St. Louis Public Radio News
5:48 pm
Tue May 26, 2009

Nutrient may prevent brain and spinal cord birth defects

St. Louis, MO –

Scientists at Washington University's School of Medicine in St. Louis say inosital, a nutrient found in grains and nuts, may help prevent brain and spinal cord birth defects. Researchers found when female mice couldn't metabolize inositol, about 15% of their embryos had defects like spina bifida, or a split spine.

Lead researcher Monita Wilson says folic acid can prevent about 70% of brain and spinal cord birth defects and inositol may further decrease the chances.

"The 30% of birth defects that are not able to be repaired by folic acid might respond to inosital that is in the diet or as a vitamin form."

Wilson says more research is needed before inosital could be added to prenatal vitamins, most of which already contain folic acid.

The Spina Bifida Association estimates that each day eight babies in the U.S. are born with the defect, which causes paralysis, spine abnormalities, and incontinence.