Date of Last Revision

2017-04-28 12:27:35



Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Date of Expected Graduation

Spring 2017





Childhood obesity rates in the United States have remained around 17% since the 1990s - this figure translates to an estimated 12.7 million obese children. Maintaining a healthy weight through adolescence may limit subsequent health risks in adulthood. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) encompasses a variety of non-pharmacological treatments and lifestyle choices that have been utilized in addition to or in place of typical Western medicine. The relationship between adolescent Body mass index (BMI) and the use of complementary and alternative medicine has not been widely studied.


The purpose of this study is to describe the relationship between adolescent BMI and the use of CAM modalities.


We performed cross-sectional secondary analyses of the CAM Supplement to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, exploring the relationship between adolescent BMI and caregiver report of CAM use. The primary outcome of interest for all study aims was whether the referent teen had a BMI that was classified as overweight or obese according to CDC growth charts. Our primary predictor of interest was the use of any CAM treatment or treatment combination in the past 12 months. Logistic regression models accounted for family income, food security status, caregiver education level, child’s age, activity limitations, and presence of chronic or acute conditions.


Of the 4,653 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 included in the study, 4.1% were underweight, 60.3% had a normal BMI, 15.0% were overweight, and 20.6% were obese. Nearly half of respondents had used at least one CAM modality within the past year (n=2112, 46.6%). Females and teens from households with higher incomes were more likely to have used CAM in the past year. Compared to those who did not use CAM, teens who used 1 or more CAM modalities in the past 12 months had 0.72 times the odds of overweight or obesity, adjusting for covariates (95% CI: 0.63, 0.82). Respondents who reported use of modalities in the biologically-based therapies category were least likely to report elevated BMI, followed by manipulative and body-based modalities. Vitamin and mineral supplementation was the most highly utilized CAM modality followed by non-vitamin or herbal supplementation and yoga, tai chi, and qi gong.


Obesity prevention efforts may improve with the inclusion of biologically-based therapies into existing educational programs and future policy changes. More research is needed regarding a potential causal pathway in order to inform obesity prevention and intervention with CAM modalities.

Research Sponsor

James Holda PhD and Sarah Ronis MD MPH

First Reader

Sharon Meropol MD PhD

Second Reader

Robert Joel Duff PhD



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