BALTIMORE – The effect of caffeine on seizures may be dose dependent, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society. Moderate doses of caffeine may benefit patients with epilepsy, whereas high doses – four cups of coffee per day or more – may increase seizure susceptibility, said Julie Bourgeois-Vionnet, MD, of the department of functional neurology and epileptology at Hospices Civils de Lyon in France.
In rodent model studies, caffeine has been found in general to increase seizure susceptibility but with variable results according to dose and route of administration, but other studies of chronic low-dose exposure to caffeine have reported protective effects against seizures and sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP; Epilepsy Behav. 2018 Mar;80:37-47). In patients, however, the relationship between caffeine consumption and seizure frequency has been less clear.
To examine the relationship between caffeine consumption and seizure frequency in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy, Dr. Bourgeois-Vionnet and colleagues analyzed data patients in the Safety of Antiepileptic Withdrawal in Long Term Video-EEG Monitoring () study. This ongoing, multicenter, open-label trial is evaluating the management of antiepileptic drugs withdrawal during long-term monitoring in patients with drug-resistant focal epilepsy.
For the present analysis, the researchers examined data from 620 adults who were included in the SAVE study between 2016 and 2018 and had information available about coffee consumption and seizure frequency, including seizure frequency during the previous 3 months and number of focal seizure evolving to generalized tonic-clonic seizures (secondary generalized tonic-clonic seizures [sGTCS]) during the past year. Patients provided information about coffee consumption via a standardized questionnaire.
The investigators classified caffeine consumption as none, rare (less than 1 cup/week to up to 3 cups/week), moderate (between 4 cups/week and 3 cups/day) and high (more than 4 cups/day). The researchers evaluated risk of SUDEP using the revised SUDEP-7 inventory.
The patients had an average age of 36.2 years and an average duration of epilepsy of 18.1 years. In the 3 months preceding study inclusion, the median seizure frequency of any type was 4.33 per month. In all, 217 patients reported sGTCS in the past year.
Overall, 194 patients reported no coffee consumption, 149 reported rare coffee consumption, 177 moderate consumption, and 100 high consumption. The revised SUDEP-7 inventory was available for 607 patients, and the median score was 3.0.
Patients with moderate coffee consumption were more likely to not have any sGTCS (73.4%), compared with patients with no coffee consumption (64.4%), rare consumption (61.7%), and high consumption (56%). Likewise, patients with moderate coffee consumption were less likely to have more than three sGTCS per year (19.2%), compared with patients no coffee consumption (28.9%), rare consumption (24.8%), and high consumption (30%).
“There was no relation between caffeine consumption and seizure frequency of any type,” Dr. Bourgeois-Vionnet and colleagues reported. “However, we observed a bimodal association between frequency of sGTCS and coffee consumption. In contrast, no significant association was observed between score of the SUDEP-7 inventory and level of caffeine consumption.”
While these findings still need to be confirmed in prospective studies, they suggest possible guidance for patients, Dr. Bourgeois-Vionnet said. “They are allowed to drink coffee, but maybe avoid high doses,” she said.
The study was funded by the French Ministry of Health. The researchers had no disclosures.
SOURCE: Bourgeois-Vionnet J. AES 2019, Abstract 2.141.