New research suggests that women who take folic acid with vitamin B8, known as inositol, before and during pregnancy may be able to prevent foetal neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly from occurring.
The findings, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, come from the PONTI study (Prevention of Neural Tube defects by Inositol), conducted by the UCL Institute of Child Health, the research partner of Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). The four-year study focused on a small number of women in the UK who had previously had a pregnancy affected by a condition such as spina bifida. In the trial, one group of the women received folic acid only, while the other larger group received both folic acid and vitamin B8, known as inositol. The women took their supplements in tablet form up to a year prior to conception and for the first three months of pregnancy.
The findings are striking. Among the women who took Folic Acid alone, some went on to have babies affected by spina bifida or a similar condition. In the larger group of women who took both folic and inositol, no babies were born with a neural tube defect. This may bring hope for future prevention, though more research is needed.
Gill Yaz, Shine Health Development Manager, commented: “This is very promising for the future. We know that folic acid alone doesn’t always prevent spina bifida or anencephaly. Professor Copp’s team have been looking for many years into the genetics and causes of neural tube defects, especially those that folic acid doesn’t prevent. We all hope that a large study can be undertaken, to better inform families that wish to try to reduce the chance of their baby having an NTD.”