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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Current research: Is vitamin D deficiency linked to epilepsy?

Epileptic seizures result from abnormal electrical activity in the brain. About 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy. Onset of new cases occurs most frequently in infants and the elderly. About 3% of people will be diagnosed with epilepsy at some time in their lives.

Congenital and developmental conditions are mostly associated with it among younger patients; tumors are more likely over age 40; head trauma and central nervous system infections may occur at any age. Up to 5% of people experience seizures at some point in life.

Epilepsy is usually controlled, but not cured, with medication. However, over 30% of people with epilepsy do not have full seizure control, even with the best available medications. Neurosurgery may be considered in difficult cases. Anything that reduces the rate of seizure would be welcomed.

What’s the evidence for a link between vitamin D and epilepsy? Let’s take a look:

Seizures are more frequent in the winter.

Motta E, Gołba A, Bal A, Kazibutowska Z, Strzała-Orzeł M. Seizure frequency and bioelectric brain activity in epileptic patients in stable and unstable atmospheric pressure and temperature in different seasons of the year–a preliminary report. Neurol Neurochir Pol. 2011 Nov-Dec;45(6):561-6.

As early as 1988, a researcher in Nigeria noted that the brain is “electrically” more stable in the summer than in the winter and attributed the difference to summer sunshine.

Danesi MA. Seasonal variations in the incidence of photoparoxysmal response to stimulation among photosensitive epileptic patients: evidence from repeated EEG recordings. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1988 Jun;51(6):875-7

Febrile seizures in children are more likely during influenza season (winter), but no one has proposed that wintertime vitamin D deficiency may be behind both the influenza and the febrile seizures.

A small pilot study showed that vitamin D reduced seizures.

Correction of vitamin D deficiency improves seizure control in epilepsy. Posted on April 18, 2012 by Brant Cebulla

Recently, Drs Choong Fong and Catherine Riney of the Mater Children’s Hospital in Australia published a paper about children with epilepsy in Queensland.

Fong CY, Riney CJ. Vitamin D Deficiency Among Children With Epilepsy in South Queensland. J Child Neurol. 2013 Jan 22.

They studied 111 children with seizures in Brisbane, latitude 27 degrees south. Even though it is relatively close to the equator, they found suboptimal 25(OH)D levels. The levels of the children ranged from 8 to 60 ng/mL, with a median of 26 ng/mL. Twenty-two percent had 25(OH)D levels below 20 ng/ml and 63% had levels less than 30 ng/ml.

They also found that children on more than two antiepileptic drugs or with genetic epilepsy were more likely to have levels less than 20 ng/ml.

The two authors concluded,

“Given the potential benefits of correcting vitamin D deficiency and the absence of evidence of harm associated with correcting to physiological levels; vitamin D monitoring and supplementation is important in the management of children on long-term antiepileptic drugs in Queensland.”

It is also time for randomized controlled trials using vitamin D in epilepsy.

  About: John Cannell, MD

Dr. John Cannell is founder of the Vitamin D Council. He has written many peer-reviewed papers on vitamin D and speaks frequently across the United States on the subject. Dr. Cannell holds an M.D. and has served the medical field as a general practitioner, emergency physician, and psychiatrist.

8 Responses to Current research: Is vitamin D deficiency linked to epilepsy?

  1. Kate Saley says:

    Anyone have any personal experience with seasonality/vitamin D supplementation and seizures?

  2. There is some indication that vitamin D can help.
    There is even more indication that Magnesium can help
    Both are at:

  3. eelisabethpuur@gmail.com says:

    I had two relatives with epilepsy, both after stroke, one even had brainsurgery. The scarring induced the epilepsy. After I supplemented with highdose vitamin D3, and turning the diet into a ketogenic one, they both became ep-free. This was GM. They still had to be on anticonvulsants.

    Eating a lot of shit makes people sick and I find the idea of fortifying junk food with vitamin D dicusting. I wouldn´t eat wheat, cereals, low fat, omega6-fatty acids (PUFA) etc if somebody paid me money.

    So you mean that educating people is not the right way? but letting them eat themselves to death with junk food – if only the high levels of vitamin D are high enough? Well, I don not know what to say, but I would not trust a physician promoting that and I would feel ashamed over myself if I fell into that trap.

  4. smaries@cox.net says:

    I developed epilepsy recently due to a brain tumor (non-cancerous). I have to say that my worst epileptic attack happened at the end of the summer in a southern part of the country. When finally got the diagnosis, my Vit D level was low. Going off meds not really an option but I have supplemented with Vit D ever since. It can’t hurt, but I’m not sure that given where the tumor is, that a higher Vit D level would have done much good. I wonder, however, if the tumor wouldn’t have gotten to the size it did (it’s not CA but it can alter in size) if I’d been on Vit D all along. As it turned out I also had some other medical problems that are, in fact, associated with Vit D deficiency.

  5. Matt Rhodes says:

    I was an epileptic growing up. My father divorced early & I lived with an aunt & uncle until he remarried a nurse when I was around 2. She noticed that I had spells of blindness rather than convulsions. Saw a neurologist for several years & weaned off of my epilepsy medication around age 9-10. No problems with recurrence of the seisures since early childhood. If you look up the history of MMR & MR vaccines, you will find encephalitis as a known side effect & of course MMR has been linked to intestinal trouble in autistic children by Andrew Wakefield. If low vitamin D could contribute to autistic complications, it makes sense that marginally better D levels could lead to milder problems in the brain like epilepsy. As a child I used to love to go outside & sit in the sun on the sunny cold days in late winter & early spring. Later on I took up the habit of reading outside in the sun. No proof of anything, but that would raise my vitamin D levels even if I was unaware of it. Don’t know my levels as a child, but maybe deficient vs. insufficient could account for childhood epilepsy as well as autism.

  6. Kate Saley says:

    eelisabethpuur, fortification can be complicated. It’s all a matter of fortifying a food or product that enough people consume to be effective, while finding the right amount to ensure, if people are ingesting a large amount of the product, will not consume too much. We all know at the levels most foods are fortified this would most likely not be a problem, but it’s a factor in the decision to fortify.

  7. Rita and Misty says:

    Fortification (at its most basic level of understanding) is the easiest and most economical way to reach the majority of the population regarding meeting the particular minimum requirement of any nutrient.

    But, in reality, it is so much more complicated than this.

    For example, if you fortify milk, what about those individuals who are lactose intolerant?

    There will always be some segment of the population whose needs may go unmet via food fortification.

    That’s life! (no point in being a Pollyanna about this) :)

    And, Kate also raises a good point…the levels at which most foods are fortified are extremely low. This is because the industry has to ensure that no one inadvertently poisons himself by overindulging in his favorite sugar-laden cereal.

    So, at best (imo) vitamin d3 food fortification will only assure that most individuals are at minimum sufficiency levels.

    But this is, in and of itself, a HUGE feat.

    So, I am in the food fortification camp.

    Every solution comes with its unique set of problems.