Half of Patients With Diabetes Use Alternative Medicine

Miriam Tucker


March 18, 2021


  • Among people with diabetes, the prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use is 51%.

  • Of those using CAM, two-thirds do not discuss it with their doctors, according to this meta-analysis.

Why this matters

  • CAM can affect diabetes management via direct supplement-drug interaction or indirectly by affecting medication adherence.

  • Authors: clinicians should ask about CAM use to check on interactions and ensure treatment optimization and medication adherence. 

Study design

  • Systematic review and meta-analysis including 38 articles published from 2009 to 2019 of CAM use in adults with diabetes.

  • Funding: University of Birmingham, UK.

Key results

  • The most common CAM types mentioned were acupuncture (6 studies), mind-body therapies (6), religious/spiritual healing (5), and homeopathy (4).

  • Pooled prevalence of CAM use was 51% (95% CI, 43%-59%). 

  • By region, use prevalence was 76% in Europe, 55% in Africa, and 45% in North America.

  • Pooled prevalence ratios (95% CI):

    • Males vs females: 0.86 (0.81-0.91).

    • Type 2 vs type 1 diabetes: 1.00 (0.83-1.20).

  • Prevalence (95% CIs) of CAM use as:

    • Additional treatment to prescribed medicine: 78% (56%-94%).

    • Alternative to prescribed medicine: 21% (12%-31%).

  • Among those using CAM, 67% (95% CI, 58%-76%) did not disclose it to health care professionals.


  • Data collection methods, nature of settings varied among studies.

  • Only English-language publications were included.


Alzahrani AS, Price MJ, Greenfield SM, Paudyal V. Global prevalence and types of complementary and alternative medicines use amongst adults with diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2021 Mar 8 [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1007/s00228-021-03097-x. PMID: 33686454 View full text  

This clinical summary originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.