also said it wasn’t surprising that foods Agro hadn’t consumed in the weeks leading up to her blood tests showed up in her results.

One set of Charlsie Agro’s test results showed flax was a problem food for her. Yet she puts flax seed into her morning smoothie daily and has never felt negative effects. (John Lesavage/CBC)

Some foods “have cross-reactivity,” he said, meaning the proteins in one food are similar to the proteins in another.

“So it is possible that [the test] is picking up the memory antibody of other similar foods that have been eaten in the past,” Stukus said.  

He points to peanuts as a common example: If you’ve eaten peanut butter, your results might suggest you are intolerant to other legumes, like soy or other beans.

Serious side effects

More than 25 leading health organizations from around the world have warned about the misinterpretation of IgG tests, including a Health Canada scientist who wrote “these tests are not reliable and should not be recommended as a single diagnosis tool.”

Position papers from international medical communities have called the IgG blood test for food sensitivities “irrelevant,” “unvalidated” and “inappropriate,” warning that the test provides “false diagnoses” and that “the test should not be performed” for such a purpose.

There can also be adverse effects to drastically limiting your diet, including malnutrition and disordered eating patterns, says Stukus.

Chapnick said her eating patterns changed significantly after she got her IgG test back, which was done by Dynacare. So she turned to registered dietitian Elke Sengmueller to develop a diet she was comfortable with based on those results.

But Sengmueller says the radical changes the test was calling for would put Chapnick’s already compromised health in jeopardy.

“Because she had drastically cut down her foods already, because of her symptoms and her pain and not getting any answers, she was afraid to eat,” she said. “If she were to continue this … for an extended period of time, given her medical history I could see it … possibly leading to death.”

Registered dietitian Elke Sengmueller said the radical changes outlined in Chapnick’s IgG food test results made her client ‘afraid to eat.’ (CBC)

Mack says he is especially troubled by the IgG claims being made by LifeLabs and Dynacare through its marketing, as these are two of Canada’s largest blood labs, conducting millions of tests annually for everything from cancer screening to workplace drug testing.

“These are labs that we send patients to to get their bloodwork done for their iron, or to see if they have cancer, or to see whatever,” he said. “But in the same place, these labs are now offering a test for which there is no validity.”

Sengmueller echoes that concern.

“I’m surprised that an organization as reputable as Dynacare would be offering this to their clients, especially while they’re waiting to get their blood work done — they’re kind of a captive audience. It’s disappointing.”

Answering for IgG

When Marketplace asked the Ontario Ministry of Health about the manner in which IgG tests are being marketed in the province, a spokesperson said that labs are “operating as private businesses … and are allowed to provide a variety of tests that they are licensed to perform.”

Health Canada told Marketplace it has issued medical device licences for some IgG tests, but that none are “intended to be a single tool to be used for diagnosis of food intolerance.”

In its response, Dynacare said that “debate exists” about the use of the tests for food sensitivities, but  “peer-reviewed articles support the use of the food IgG test as an additional source of information.”

And the company said it “relies on the expertise of the ordering health professional to determine the appropriateness of a particular test for a particular patient.”

LifeLabs, the parent company of Rocky Mountain Analytical, also said that “numerous studies in peer-reviewed journals have shown the health benefits of removing IgG-reactive foods,” and that “a test does not need to be diagnostic to be clinically relevant and useful.”

Dynacare and LifeLabs provided those peer-reviewed studies to Marketplace, which were then analyzed by clinical epidemiologist and biostatician Jason Busse, DC, PhD. He found that “all of the studies were very problematic,” and said he was “amazed that many of them were published.”

If you’re worried about how the food you’re eating might be affecting you, health professionals say the best place to start is by keeping a detailed food and symptom diary, tracking what you’re eating and how it makes you feel. It’s important to visit a registered dietitian or family physician before starting any kind of elimination diet, they say.

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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