Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use and Nutrient Intake Among Individuals with Multiple Sclerosis in the United States


Individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) often use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). However, specific CAM therapies used within this population have not been thoroughly described, particularly the use of supplements, herbal remedies, and dietary modifications. The aim of this pilot study was to determine the prevalence of specific types of CAM used by adults with MS in the United States. Participants included adults who were diagnosed with MS at least 1 year prior to study enrollment. CAM use was measured using the CAM Supplement of the National Health Interview Survey, and nutrient intake was assessed using an Automated Self-Administered 24-h Recall. This study found that a majority (77 %, n = 27) of the sample used CAM within the past 12 months, the most prevalent type being vitamins/minerals (88.9 %, n = 24), nonvitamin, nonmineral, natural products (NP) (44.4 %, n = 12), relaxation techniques (33.3 %, n = 9), and special diets (29.6 %, n = 8). Regarding diet, median percent calories from fat (37 %) and saturated fat (12 %) were higher than current recommendations, while dietary fiber intake met only 87 % of the adequate intake. Participants following the Paleo (7.4 %, n = 2) diet did not meet the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) for vitamins D and E, while those on the Swank diet (7.4 %, n = 2) were below the EAR for vitamins C, A, E, and folate. The results support previous findings that CAM therapies are commonly used by individuals with MS. Inadequate intakes of certain vitamins and minerals by those following the Swank and Paleo diet suggest these diets may be too restrictive, thus further research is warranted.

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This research was funded in part by Arlette I. Rasmussen Graduate Research Award in Nutrition and Dietetics. The authors thank Dr. Dick Sacher for his time and Qualtrics expertise.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jillian Trabulsi.

Additional information

Laura Masullo and Lauren Mahoney were students in the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition, University of Delaware at the time of the study.

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Masullo, L., Papas, M.A., Cotugna, N. et al. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use and Nutrient Intake Among Individuals with Multiple Sclerosis in the United States. J Community Health 40, 153–160 (2015).

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  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Nutrition
  • Nutrient intake
  • Diet