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4 Important Benefits of Inositol to Your Health

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Story at-a-glance -

  • Inositol, also called vitamin B8, is a vitamin-like substance found in plants and animals
  • Found in food sources such as nuts, whole grains, cabbage and cantaloupe, inositol may help manage the symptoms of mental health conditions such as panic disorder, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder
  • Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may greatly benefit from inositol as it may help lower blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Myo-inositol, a known form of inositol, may also aid with promoting fertility and better embryo quality

What Is Inositol?

Inositol, also called vitamin B8,1 is a vitamin-like chemical found in plants and animals, but may be made in a laboratory as well.2 It is considered a pseudovitamin, a substance that lacks the physiologic actions of a given vitamin.3

There are nine forms of inositol. Myo-inositol (MYO) and d-chiro-inositol (DCI) are two forms that have been studied for their biological effects, especially on women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) when it comes to properly utilizing insulin and helping alleviate insulin resistance.4

Every tissue in the body has its own ratio of the two forms of inositol, with MYO having higher amounts and being converted into DCI when needed.5 Inositol may be found in food sources such as:6,7,8

  • Brewer's yeast
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Chickpeas
  • Lima beans
  • Unrefined molasses
  • Nuts
  • Raisins
  • Wheat germ 
  • Whole grains 
  • Citrus fruits except for lemons 

DCI isn't naturally abundant in food since the human body makes it from MYO through an enzyme called epimerase.9 Additionally, these forms of inositol shouldn't be confused with inositol hexanicotinate, a derivative of niacin or vitamin B3.10

What Is Inositol Good For?

Inositol is primarily used for the storage and metabolism of amino acids. It is an important part of the citric acid cycle, or the main series of chemical reactions that leads to the conversion of food  into energy. Inositol may also benefit the immune system,11 hair health,12 and manage other conditions such as Alzheimer's disease13 and diabetic nerve pain.14

Furthermore, inositol may help manage mental health concerns. Holistic psychiatrists recommend nutritional supplements like inositol, tryptophan and omega-3 fats for bipolar disorder patients.15 Inositol may also help those diagnosed with panic disorder, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.16 A 2010 study found that inositol may help minimize the symptoms of psoriasis and promote mood stabilization for people with bipolar disorder.17

Meanwhile, MYO has shown benefits for anxiety by working as an antidepressant, especially to those with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).18 For women experiencing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and other related conditions, inositol may help promote ovulation19 and decrease high blood pressure, high cholesterol, triglyceride20 and high serum total testosterone levels.21 MYO may also aid in promoting fertility and better embryo quality.22

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4 Notable Studies on Inositol

Many studies have been conducted regarding inositol’s effects on different human biological functions. Consider the following research highlighting inositol's possible ability to work for patients with panic disorder:

American Journal of Psychiatry (1995) — This study showed that the frequency and severity of panic attacks and agoraphobia lessened significantly after inositol administration, with minimal side effects. The authors concluded that inositol may be a potential therapeutic for panic disorder.23

Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology (2001) — In this study, researchers compared the effectivity of inositol versus the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drug fluvoxamine in addressing panic disorder. During the first month of the study, it was discovered that inositol helped reduce the amount of panic attacks experienced by patients.24

Inositol was highlighted as a potential novel approach in helping alleviate folic acid-nonresponsive-neural tube defects (NTDs), according to a Prevention of Neural Tube Defects by Inositol (PONTI) study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.25 There are also studies highlighting MYO's possible effects on women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS):

European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences (2009) — Researchers discovered that MYO may help 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.26

International Journal of Endocrinology (2016) — The study found that a daily combination of MYO and folic acid may safely help minimize the symptoms and address infertility among PCOS patients, with no relevant side effects.27

MYO may also help mitigate gestational diabetes mellitus. A 2013 Diabetes Care study found that MYO supplementation may help reduce the incidence of gestational diabetes among high-risk pregnant women.28

Is Inositol Bad for You?

Inositol has been deemed safe, but take note that it may lead to side effects like nausea, fatigue, headache and lightheadedness.29 Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid taking inositol because not enough is known about its usage and safety for these conditions.

Although inositol has been recognized safe for premature infants with acute respiratory distress syndrome in hospitals, you should avoid letting children take this medication unless advised by a health care expert. Bipolar disorder patients are advised to minimize the excessive intake of inositol because it could worsen their condition.30

Inositol: There Is Initial Promise to This Substance

Overall, inositol and its similar compounds have shown positive and safe potential benefits, particularly for 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 reduce the risk of unwanted side effects.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Inositol

Q: How does inositol work?

A: Inositol helps store and metabolize amino acids, produce hair and nails, and assist with the immune system functions. 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 and obsessive-compulsive disorder, inositol may assist in balancing chemicals in the body to address these health conditions. Inositol may also help relieve anxiety by acting as an antidepressant.

Q: What is the difference between myo-inositol and inositol?

A: What sets inositol and myo-inositol apart is that the former refers to a name of a pseudovitamin compound, which is a substance that lacks the physiologic actions of a given vitamin, while the latter is one of nine types of inositol.

Q: Is inositol safe during pregnancy?

A: There is little to no information regarding inositol's safety during pregnancy, so I advise seeking your health care provider's recommendation before taking inositol supplements.

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