A vitamin found in common foods could hold the key to preventing spina bifida and other birth defects, say scientists. As well as taking folic acid, mums-to-be might benefit from taking this vitamin, called inositol. Scientists have been encourage by a small trial that has suggested that this vitamin, found in meat, fruit and veg, could prevent spina bifida and related birth defects.

Spina bifida is one of the more common birth defects in the UK. Around 100 children a year are born with the condition, but this figure doesn’t take into account those pregnancies that are terminated if it is found during an ultrasound.

However, this study is small and more research is needed before mums-to-be might be recommended the vitamin.

“We don’t think that women are deficient in inositol in their diets,” said Dr Nick Greene, who helped with the research. “But from our experimental work we know inositol can stimulate cells in the developing embryo to proliferate more quickly, and that corrects the defect that would develop in spina bifida.”

Dr Nick is currently looking for more mums-to-be to help with the study.