Millions of pounds are being wasted by the NHS in 'totally inadequate' treatment of allergic diseases, many of which could be cured by diet, the founder of the Allergy Research Foundation has claimed.

Speaking yesterday at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, Jonathan Brostoff, emeritus professor of allergy and environmental medicine at King's College London, said: 'The statistics of chronic ill health are staggering.

Irritable bowel syndrome patients comprise 50 per cent of attendees at gastroenterology clinics.

Half these patients can be cured by a simple elimination diet. That means 25 per cent of the total patient load in such clinics could be relieved of symptoms by diet.'

The argument is even more compelling, he said, for Crohn's disease, as two-thirds of patients could be helped better by diet than by drugs. 'The costs to the exchequer are enormous with respect to health costs, hospital admissions, drug expenses and of course lost time from the workplace, let alone the continued suffering of huge numbers of patients, ' he added.

In Britain more than 20 per cent of the population suffers from hay fever and allergic rhinitis, and 1.5 million children children suffer from asthma.

As new drugs come on to the market the costs of treating patients rises every year, compounding the problem of cost for the NHS.

Professor Brostoff criticises the poor teaching on allergies in doctors' training, the small number of posts for those doctors who do specialise in the subject, and the intolerance of those doctors who view allergies as 'media illnesses'.

This is probably because the mainstream medical profession has not experienced the 'amazing improvements' in health that diet and nutrition can make, he said.