Roger Deutsch started his career as an oil broker, but after years of working in the industry, sought something new and different. Deutsch wanted to help people and working in the health care sector allowed him to do just that.
The entrepreneur delved headfirst into the medical field with Cell Science Systems quickly becoming an expert in the realm of food sensitivity. It helped that Deutsch had unfortunately suffered from allergies as a child and teenager, as it made him desire to end the torment so many people have from bodily issues.
Since first getting involved in the food sensitivity arena in 1986, Deutsch has become a go-to person in the field. He even co-wrote a book on food allergies after being sought out by Random House publishers. As the head of Cell Science Systems, Deutsch continues to have the same desire to help others as he did when first entering the field.
Roger, you have been involved with food sensitivity testing since 1986. What drew you to the world of food sensitivity?
I suffered horribly from allergies as a child and teenager so I went for conventional allergy shots and was also prescribed the then available first generation antihistamines. The allergy shots work for many people; but they did not work for me. Neither could I tolerate the drugs. After one year of treatment and no relief, I implored the doctor for answers. She told me (this was in 1969) no one really understood what caused allergies. So, I made my own attempts to figure it out.
I also had asthma, making me prone to complications from common colds and flu. In the ‘70s I was spending time in Switzerland. One winter, while staying in a village on Lake Lucerne, at an advanced TM teacher training program, I came down with a nasty cold. I consulted an Australian naturopathic physician, Clint, who was also a program physician. He gave me advice on treating the symptoms with diet. Today, we would call it an “anti-inflammatory diet”. It worked wonders and this made me want to dive deeply into the relation of food to immune function. I always had a sense, even as a teenager, that different foods were healing; or, harmful, depending on personal traits. That experience galvanized my interest in the healing qualities of foods and going forward, I controlled my allergies through diet.
Years later, I was exposed to a new technology for diagnosing food sensitivities that was developed at a small research lab in collaboration with the University of Miami, and the opportunity to build a business around it. Many physicians whom I respected were quite excited about this new breakthrough, called the Alcat test. I made my own investigations, including testing my own, then, 18-month-old son, Jason, who was in perfect health except for one thing: he had recently developed an allergic skin condition. We immediately altered Jason’s diet to exclude the one food that the test pinpointed and, if by magic, his rash disappeared never to come back. I was convinced.
Over the last decade a lot has been made about individuals suffering from food sensitivities due to gluten and other items. What has led to the increase in problems people experience and how serious is it?
Recent discoveries have shown that eating a Western diet will reprogram the innate immune cells into a more aggressive stance. The innate immune cells are one class of the white blood cells that circulate around in the blood, tissues and organs, looking for trouble makers, which they attempt to neutralize mainly with various weapons such as disruptive molecules called, “free radicals” and various types of toxic mediators. Recently, other defense mechanisms have come to light. Normally, these “troublemakers” are pathogens like bacteria, fungi, viruses and so forth. The good news is that the system usually works and we avoid illness. However, even normally healthy foods may mistakenly be perceived as threatening and trigger the same type of reaction. The problem is that the white blood cells get “trained” into the habit of always being on guard and become more aggressive. This causes chronic inflammation, which is strongly linked to metabolic problems like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, also migraine, arthritis, and various autoimmune conditions.
Gluten is particularly important because, apart from being a constituent in barley, rye and wheat, which are heavily consumed, it’s also used in many processed foods, including sushi, cheese, sauces, even cosmetics, and so forth. Besides being as ubiquitous as it is, it also has a molecular structure that is almost impossible to digest.
Prof. Alessio Fasano from Harvard first discovered that gluten can cause increased intestinal permeability, or, ‘leaky gut”. However, we now know that other foods and other factors can also cause increased intestinal permeability or leaky gut.
Leaky gut lays the groundwork for undigested food particles and microorganisms to enter the blood circulation and trigger an immune response. Furthermore, if someone has the wrong genetic predisposition gluten can trigger celiac disease, an autoimmune disease wherein certain immune cells destroy the lining of the gut. Malabsorption of nutrients ensues, followed by a host of problems. Although, without the genetic risk one cannot get celiac disease, per se, one can develop what is called, “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” (NCGS) which may be experienced as local gastrointestinal discomfort and/or disturbances in distal parts of the body. Thus, I would say that adverse reactions to foods can be quite serious.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that abnormal intestinal permeability is not a prerequisite for developing sensitivities to foods. Plant-based foods, although generally healthy, do contain naturally occurring toxins to protect themselves from pests. Normally we can detoxify such chemicals; however, each of us is genetically different and may or may not produce enough of the detoxification enzymes needed to efficiently neutralize the toxins we consume. This is especially more so since the advent of food preservation techniques, refrigeration, and human migration, wherein we often consume foods that were not part of our genetic heritage. If such toxins enter the general circulation, the cells of the innate immune system will actively attempt to neutralize them. This can induce one type of adverse reaction to gluten. Or, any food, really but it’s worth pointing out, this would not be considered a classical food allergy.
To understand the range of different adverse reactions to foods it is good to know that the term, “allergy” was first used by an Austrian physician named Von Pirquet in 1906 to denote an altered reaction. This general definition was later narrowed to denote only altered reactions that produce immediate symptom onset and now, we know, involve larger protein molecules.
These toxins in foods, that I mentioned, are, on the other hand, small molecules and can pass through the intestines even if the integrity of the gut membrane barrier is normal. I will tell you why that matters. Classical allergic reactions such as hives or anaphylaxis to peanuts are in response to proteins. But here we see reactions to small chemicals. These two types of reactions are quite different from each other. The so-called, classical allergy to food, is an evolutionary defense against worms, mistakenly directed against normally harmless things such as shrimp or peanuts. Worms are quite large when compared against an immune cell. Thus, the cells must mount a very strong response when fighting worms, spewing out toxic mediators like histamine. Hence, the symptoms of classical allergy are quite dramatic and symptom onset is rapid. It’s hard to mistake it.
The immune responses to small molecular chemicals in foods, on the other hand, involve different cells, are usually delayed and the symptoms are less acute. Their significance has not, therefore, been as well recognized as have been classical allergy reactions, at least not until more recent times, as evidenced by the growing awareness of celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and other non-classically allergic adverse reactions to foods.
Cell Science Systems works with a variety of high-profile individuals from celebrity athletes to important business people. The work the company does enables these individuals to feel and perform at their best. The commercialization of the Alcat Test, individuals are finding out more information about their bodies.
Can you tell us about the work that Cell Science Systems does in the medical field?
Cell Science Systems provides testing for food and chemical sensitivities (not classical allergies, as mentioned above) genetic risks for celiac and other gastrointestinal disorders, nutritional deficiencies, antioxidant status, and other lifestyle-genetic tests aimed at disease prevention, improvement in weight, metabolic, and cardiovascular health. Of course, many physicians refer their complicated health cases for Alcat testing and we also test a great many professional athletes, Hollywood actors, and high-level business people who must function at their best. Prevention of “Inflammaging” is another reason people seek the test.
In addition, we also manufacture the instruments and reagents for other labs to perform the Alcat Test. We also participate in research projects with academic institutions to further the understanding of the role of food in disease, prevention, and cure.
You have been responsible for the commercialization of the Alcat Test® throughout the world. What is the Alcat Test® and how can it help those who take it?
The Alcat Test is a very simple blood test where the patient’s blood is exposed to a large battery of substances including foods, chemicals, medicinal herbs, common drugs, molds, food additives and environmental chemicals, to see how the immune cells respond. We make the measurements in the whole blood, so the cells are alive at the time of testing and the blood contains all the factors that may play a role in an inflammatory response. Thus, we mimic, as closely as possible, what happens when someone is exposed to the test substance in question. Specifically, we are looking to see if the presence of the test substance induces a reaction of the immune cells. Rigorous studies have shown that the reactions we see in the test tube correlate with what happens during natural exposure.
Many conditions improve in about 90% of cases. Some of which I already mentioned. These include weight problems (under and over), migraine, respiratory, dermatologic, and gastrointestinal issues, joint pain, fatigue and learning disability, to name a few. People might wonder about fatigue. Imagine you get the flu. You feel extremely tired. That’s because your immune cells produce chemicals that make you feel so, which enables you to conserve energy to fight off the infection. However, the wrong food tricks the body into thinking it’s infected and the same fatigue sets in. Chronic exposure of the food then produces chronic fatigue. It may be something you eat every day and don’t know it because the symptoms are delayed and chronic. This is the type of thing the Alcat test delivers, the knowledge of which foods, chemicals and other substances trigger an immune response in you.
Deutsch has used his expert knowledge on the body and allergies to co-author the book, Your Hidden Food Allergies are Making You Fat. The work furthered Deutsch’s reputation as a foremost expert on the role food and allergies play in a person’s life.
Roger, you are a published author having co-written Your Hidden Food Allergies are Making You Fat. What led to your work co-writing the book? Will there be any other books in your future?
Years ago, we collaborated with Baylor Medical College Sports Medicine and Performance Institute looking at the role of food in obesity and related inflammatory conditions. Ninety-eight-percent of the test subjects following an Alcat Test driven diet had success reducing weight and/or improving body composition. They also reduced anxiety, improved sleep, cleared migraines and experienced other very positive outcomes. That kind of success in weight management is unheard of. The people at Random House heard about this study and approached me to write a book.
Will I write more books? Definitely. I have already begun a rewrite of, Your Hidden Food Allergies are Making You Fat.The basic premise that chronic inflammation, regardless of the trigger – and we know foods and chemicals can be significant triggers – has been further confirmed and more of the underlying pathways have been elucidated such that a collation of those developments into a new book is warranted.
You began your career as an oil broker. How did you make the crossover into the medical field?
That is correct. My first real venture was owning and operating an oil brokerage. I was the co-founder and chairman of Amerex Oil Associates (now, Amerex Petroleum Group) and we were the largest cash-market oil brokerage firm in the world. Quite exciting, at first, then I learned very well that there is much more to life than just earning lots of money. Not that I’m against living a comfortable and prosperous life and enjoying the freedom that financial success can bring. Thus, I strongly desired to accomplish something more aligned with my personal interests and that would also bring benefit to others. Toward that end I adopted the project of establishing the Alcat Test.
As an entrepreneur in the medical field, what are some of the challenges you have experienced?
The biggest challenges have come from entrenched interests over concerns our breakthrough technology would disrupt their business models and erode their profits. But more enlightened and idealistic people in the field do recognize there is ample room for validated health technologies to co-exist and synergize with more conventional approaches. Fortunately, payers and regulators recognize the problem, thus giving rise to a new direction in the US healthcare system of providers being paid based on outcomes, not just services. This holds hope for the future. Remember, in ancient China you paid your physician for keeping you well and did not pay him when you became ill. When we realign incentives in the health care systems of the world accordingly, we will see improvements in care and broader adoption of things like the Alcat Test.
Cell Science Systems has had the fortune to work with two of the United States’ top medical schools, Yale School of Medicine and Baylor University Medical Center. The work the company has done with both has been incredibly beneficial to all parties and continued the work Deutsch and his team have done.
Cell Science Systems completes sponsored clinical testing with Baylor University and Yale School of Medicine. The two institutions are renowned for their studies. How was Cell Science Systems able to achieve these major partnerships?
Firstly, the researchers from Yale had previously engaged in an NIH sponsored study to survey the professional marketplace regarding the usage of non-conventional medical tests. Many health care providers reported they used and very much liked the Alcat Test. I met with the Yale team and discussed potential projects around gastroenterology and the biological mechanisms associated with the cellular reactions the test picks up. One of the principal investigators, Dr. Mehal, had both a medical degree with a specialty in gastroenterology, and a doctoral degree in immunology, both from Oxford University. Given his background the idea of further validating a novel test for non-classical allergic reactions to foods appealed to him. The other principal investigator, Dr. Ali, oversaw the alternative cancer clinic at Yale and chronic inflammation promotes cancer. They both became quite excited about the projects and we agreed on collaboration, which was quite fruitful.
The Baylor study was undertaken by a professional researcher specialized in weight management and sports performance. Again, positive reports about the Alcat Test piqued his interest and we agreed on a collaboration to look at weight, body composition and various self-reported inflammatory conditions like, eczema, arthritis, and gastrointestinal problems. The results impressed him greatly as the treatment group that followed an Alcat Test based diet for just one month either lost weight and/or improved body composition in 98% of cases. Many of the control group that followed caloric restriction also lost weight; but it was mostly at the expense of lean tissue (which is undesirable) and, as a group, got fatter. There was also significant improvement in the other conditions mentioned. So, more and more academics are becoming interested in the Alcat Test.
In April, a study involving Cell Science Systems discovered that a simple blood test can determine micronutrients and antioxidants that boost immunity and protect the body’s cells. How significant is this finding to our general health as humans?
Very. It’s well known that nutrient status affects immunity. Therefore, accurate assessment of micronutrient deficiencies is important to prevent and fight infection. Here again, because we are all unique individuals, our nutritional needs vary, sometimes greatly. Immune balance, not under responsiveness or over activation, is the key. So, what we developed, and what was the subject of the study you mentioned, are other tests to determine how your immune cell function is benefited by the addition of specific micronutrients.
Another aspect of the test is to identify antioxidant nutrients and botanicals that individually protect the cells from oxidative stress. We call this the Cellular Nutrition Assay or CNA and the Antioxidant protection assay (APA) respectively, and they are a great complement to the Alcat Test to provide a truly personalized diet and nutrition plan.
Roger, what is the future of Cell Science Systems? What does the company hope to achieve in the next few years and what is in store for you personally?
We currently have a very exciting research project taking place that involves some of the world’s best immunologists, who are looking into whether the Alcat reactions to foods are associated with a cellular release of pro-inflammatory DNA. If that is found to be the case then we will have established the biological link between food sensitivity and autoimmune disease and, to some extent, cancer.
For me, personally, I intend to stay involved until such time as this technology is available to anyone in the developed world who wants and needs it or I hand it off to a larger and more established entity who can. I do not care if I get the credit for it or not. I just want to see it happen.
How is a day in your life?
I like to learn something new every day, as well as advance my mission. I stay in shape by exercising, mostly swimming, staying abreast of new developments in science and technology by reading and contact with colleagues, and running Cell Science Systems. I travel quite a bit, having been to over 50 countries, and very much like meeting people from other countries and cultures of all walks of life. And, of course, eating healthy food, that I and my partner usually prepare ourselves.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I’ve been supporting a charity that provides free education – from preschool through college – to impoverished girls and free health care to villagers in rural India. The charity also provides living essentials directly to poor persons.
One might ask: there are poor people everywhere, why India? It’s because I have an affinity with the country. My first visit was in 1980. I will acknowledge that India is not for everyone. On my first visit, on the first day I felt fine, but the second day I got so sick (Delhi belly) I was afraid I would die. The third day I got even sicker and was afraid I was not going to die. I thought INDIA must stand for, “I’ll Never Do It Again.” Some people never do. But, fortunately, I did go back on about 70 occasions because, to me, it’s a magical place hidden beneath chaos, class divisions and disparities, but having an unmistakable deeply spiritual underpinning where one feels the essence of ancient and sacred culture. I have benefited greatly from the teachings, places and people of India and want to give back.
Can you share two of your favorite quotes with us?
“New thoughts and new truths go through three stages. First they are ridiculed. Next they are violently opposed. Then, finally they are accepted as being self-evident.” – Arthur Schopenhauer
“Do what you can, from where you are, with what you have, now.” – Teddy Roosevelt.
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world what would it be?
If I could change one thing I would love to see everyone realize deeply that regardless of social status, nationality, religion, age, gender, whatever else, we are all truly brothers and sisters and should therefore love and respect each other accordingly.
Deutsch and Cell Science Systems are changing the medical field and the way people live. It may not be as in your face as some companies in the medical industry, but the work they have done is pushing boundaries. Some day, the company’s Alcat Test could be a part of most individuals’ lives helping them to live healthy and to the fullest.
For more information on Roger Deutsch and Cell Science Systems, visit https://cellsciencesystems.com
Journalist and author. Contributor