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      Inositol for the prevention of neural tube defects: a pilot randomised controlled trial

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          Although peri-conceptional folic acid (FA) supplementation can prevent a proportion of neural tube defects (NTD), there is increasing evidence that many NTD are FA non-responsive. The vitamin-like molecule inositol may offer a novel approach to preventing FA-non-responsive NTD. Inositol prevented NTD in a genetic mouse model, and was well tolerated by women in a small study of NTD recurrence. In the present study, we report the Prevention of Neural Tube Defects by Inositol (PONTI) pilot study designed to gain further experience of inositol usage in human pregnancy as a preliminary trial to a future large-scale controlled trial to evaluate efficacy of inositol in NTD prevention. Study subjects were UK women with a previous NTD pregnancy who planned to become pregnant again. Of 117 women who made contact, ninety-nine proved eligible and forty-seven agreed to be randomised (double-blind) to peri-conceptional supplementation with inositol plus FA or placebo plus FA. In total, thirty-three randomised pregnancies produced one NTD recurrence in the placebo plus FA group ( n 19) and no recurrences in the inositol plus FA group ( n 14). Of fifty-two women who declined randomisation, the peri-conceptional supplementation regimen and outcomes of twenty-two further pregnancies were documented. Two NTD recurred, both in women who took only FA in their next pregnancy. No adverse pregnancy events were associated with inositol supplementation. The findings of the PONTI pilot study encourage a large-scale controlled trial of inositol for NTD prevention, but indicate the need for a careful study design in view of the unwillingness of many high-risk women to be randomised.

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          Most cited references 14

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          Prevention of neural tube defects: results of the Medical Research Council Vitamin Study. MRC Vitamin Study Research Group.

          A randomised double-blind prevention trial with a factorial design was conducted at 33 centres in seven countries to determine whether supplementation with folic acid (one of the vitamins in the B group) or a mixture of seven other vitamins (A,D,B1,B2,B6,C and nicotinamide) around the time of conception can prevent neural tube defects (anencephaly, spina bifida, encephalocele). A total of 1817 women at high risk of having a pregnancy with a neural tube defect, because of a previous affected pregnancy, were allocated at random to one of four groups--namely, folic acid, other vitamins, both, or neither. 1195 had a completed pregnancy in which the fetus or infant was known to have or not have a neural tube defect; 27 of these had a known neural tube defect, 6 in the folic acid groups and 21 in the two other groups, a 72% protective effect (relative risk 0.28, 95% confidence interval 0.12-0.71). The other vitamins showed no significant protective effect (relative risk 0.80, 95% Cl 0.32-1.72). There was no demonstrable harm from the folic acid supplementation, though the ability of the study to detect rare or slight adverse effects was limited. Folic acid supplementation starting before pregnancy can now be firmly recommended for all women who have had an affected pregnancy, and public health measures should be taken to ensure that the diet of all women who may bear children contains an adequate amount of folic acid.
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            Prevention of neural-tube defects with folic acid in China. China-U.S. Collaborative Project for Neural Tube Defect Prevention.

            Periconceptional administration of folic acid can reduce a woman's risk of having a fetus or infant with a neural-tube defect. As part of a public health campaign conducted from 1993 to 1995 in an area of China with high rates of neural-tube defects (the northern region) and one with low rates (the southern region), we evaluated the outcomes of pregnancy in women who were asked to take a pill containing 400 microg of folic acid alone daily from the time of their premarital examination until the end of their first trimester of pregnancy. Among the fetuses or infants of 130,142 women who took folic acid at any time before or during pregnancy and 117,689 women who had not taken folic acid, we identified 102 and 173, respectively, with neural-tube defects. Among the fetuses or infants of women who registered before their last menstrual period and who did not take any folic acid, the rates of neural-tube defects were 4.8 per 1000 pregnancies of at least 20 weeks' gestation in the northern region and 1.0 per 1000 in the southern region. Among the fetuses or infants of the women with periconceptional use of folic acid, the rates were 1.0 per 1000 in the northern region and 0.6 per 1000 in the southern region. The greatest reduction in risk occurred among the fetuses or infants of a subgroup of women in the northern region with periconceptional use who took folic acid pills more than 80 percent of the time (reduction in risk, 85 percent as compared with the fetuses or infants of women who registered before their last menstrual period and who took no folic acid; 95 percent confidence interval, 62 to 94 percent) [corrected]. In the southern region the reduction in risk among the fetuses or infants of women with periconceptional use of folic acid was also significant (reduction in risk, 41 percent; 95 percent confidence interval, 3 to 64 percent). Periconceptional intake of 400 microg of folic acid daily can reduce the risk of neural-tube defects in areas with high rates of these defects and in areas with low rates.
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              Social and ethnic differences in folic acid use preconception and during early pregnancy in the UK: effect on maternal folate status.

              The role of folate supplementation in preventing neural tube defects is well known; however, preconception supplement use continues to be low, especially amongst the socially disadvantaged. The present study explored periconception folic acid supplement use in a socially deprived, ethnically diverse population. Pregnant women (n = 402) in the first trimester of pregnancy were recruited in East London. Using a researcher led questionnaire, details were obtained regarding social class, ethnicity and folic acid use. Red cell folate levels were determined for 367 participants during the first trimester. Although 76% of participants reported using folic acid supplements during the first trimester, only 12% started preconception and a further 17% started before neural tube closure. Mothers from higher social groups or with higher levels of education were more likely to use folic acid and started taking it earlier. Ethnic differences were also seen in preconception usage (Africans, 5%; West Indians, 8%; Asians, 12%; Caucasians, 19%; P = 0.038). Participants who took folic acid supplements had significantly higher mean (SD) red cell folate concentrations than those who took none [936 (*\1.6) and 579 (*\1.6) nmol L(-1), respectively; P < 0.001]. Folic acid supplement use preconception and prior to neural tube closure continues to be low, exhibiting both social and ethnic disparities.

                Author and article information

                Br J Nutr
                Br. J. Nutr
                The British Journal of Nutrition
                Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, UK )
                05 February 2016
                28 March 2016
                : 115
                : 6
                : 974-983
                [1 ]Newlife Birth Defects Research Centre, Institute of Child Health, University College London , London WC1N 1EH, UK
                [2 ]Genetics, Genomics and Metabolism Programme, Institute of Child Health, University College London , London WC1N 1EH, UK
                Author notes
                [* ] Corresponding author: A. J. Copp, email a.copp@
                S0007114515005322 00532
                © The Authors 2016

                This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 2, Pages: 10
                Full Papers
                Developmental Biology


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