Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory (GSDL), of Asheville, North Carolina, describes itself as: “a leader in functional medicine laboratory testing and wellness education. We provide innovative products and services designed to realize a new vision of optimal health for the global community.” One of its divisions, BodyBalance, markets eight test kits for home use, each of which costs $59.95:
- OsteoCheck, which uses a single urine specimen to detect “a key bone marker, the amount of deoxypyridinium.”
- FemaleCheck, which uses a saliva sample to assess levels of the hormones estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone.
- MineralCheck, which uses a hair sample to measures levels of 11 minerals and nine toxic elements.
- StressCheck, which assesses the levels of the hormones DHEA and cortisol in the body.
- SleepCheck measures the level of melatonin.
- MaleCheck monitors the hormones testosterone and DHEA.
- PerformanceCheck assesses the levels of testosterone, cortisol, and DHEA.
- AntiOxidantCheck uses a urine sample to evaluate “antioxidant reserves.”
BodyBalance’s Web site states that the tests were developed by GSDL and have not been cleared or approved by the FDA. In 2002, the site also offered a free HealthCheck Risk Assessment, an online questionnaire that included physical characteristics, health habits, diet, supplement use, health history, and several other topics. Since I enjoy excellent health and have an extremely healthful lifestyle, I thought it would be interesting to see what recommendations would be made for me. I also took the test other ways to see what might influence the results. Here’s what I found:
- Even though I consume a 10%-fat diet that is adequate amounts of fiber and all essential nutrients, my test report stated that my diet and supplement use “need improvement.” The accompanying text advised that “the chance of consuming a diet that meets the needs for all nutrients is unlikely.” It also warned me to “avoid, if possible, any junk or packaged foods.” I was also advised to take the StessCheck test, even though I have no symptoms that warrant testing by levels of DHEA or cortisol.
- Answering questions related to diet nearly always yields the same text for vitamins/supplements and diet, regardless of what the answer are.
- Many question either have no health significance or are not related to any genuine need to have any of the BodyBalance tests. But the more answers that deviate from HealthCheck’s apparent standards, the greater the number of test kits advised.
- Checking “yes” to “Do you have more than three “silver” dental fillings?” yields a recommendation to take the MineralCheck test. This recommendation is fraudulent because mercury-amalgam fillings do not cause a significant amount of mercury to enter the body ; and even if it did, hair analysis would not be the proper test to detect a problem .
- People with a total cholesterol level of 260 or more and an LDL-cholesterol level of 160 or more are at high risk for coronary artery disease. Yet when I pretended to have a cholesterol level of 300 and an LDL level of 175, the test report did not indicate that these posed any problem.
Before taking the test, users are asked to acknowledge that they have read and understood the following disclaimer:
The information contained in the HealthCheck Risk Assessment is for personal use only and is not intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent disease or other conditions and is not intended to provide a determination or assessment of the state of health. Always consult a licensed healthcare professional to make healthcare decisions or before starting any diet or exercise program. We make no warranties, expressed or implied, in connection with the HealthCheck Risk Assessment or the performance of the HealthCheck Risk Assessment, nor shall BodyBalance nor Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory be held responsible or liable for any costs or damages related to use of the HealthCheck Risk Assessment or any information provided therefrom. Users maintain and acknowledge full responsibility for the accuracy and application of the HealthCheck Risk Assessment.
In other words: “This test has no value. Use it as your own risk. We want you to rely on it to buy our products. We want you to assume that our products will be useful in guiding you to behavior that could help your health. But we don’t want to be held accountable if our advice is worthless or if you follow it and are harmed.”
In 2000, the Asheville Citizen-Times Web noted that BodyBalance kits were also sold through health-food stores worldwide and through a Medicine Shoppe pharmacy in Asheville. That store’s proprietor stated that the results were accompanied by a list of area physicians the consumer could consult for help in interpreting the tests .
Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory offers many other dubious tests that are ordered by practitioners who engage in nonstandard diagnosis and treatment. The situation so egregious that Aetna has issued a coverage policy bulletin about some of GSDL’s test panels .
- Employment. GSDL Web site, accessed July 29, 2000.
- Barrett S. The mercury amalgam scam. Quackwatch Web site.
- Baratz RS. Dubious mercury testing. Quackwatch Web site, May 2000.
- Kirsch S. Home testing. Ashville Citizen-Times, Spring 2000 MedFacts E-Feature.
- Salivary hormone tests for menopause and aging. Atena Clinical Policy Bulletin No. 0608, Nov 15, 2005.
This article was revised on August 20, 2006.