Public health interventions and biologically heterogeneous human populations

Nutrition and prevention of congenital anomalies

Nutrition seminar
Tuesday, 22 October 2013
11:00 to 12:00, Salle M205


Dr Patrick Stover
Professor & Division Director, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA

The prevention of birth defects through folic acid fortification of enriched grains is among the most compelling public health success stories. Fortification initiatives were motivated in the mid 1990s by unequivocal results from clinical trails that demonstrated a protective effect of folic acid in preventing neural tube defects, yet the underlying biology accounting for this protective effect has remained elusive. Neural tube defects arise because of deleterious gene-nutrient interactions during early embryonic development.

Currently lacking is knowledge of the metabolic pathways that are essential for normal neural tube closure, the optimal folic acid exposure to prevent neural tube defects, the identity of other nutrients that may be involved in neural tube defects pathogenesis, and the human genetic alleles that confer risk. The lack of fundamental understanding of the role of folate in neural tube defects occurrence and prevention has exacerbated concerns of unintended consequences, and impeded further refinement of fortification strategies for optimal neural tube defects prevention.

This seminar focuses on recent advances in our understanding of the biological underpinnings of neural tube defects pathogenesis, and the potential of these findings to inform improved nutritional strategies for prevention of congenital anomalies.

Hosted by:

Evidence and Programme Guidance Unit, Department of Nutrition for Health and Development (NHD)


About the speaker