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Vitamins may reduce neural tube defects.

Vitamins may reduce neural tube defects

Mothers-to-be have long been advised that good nutrition can boost their chances of producing a healthy baby. Now research suggests that multivitamin use before and after conception may help protect the fetus from certain kinds of birth defects.

The researchers warn, however, that "caution must be exercised in the interpretation of our results." Vitamin users may generally lead healthier lifestyles than nonusers, they note. Further study is needed to find out whether vitamin use alone -- or some other factor -- is preventing the defects.

The study, published in the Dec. 2 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, showed fewer neural tube defects among babies born to women who had started taking vitamins at least three months before conception. The most common neural tube defects are spina bifida, an incomplete closing of the bone casing that protects the spinal cord, and anencephaly, a condition in which babies lack major parts of the brain.

Joseph Mulinare and his collegues at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control looked at 347 neural-tube-defect cases, babies born from 1968 to 1980 who were registered with an Atlanta birth defect program. The 2,829 control cases were babies without birth born during the same period. Mothers were interviewed by telephone regarding their multi-vitamin use through the third month of pregnancy. The researchers found vitamin users ran less than half the risk of having a defective baby compared wth nonusers.

In an accompanying editorial, Lewis B. Holmes of Masachusetts General Hospital in Boston calls the finding an "exciting posilibity." But the echoes the preservations voiced by the authors, saying, "Such a simple solution is almost too good to be true."
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Publication:Science News
Date:Dec 10, 1988
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