Prevention of neural tube defects in women taking additional supplements

BRC-supported researchers Professors Andrew Copp and Nicholas Greene have led research which suggests that women who are at risk of having children with neural tube defects such as spina bifida may be able to reduce this risk by taking inositol (Vitamin B8) as well as folic acid during pregnancy.

The study involved 99 women who had previously had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect, and who were planning on becoming pregnant within the next year. Half of these women agreed to be randomly assigned to one of two groups; one group were instructed to take 5 mg of Folic acid each day and a placebo, and the second group were instructed to take 5 mg of Folic acid plus 1 mg of Inositol daily. Among the women who chose not be randomised, many decided to take folic acid and inositol in their next pregnancy.

Overall, fifty-seven of the women became pregnant during the study period. Results showed that none of the women taking both inositol and folic acid had pregnancies with a neural tube defect, compared to three of those who took only folic acid.

This research suggests that for those women for whom folic acid supplements are not sufficient to prevent a neural tube defect, taking inositol in addition to folic acid, may provide greater protection. A larger-scale study is now needed in order to in order to confirm the beneficial effects of inositol.

The findings were published in the British Journal of Nutrition, and received media coverage from a number of different sources including the BBC.