Review finds little evidence for Complementary and Alternative Medicines in diabetes

This broad-based review set out to summarise the findings of other systematic reviews on complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAMs) for the treatment of diabetes.

Twelve systematic reviews were found that evaluated a broad range of CAMs, including herbal medicine, qi gong, tai chi, massage and yoga. They were interested in interventions for prevention as well as treatment of diabetes.

Overall, the findings did not favour CAMs, with the exception of massage.

Appraisal hints

  • Consider whether the search strategy was sufficient to identify all of the relevant evidence in this very heterogeneous area.
  • The search was carried out in May 2011.  Given that the review only included other systematic reviews, the original date of the search for primary evidence will be even further back.  It’s highly likely that more studies have been published since.
  • The authors note that some of the systematic reviews found evidence of bias.  There was a lot of variation in the quality of the reviews themselves.
  • It is hard to see what this review adds that has not already been published elsewhere.  However, the detailed results of this review may provide more relevant evidence that is relevant to the patients, interventions and outcomes that apply to your setting.


Posadzki, P., Lee, M. S. and Ernst, E. (2012), Complementary and alternative medicine for diabetes mellitus: an overview of systematic reviews. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 17: 142–148. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-7166.2012.01159.x

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I am an information scientist with an interest in making knowledge from systematic research more accessible to people who need it. This means you. I've been attempting this in the area of Evidence-Based Health Care since 1995. So far the results have been mixed. For some reason we expected busy clinicians to search databases and appraise papers instead of seeing patients. We also expected publishers to make the research freely available to the people who paid for it.. Ha! Hence The National Elf service.

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