Use of complementary and alternative medicine supplements in patients with diabetes mellitus

Author(s): Fabian E, Töscher S, Elmadfa I, Pieber TR


Background/aims: This study was conducted to evaluate the current use of biologically-based complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies in diabetics, considering health awareness, motivation, and expectations for CAM use. Moreover, patients' attitudes toward cinnamon preparations and the need for appropriate information from health care professionals were determined.

Methods: A total of 200 patients (59% men and 41% women) with type 1 (16%) or type 2 diabetes (84%) were interviewed using a standardized, validated questionnaire; the results from 198 respondents were analyzed.

Results: A third of type 1 and type 2 diabetics (women > men; p < 0.01) reported current use of biologically-based CAM supplements, and intake was significantly (r = 0.203; p < 0.05) correlated to the degree of health awareness/interest in self-care in type 2 diabetics. The use of nutritional supplements (vitamins/multivitamins and minerals), herbal medicine, and cinnamon was reported most frequently. Prevention (36%) and improved well-being/quality of life (13%) but not the positive modulation of diabetes management (4%) were given as main motivations. Eighty-three percent of type 1 diabetics (women > men; p < 0.05) and 70% of type 2 diabetics already knew about the postulated positive effect of cinnamon on blood glucose. Up to 85% reported a willingness or a probable willingness to test the effect of cinnamon on blood glucose. Among patients with type 2 diabetes the subjectively felt disease burden was found to have a significant (r = 0.235; p < 0.01) impact on the willingness to use cinnamon preparations for better diabetes management.

Conclusion: This study indicates a remarkable interest in CAM remedies in the investigated group of diabetics as a strategy for active engagement in health and disease self-management. Healthcare professionals should be aware of the increasing number of patients using CAM supplements and hence incorporate these aspects into patient care in order to ensure patient satisfaction and optimize health care.

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