Use of complementary and alternative medicine in children with type 1 diabetes mellitus – prevalence, patterns of use, and costs

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Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is increasingly used in adults and children. Studies on CAM in diabetes have mainly focused on the adult population and its use among children with type 1 diabetes has not been well characterized.


This study determines prevalence, parental reasons and motivations, perceived effectiveness, costs, and communication of CAM use. Moreover, caregiver-related variables associated with the use of CAM were investigated.


A self-completed anonymous questionnaire was administered to parents of children with type 1 diabetes in four pediatric diabetes centers in Germany (Leipzig, Berlin, Stuttgart, and Bonn).


Two hundred and twenty eight (65.9%) of 346 families completed the survey. Mean age of the diabetic patients was 11.9 ± 3.8 yr. Forty two (18.4%) received one or more types of CAM, with the most common types being homeopathy (14.5%), vitamins and minerals (13.7%), modified diet (12.9%), aloe vera (7.3%), and cinnamon (5.6%). Users had a significantly higher family income and parental tertiary education (p < 0.05) and stated a significantly stronger interest in self-care (p < 0.01). Parents' motivations for using CAM were the hope for an improved well-being (92.1%), to try everything (77.8%), and assumption of fewer side effects (55.2%). Costs for the entire treatment varied between less than €100 and up to €5000, with mostly no reimbursement.


Use of CAM in children with type 1 diabetes is less common than that documented for adults. Parents using CAM do not question the need for insulin. When using CAM, improved well-being and quality of life are important considerations where CAM can have a role.

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