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Purpose: This study examines the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by ethnicity/race among patients with type 2 diabetes.

Subjects and methods: Four hundred and ten (410) patients with type 2 diabetes recruited from an academic-medical center completed a survey assessing CAM use, diabetes status, and sociodemographic characteristics.

Results: Several significant ethnic/racial differences were observed in CAM use (both in the types of providers seen as well as in the herbs and dietary supplements used). Although White patients reported using CAM in addition to their diabetes medication (mean [SD] 4.9 [0.4] on a scale from 1=never to 5=always) more frequently than Mexican American patients (3.1 [1.6], p<.05), Mexican American patients (1.4 [1.1]) used CAM instead of their diabetes medications more frequently than non-Hispanic White patients (1.0 [0.1], p<.05). More Mexican American (66.7%) and Vietnamese American patients (73.7%) than non-Hispanic Whites (11.8%, p=.002) described CAM practitioners as being closer to their cultural traditions than Western practitioners, whereas Vietnamese [End Page 1941] patients were more likely to describe use of herbs and supplements as closer to their cultural traditions (84.5% versus 15.3% for White and 30.9% for Mexican American patients, p <.001).

Conclusions: Considering the variability and perceptions in CAM use, providers should discuss with their patients how their CAM use may influence diabetes management behaviors.