Vitamin D Reverses Antiseizure Medicine Side Effect

Healthnotes Newswire (March 29, 2007)—Osteoporosis is one known consequence of long-term antiseizure medicine use—but new research shows that vitamin D can help.

People with epilepsy often need to control their seizures with medications, but many of these medications have an important adverse side effect: they speed up bone breakdown and can cause bone loss and osteoporosis.

Vitamin D is made in the body through a chemical reaction that begins in sunlight-activated skin. Vitamin D increases calcium absorption through the digestive tract and reduces calcium loss in the urine. Because of vitamin D’s actions, more calcium can be deposited and kept in the bones.

Although it has long been recommended that people get 400 IU of vitamin D daily from the diet, recent studies have suggested that higher amounts are both safe and more effective for maintaining healthy bones. Supplements with 800 IU and higher of vitamin D have been shown to build bone in people with osteoporosis and have other benefits including reducing seasonal depression, relieving back pain, and preventing some cancers.

The new study, published in Neurology, included 72 adults and 78 children between 10 and 18 years old being treated for epilepsy with antiseizure medications. One group was given vitamin D in the amount currently recommended for adequate intake (400 IU per day), and the other group was treated with higher amounts of vitamin D (4,000 IU per day for adults and 2,000 IU per day for children).

The adults entered the study with lower bone mineral density (BMD) than healthy adults of similar age. Improvement in BMD was seen after one year of treatment with the higher amount of vitamin D but not the lower amount. Even in the high–vitamin D group, however, BMD remained below normal at the end of the study.

In children, there was no difference between those who used the higher amount of vitamin D and those who used the lower amount: both groups had similar increases in BMD over the course of the study. Their BMD was normal compared with healthy children at the beginning and end of the study.

The study demonstrated that vitamin D can reverse some of the bone loss in adults using antiseizure medications long-term. It also shows that children can have normal bone density when supplementing with vitamin D despite their use of antiseizure medicines. More research is needed to determine whether early intervention with vitamin D can prevent the serious bone loss seen in the adults, and what amount is needed for this.

“At this stage we need longer follow-up for the children to find out what is the optimal dose,” commented Dr. Mohamad Mikati of the American University of Beirut, the study’s lead investigator. “But the higher dose was safe and thus I do not find a problem in using it pending further studies.”

(Neurology 2006;67:2005–14)

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

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