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Alternative Diabetes

By David Mendosa

Last Update: January 20, 2004

The only thing more controversial in treating diabetes than alternative methods is a specific alternative method.

…they must be randomized, placebo controlled, and double blind.

If you are looking for attention and don't care that it is totally negative, just try posting a message to one of the major diabetes newsgroups suggesting that any new alternative product will do anything more than separate you from your money. Several people will be sure to let you know that you are just a snake oil salesman or worse.

Alternative diabetes treatments means those treatments not accepted by Western medicine. One reason they aren't accepted is that most, if not all, of these alternative therapies are not supported by good scientific studies.

Scientific support is the hallmark of Western medicine. The standards of these studies keep rising, and to be well accepted they must be randomized, placebo controlled, and double blind.

Some studies of alternative therapies in Asian countries including China, India, and Thailand seem to meet these standards. These studies are suspect, however, because analysis of their findings show that they get positive results essentially all the time, according to Dr. Steven Bratman, the medical director and senior editor of The Natural Pharmacist. That doesn't happen in real science.

A few good studies support alternative therapies. But many of these are of small groups or a short time.

Consequently, you won't find much mention of alternative therapies in the most reputable Web sites dealing with diabetes. For a long time the best Web resource was a short page Alternative Therapies for Diabetes on the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases site. This page briefly mentions five alternative therapies.

This June, however, the American Diabetes Association hosted extensive discussions of several alternative therapies at the 60th Scientific Sessions in San Antonio. Click on Herbal Therapy as Alternative Medicine for audio and video presentations by several speakers.

And now David and Wendy Goldberg have entered this supercharged arena. Their AlternativeDiabetes Web site went online in March.

AlternativeDiabetes provides credible, complete, and current information about alternative approaches to diabetes treatment, including herbal, dietary, nutritional, and other strategies. The site is remarkably even-handed.

The heart of the site is The Natural Health Encyclopaedia and Conditions in Depth: Diabetes, both of which AlternativeDiabetes licenses from The Natural Pharmacist.

"The Conditions in Depth Section goes through several different scenarios—people with diabetes, with complications, preventing nerve damage," Wendy Goldberg, the site's chief information officer, told me. "It's probably the best part of the site, and most people start with that section."

She says that the other top part of the site is Complementary and Alternative Therapies. "Mostly educators go there for the different choices, including the diet, herbal, magnetic, mind, and body."

On a separate site the Goldbergs also market an alternative herbal treatment for diabetes. While the AlternativeDiabetes site has banner advertisements for that product site, it manages to draw the careful line that is required between editorial content and advertising.

On the AlternativeDiabetes site, "We aren't suggesting any specific product," Wendy says. That's a controversy that they don't need and have been able to avoid. 


The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.


Update

When I wrote this article several years ago for the ADA, Dr. Steven Bratman impressed me as one of the few M.D.'s who is moderate about alternative medicine. He created a world-class resource on alternative medicine, The Natural Pharmacist, which unfortunately is not being updated at this time. Dr. Bratman has returned to private practice of medicine.

What he had to say about good clinical trials so impressed me that I contacted him again after an interlude of several years to see if he had anything more to say about double-blind studies. He certainly did! You can read this important article on my site now as Double-Blind Trials.


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