You may be familiar with common B vitamins such as vitamins B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin), but do you know what vitamin B8 — more known as inositol — can do for you? Keep reading to learn more about what it is, how your body can benefit from taking inositol and/or myo-inositol supplements and what scientific research has to say about its effects on the body.
What Is Inositol?
Inositol, also called vitamin B8, is commonly referred to as a vitamin-like substance found in plants and animals, and may also be made in a laboratory.1,2 However, Examine points out that inositol or inositols are pseudovitamin compounds that falsely belong to the B complex family.3
There are nine forms of inositol overall. Specifically, myo-inositol (MYO) and d-chiro-inositol (DCI) are two forms that have been studied for their abilities, especially towards women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) when it comes to properly utilizing insulin and helping preventing insulin resistance. Every tissue in the body has its own ratio of MYO to DCI, with the former having higher amounts and producing DCI when needed.4 Inositol is known to come from food sources such as:5,6,7,8
Citrus fruits except for lemons
Legumes like peanuts
On the other hand, myo-inositol can be found in human tissue, and in the following food sources:9
Fresh citrus fruits except lemons
Unprocessed grains (oats, wheat germ and brain)
D-chiro-inositol isn't naturally abundant in food, since the human body makes it from myo-inositol through the actions of an enzyme called epimerase. Lastly, remember that these forms of inositol shouldn't be confused with inositol hexanicotinate, a derivative of niacin or vitamin B3.10,11
What Is Inositol Good For?
In a nutshell, the main use of inositol is for the storage and metabolism of amino acids. It is also an important part of the citric acid cycle, or the main series of chemical reactions that leads to food being turned into energy within the body. Lastly, inositol benefits the immune system and the production of hair and nails.12
Furthermore, inositol can be used for addressing mental health concerns. Holistic psychiatrists recommend nutritional supplements like inositol, tryptophan and omega-3 fats for bipolar disorder patients. Inositol may also assist with balancing chemicals in the body and help those diagnosed with mental health conditions like panic disorder, depression, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Meanwhile, myo-inositol has also shown promise for anxiety by working as an antidepressant and helping alleviate conditions such as panic disorders and binge eating.13,14
For women experiencing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and other conditions linked to it, inositol can help address issues like failure to ovulate, high blood pressure levels, high triglyceride levels and high testosterone levels. Myo-inositol can also aid with promoting fertility and helping restore insulin sensitivity.
Because of myo-inositol's benefits towards fertility and PCOS, and anti-anxiety effects that can alleviate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), it is referred to as a general female health supplement. Inositol benefits other conditions as well, such as:
Diabetic nerve pain
High cholesterol levels
Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Inositol may also be utilized to promote hair growth and address side effects of medical treatment with lithium.
Studies on Inositol
While many studies have been conducted regarding inositol, the potential benefits being examined are similar. For instance, consider these studies highlighting inositol's possible ability to work for patients with panic disorder:
• American Journal of Psychiatry (1995): Findings from the study showed that frequency and severity of panic attacks and of agoraphobia lessened significantly after inositol administration, with minimal side effects. The authors concluded that inositol can be a potential therapeutic for panic disorder.15
• Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology (2001): In this study, researchers compared the effectivity of inositol versus the SSRI drug fluvoxamine in addressing panic disorder. During the first month of the study it was discovered that inositol reduced the amount of panic attacks experienced by patients.16
Inositol was also highlighted as a potential novel approach in preventing folic acid-nonresponsive-neural tube defects (NTDs) according to the Prevention of Neutral Tube Defects by Inositol (PONTI) study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.17 There are also studies highlighting myo-inositol's possible effects on women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS):
• European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences (2009): The study authors discovered that myo-inositol can reduce serum androgen concentrations, lessen circulating insulin and improve glucose tolerance and other metabolic values altered that are associated with insulin resistance in women with PCOS.18
• International Journal of Endocrinology (2016): Researchers found that a combination of myo-inositol and folic acid treatment daily can safely improve symptoms and address infertility among PCOS patients, with no relevant side effects.
Myo-inositol may also help prevent gestational diabetes mellitus. A 2016 Current Diabetes Reports study revealed that myo-inositol was proposed as a food supplement that may assist with reducing incidence of gestational diabetes among high-risk pregnant women.
How Much Inositol Should You Take?
There are various inositol doses that have been studied in scientific research. However, there is no general recommendation for inositol supplements. Your dosage of inositol should depend largely on the condition for which you are taking it. It's highly recommended to consult a doctor first before taking inositol and follow recommended dosages stated on the label of the supplement.
Is Inositol Bad for You?
Although it has been deemed safe, take note that inositol can lead to side effects like nausea, tiredness, headaches and dizziness. As much as possible, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid taking inositol because not enough is known about its usage and safety for these conditions.
Plus, although inositol has been recognized as safe to be taken by premature infants with acute respiratory distress syndrome in hospitals, avoid letting children take this medication. Bipolar disorder patients are advised to avoid taking excess amounts of inositol because it can worsen this condition.
Inositol: There Is Initial Promise to This Substance
Overall, inositol and its similar compounds have shown potential in positively and safely impacting the body, particularly for health issues like mental health diseases and reproductive conditions like PCOS. Furthermore, studies have also yielded well-received and positive results regarding inositol.
However, before taking inositol supplements, talk to a doctor first to know the amount of inositol needed for your condition and to help with preventing unwanted side effects.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Inositol
Q: How does inositol work?
A: Inositol helps with storing and metabolizing amino acids, producing hair and nails and assisting with immune system function. It's also a crucial component of the citric acid cycle, which is the main series of chemical reactions that result in food being converted into energy by the body.
For people with panic disorder, depression, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, inositol can assist with balancing chemicals in the body to eventually address these diseases. Inositol may also help relieve anxiety by acting as an antidepressant and resolving conditions like panic disorders and binge eating.
Q: What is the difference between myo-inositol and inositol?
A: What sets inositol and myo-inositol apart from each other is that the former refers to a name of pseudovitamin compounds that are falsely said to be part of the B complex family, while the latter is one of nine types of inositol known today.
Q: How much inositol should be taken for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)?
A: Although varying dosages of inositol have been studied in scientific research, there are actually no recommendations for inositol dosages in general. Before taking inositol supplements to address PCOS, talk to a doctor or OB-GYN first to be able to determine the amount needed for your condition.
Q: Is inositol safe during pregnancy?
A: There is little to no information regarding inositol's safety during pregnancy, so it's advised that pregnant women avoid taking inositol supplements.