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QUESTION: The subject of muscle testing seems to surface on the message board frequently. What is your opinion of it? Thanks.
ANSWER: Muscle testing, or "applied kinesiology" was founded by Michigan chiropractor George J. Goodheart, Jr., and is a popular diagnostic and therapeutic system used by many health care practitioners. AK proponents claim that nutritional deficiencies, allergies, and other adverse reactions to foods or nutrients can be detected by having the patient chew or suck on them or by placing them on the tongue so that the patient salivates. Some practitioners advise that the test material merely be held in the patient's hand or placed on another part of the body. Many muscle-testing proponents assert that nutrients tested in these various ways will have an immediate effect: "good" substances will make specific muscles stronger, whereas "bad" substances will cause weaknesses.
Obviously, there is no current way of scientifically explaining why a substance help in one's hands correlates with a weakened muscle response, which in turn correlates with a food intolerance or allergy. However, at least one study has shown fairly good correlation between AK testing results and recognized clinical lab tests for allergy. (1)
In the study, seventeen subjects were found positive on Applied Kinesiology (A.K.) muscle testing screening procedures indicating food hypersensitivity (allergy) reactions. Each subject showed muscle weakening (inhibition) reactions to oral provocative testing of one or two foods for a total of 21 positive food reactions. Tests for a hypersensitivity reaction of the serum were performed using both a radio-allergosorbent test (RAST) and immune complex test for IgE and IgG against all 21 of the foods that tested positive with A.K. muscle screening procedures. These serum tests confirmed 19 of the 21 food allergies, which is an extraordinary correlation.
Critics point to the potential for the effects of bias and suggestibility to influence results. Differences from one test to another may be due to suggestion, variations in the amount of force, leverage or muscle fatigue. There s also the potential for artifact: A sudden slight upward movement can cause a "set" muscle to relax so that it can be immediately pulled downward.
It appears that AK lacks 'cross-platform consistency': in other words results can vary significantly from practitioner to practitioner. Using blood type is perhaps one of the better examples of cross-platform consistency: If you are type AB in your doctors' office, you are probaly going to be type AB at the blood bank.
One study, for example, found that three practitioners testing eleven subjects made significantly different assessments; their diagnoses of nutritional deficiencies did not correspond to the nutrient levels obtain by blood serum analysis; and that the responses to nutrient substances did not significantly differ from responses to placebos - study, interestingly, paid for by the Pritikin Foundation. (2) Another study found no effect from administering the nutrients "expected" to strengthen a muscle diagnosed as "weak" by AK practitioners." (3)
So, is AK for real? Frankly, I'm not sure. I've known practitioners who seem to get very good results, and others whose results I would trust less than a coin toss. Many AK practitioners tell me that my blood type work correlates well with AK, so perhaps I am not completely unbiased, although I do not use the technique myself.
If you want to use the technique, my suggestion is that the practitioner and the subject 'totally blind' themselves by putting the supplements in unmarked containers, since it has been proven that even the color of a supplement bottle label can affect suggestibility. If the results appear to indicate an exceptional number of intolerances or allergies, I would recommend backing up the findings with conventional allergy testing.
1. Schmitt WH Jr, Leisman G Int J Neurosci 1998 Dec;96(3-4):237-44 Correlation of applied kinesiology muscle testing findings with serum immunoglobulin levels for food allergies.
2. Kenny JJ, Clemens R, Forsythe KD. Applied kinesiology unreliable for assessing nutrient status. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 88:698-704, 1988.
3. Triano JJ. Muscle strength testing as a diagnostic screen for supplemental nutrition therapy: a blind study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 5:179-182, 1982