Vitamin D and Epilepsy
Author: Beth Zupec-Kania, RDN, CD
Vitamin D and seizure control
Vitamin D has been studied for decades for its role in many functions in the body. Known as the “sunshine” vitamin, sunshine remains the best source of receiving Vit. D. Dietary sources include meat, fish, dairy products, and, interestingly, mushrooms. People who have little exposure to the sun are at increased risk for a Vit. D deficiency. Dark-skinned individuals are also at higher risk because the melanin in their skin blocks sun penetration. Some anti-seizure medications interfere with how Vit. D is processed in the body. Supplemental Vit. D may be necessary for people who have these risk factors.
Vitamin D is essential to develop bones during the growing years, and, to maintain strong bones through adulthood. It’s also important in brain development and growth of new brain cells. Research in animals has shown that Vit. D may play a role in seizures. A study published in 2012 showed that correcting Vit. D deficiency reduced seizures in people with epilepsy. In this study that included 13 people, only one had a normal Vit. D. level, the others were low or deficient. All were provided with Vit. D supplementation based on their blood levels, and, were checked during the study to make sure that they normalized and didn’t become toxic. Seizures were recorded 90 days prior to supplementation and 90 days after. Ten of the 13 subjects experienced fewer seizures with supplementation. Two of 13 experienced more seizures, and one had no change. In addition, 5 of the 13 experienced a 50% or greater reduction in overall seizures from baseline. Although this is a small study, it identifies a major vitamin deficiency that plays a role in seizure control.
In addition to potential seizure control, there is preliminary evidence that Vit. D may also play a role in Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). In a large Cardiovascular Health study of 2300 people, sudden cardiac death was twice as high (2 vs. 4 deaths in 1000 people) as in those with Vit. D levels below 20ng/dl than those with levels above 20ng/dl.
The Charlie Foundation recommends that everyone who has epilepsy get their 25-Hydroxy Vit. D level checked. This is a chart that compares levels.
|Vitamin D Levels – 25 Hydroxy D|
Multiply ng/mL by 2.5 to convert to nmol/liter Source: Mayo Clinic
Hollo A. et.al. Correction of vitamin D deficiency improves seizure control in epilepsy: a pilot study. Epilepsy Behavior (2012) 24:131-3.
Drechsler C. et.al. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with sudden cardiac death combined with cardiovascular events and mortality in hemodialysis patients. Eur Heart J (2010) 31:2253-61
Reviwed 08/15/2019 BZK