Blood Test for Food Intolerances May Be New Tool in Fighting Obesity

A simple, affordable blood test can help identify food intolerances or hidden food sensitivities that may contribute to obesity, according to a new study led by John E. Lewis, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and Associate Director of the Medical Wellness Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

“We may have an effective new tool to help address the growing U.S. obesity epidemic,” said Lewis. “Identifying specific foods that cause a reaction from an individual’s immune system and eliminating them from the diet could be an additional strategy for long-lasting and perhaps permanent weight loss.”

The Miller School study, “Eliminating Immunologically-Reactive Foods from the Diet and its Effect on Body Composition and Quality of Life in Overweight Persons,” was published in the February issue of the Journal of Obesity & Weight Loss Therapy. It assessed the effect of an Immunoglobulin G (IgG) food sensitivity test – in combination with a food elimination diet – on weight, body mass index, and quality of life in people who wanted to lose weight and/or were overweight.

“While there are countless dieting programs on the market, none of them recognizes the possibility that certain foods, even healthy ones like tomatoes or pinto beans, could be problematic if they trigger an immune system response in overweight individuals,” Lewis said. “Eliminating foods that are IgG-reactive, while replacing them with similar, non-reactive foods to ensure that nutrient deficiencies do not occur, is a new strategy for addressing obesity.”

Lewis added that several prior studies have linked inflammation in the digestive tract to obesity. “It’s likely that these reactive foods have a chronic inflammatory effect on the body,” he said. “Once you subtract those foods from the diet, the immune system can regulate, which lowers the chronic, systemic inflammation, and thus helps people to lose weight. Clearly, more research is needed into the metabolic processes involving inflammation and obesity.”

In the Miller School study, 115 foods were tested on a total of 120 subjects aged 18 and over to see which food provoked an IgG-mediated antibody response from the immune system. The researchers used Immuno Bloodprint, a proprietary food sensitivity test developed by Immuno Laboratories in Fort Lauderdale.

Once the reactive foods were identified, subjects had to eliminate those foods from their diet for 90 days. Body composition, blood pressure and pulse, and quality of life were assessed at baseline and 30-, 60-, and 90-day follow-ups. Participants received a manual explaining the program, including suggestions for substitute foods with recipes. Subjects were also asked to keep a journal of their meals and overall quality of life.

“The results of our study showed that participants lost an average of almost 1 pound per week, which is just under the recommendation of what is considered safe, healthy, and potentially permanent weight loss,” said Lewis. Additionally, participants lost nearly 3 inches from the waist, as opposed to just under 1.5 inches from the hip, providing support for improvements in central obesity, which is a strong risk factor for metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other diseases.

In addition to the positive changes associated with body composition, participants noted substantial subjective improvements in both physical and mental quality of life. “Our results are consistent with other studies that have shown improvements in ratings of quality of life in parallel with weight loss,” Lewis said.

The study’s co-authors were Judi M. Woolger, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, and Janet Konefal, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and assistant dean for complementary and integrative medicine.

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