A general record of my ongoing battle with all forms of nonsense.

Monday 31 August 2009

Sara Stevens and the Ultra-Woo Allergy Test

I visited Sara Stevens of "The Complementary Health Team" in Blaby back in May. I've been incredibly slow to blog this, but just realised that blogging my letter of complaint in full would be much better than writing anything new.


Dear Ms Stevens,

I visited your premises in Blaby on the 7th May 2009 around 5pm for what was sold to me as an “allergy test”.

Having thought about the tests I received, I have got quite suspicious of the methods used and am not convinced that they could work.

To summarise your methods:
  • You took a homeopathic preparation of an allergen and put it into my left hand.
  • I held it close to my stomach and outstretched my arm.
  • You pushed my arm down.
  • If my arm moved easily you deduced that I was allergic or sensitive to the preparation from which the homeopathic remedy was made. If not, you deduced that I was not allergic or sensitive.

The problems I am having difficulty overcoming are as follows:
  • Homeopathic solutions are typically dissolved to the point where there is none of the original substance remaining. With no substance remaining, I see no difference whatsoever between the 35 preparations you presented me with. How could this work without a chemical difference between the solutions?
  • With the preparations contained within glass phials, my body did not even come into contact with the pills. How could my body produce a reaction against a chemical it did not come into contact with?
  • I can find no reliable evidence to suggest that coming into contact with an allergen near your stomach reduces your strength in a different part of your body.
  • You merely pushed my arm down to subjectively measure the force. This is obviously a completely inaccurate way of measuring resistive force.
To summarise, you attempted to test me for an allergy by pushing my arm down while I didn’t touch a preparation that probably contained no trace whatsoever of an allergen. What evidence do you have to demonstrate that this test actually works?

Following the allergy test, you then gave me two further “tests”. The first, you claimed, was to assess the proportion of “bad bacteria” to “good bacteria” in my body. You did this by counting in tens (0, 10, 20 etc) up to 100 while repeatedly pushing down my arm. After assessing it was weakest between the times when you said “10” and “20”; you then pushed down my arm while counting between 10 and 20. From this, you deduced that my “Candia Level” as you called it, was 14%.

What evidence do you have to demonstrate that this second test actually works?

You then carried out a further “test” to find out what “good bacteria” I needed to buy to restore the balance. You did this by repeatedly pushing down my arm whilst pointing at descriptions of bacteria in a book. You then recommended I take “acidobifidus”.

What evidence do you have to demonstrate that this third test actually works?

I’ve read a fair bit about these tests online and opinion seems to be split. Practitioners of Applied Kinesiology appear to endorse the test, while the common consensus, including all reputable scientific studies, dismiss the practice as pseudo-science with no evidence that it produces accurate repeatable results.

If you do have good evidence that this test works, could you send it to me please? If you do not, I believe that you are operating an unfair commercial practice under the 2008 consumer protection regulations and would like a full refund.

If you do not have reliable evidence for this test, I assume you will from now on comply with the 2008 consumer protection legislation and discontinue your applied kinesiology service. Can you clarify if this is the case?


Simon Perry


Zeno said...

I assume you've had no reply...nor expect one?

Anonymous said...

Priceless. All I could think of is them pushing your arm up and down like those water pumps ages ago.

There will be no reply. How much did you pay for this "test"?

Simon said...

No, I got a reply and after a few emails and her talking to her solicitor she gave me a full refund.

The cost was £55.

Tetenterre said...

I think I know how this works. When they want a "weak" reaction, they point perpendicular to the arm; when they want a strong one they push more along the arm towards your shoulder. Hence the "strong" reaction feels like they are using more force, but in fact the turning moment is much less.

Simple appliance of science. :-)

Tetenterre said...


"...they push perpendicular..."

Anonymous said...

Result! You managed to expose this "ultra-woo" and got your money back.

Zeno said...

Looks like she learned the same arm-pushing woo as this chiro:


Andy said...

An Australian chain of "allergy clinics" was told last week to stop promoting nonsense just like this.

Cavall de Quer said...

Many years ago, when I knew less about all this stuff than I do now, a friend did these "tests" of arm pushing on me and, sure enough, it seemed to show a reaction. Excited, I told my father about it and offered to show him - "Rubbish" he said, and subsequently showed......if you have a robust mindset, you don't fall for woo in the first place - often the last generation grew up with a more sceptical attitude in these respects - possibly for having seen the dramatic changes in real medicine.