Research from the First People’s Hospital of Xuzhou in China shows that long-term use of anti-epileptic drugs leads to reduced levels of necessary folic acid and vitamin B12, which likely increases the risk of stroke for epilepsy patients. The findings suggest that folic acid and vitamin B12 supplements should be included in epilepsy treatment.
The study, “Effects of antiepileptic drugs on the serum folate and vitamin B12 in various epileptic patients,” was published in Biomedical Reports.
Epilepsy is a common nervous system disorder caused by alterations in the electrical activity of the brain. The clinical approach for epilepsy treatment includes anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) and surgery. About 70 percent of epileptic patients can control their seizures just by using AEDs, and there are 26 FDA-approved AEDs that can be prescribed depending on variables in each patient’s case.
The recent study investigated a possible association of folic acid and vitamin B12 alterations with stroke events in 68 epilepsy patients from 2012 to 2014.
Patients represented different types of epileptic seizures: eight had autonomic seizures; 10 had absence seizures; 13 had complex partial seizures; 28 had generalized tonic-clonic seizures; and nine had simple partial seizures. All participants were under appropriate AED treatment for their specific type of seizures.
The patients’ folic acid and vitamin B12 levels in the blood were measured at the time of study enrollment. Those levels were compared one year later. Any stroke events were also evaluated.
Researchers observed that the levels of folic acid and vitamin B12 were similar between the different groups of patients who had the same type of seizures, but the folic acid and vitamin B12 levels were significantly decreased after AED treatment across all groups.
They found no differences in the incidence of strokes between the groups, but they associated the risk of stroke to decreased levels of folic acid and vitamin B12 in the blood as an independent factor.
“Various AEDs may decrease the serum levels of folate and vitamin B12 and affect the secondary cerebrovascular events in various epileptic patients. Thus, regular supplementation of folate and vitamin B12 may be an option,” the researchers wrote.