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Paediatr Child Health. 2011 Oct;16(8):468-72.

Complementary and alternative medicine use in children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes.

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  • 1Department of Paediatrics, Alberta Children's Hospital, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.



The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in paediatric patients varies between 11% and 68%. There are limited reports of its use in children with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM).


To describe the use of CAM in children with T1DM, and the perceptions of both users and nonusers regarding the effect of CAM on diabetes management.


A cross-sectional, anonymous questionnaire survey was mailed to a randomly selected subgroup of patients with T1DM. Each patient's main caregiver was asked to complete the questionnaire.


Of 403 questionnaires mailed, 195 (48%) were completed. The mean (± SD) age of the children was 12.2±4.0 years (56% boys). Use of CAM was reported in 110 children (56%) (vitamins/minerals [n=99], herbal medicine [n=22], dietary supplement [n=13]). When excluding the use of vitamins/minerals, the CAM number dropped to 47 children (24%). Only the current age of the child was significantly different between users and nonusers of CAM. In users, reasons cited for using CAM were to minimize symptoms, improve control, prevent complications and add benefits to insulin. Only 30% of CAM users stated that CAM improved diabetes control. Nonusers cited satisfaction with current diabetes treatment and lack of knowledge as reasons for not using CAM.


CAM use in children with T1DM was frequent, and appeared to be an attempt to improve control or prevent diabetes complications. However, improved control was not reported as a benefit. Diabetes care teams should assess the use of CAM in children with T1DM, and monitor for any potential positive or negative effects.


CAM; Children; Complementary and alternative medicine; Type 1 diabetes

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