Many of us take various dietary supplements and vitamins to complement our diet and to reap the potential benefits. Many of us are also taking various medications for some conditions that we may be suffering from, whether they are acute or more chronic in nature. It is therefore quite a peculiar fact that we actually know very little that about how different dietary supplements affect the drugs we take.
A study conducted recently suggests that these effects may be quite pronounced. The research in question was headed by University of Oxford Associate Professor and Royal Society Research Fellow, Elizabeth Tunbridge, and it investigated the effects of folic acid on two different common therapies prescribed to people suffering from bipolar disorder.
The study looked at two very popular treatments for this mood disorder – one involving only quetiapine (commonly sold as Seroquel) and another involving both quetiapine and lamotrigine (sold under the brand name Lamictal) and how they responded to introduction of folic acid which is also commonly used as adjunct therapy to patients with depression. Folic acid is also commonly used by pregnant women to promote fetus health.
To cut the long story short, the researchers found out that the use of folic acid in conjunction with the two-drug therapy blocks the benefits of such a combined treatment, especially in the early stages. The researchers were stunned by such an effect of folic acid. If anything, they expected the folic acid to enhance the effects and this paradoxical effect of the supplement came as total surprise.
This is not the first time an interaction between natural substances and medications was observed. For instance, we have known for a long time that grapefruit juice can cause certain drugs to be present in the bloodstream in larger quantities than planned, increasing chances of side effects. St John’s wort, a popular natural supplement, has been found to reduce effectiveness of various medications, such as oral contraceptives.
One thing that this study once again shows is that we definitely need more research into how various natural compounds and supplements can affect the treatments prescribed by our doctors. Just because something is natural does not mean it cannot be affecting our treatments negatively.