Inositol, also called vitamin B8, is present in various foods, including fruits, legumes, cereals, and nuts. Your body can even make inositol through dietary carbohydrates. Inositol is a form of sugar which aids in providing structure to your cells. In addition, inositol is a supplement in the market for treating medical conditions like metabolic and mental disorders. Plus, inositol is a folk remedy for anxiety, tension and fatigue. And the health community is growing curious about what inositol is, how it works, and how it can benefit your health.
Inositol: An Overview
Inositol, also known as myo-inositol, D-chiro-inositol, or hexaphosphate (IP6), is an essential component of cellular development in the body. It belongs to a category of pseudovitamins. Depletion of pseudovitamins like inositol does not necessarily cause health disorders. Therefore, most people do not value it since inositol is not truly a vitamin.
Inositol is a sugar that has several vital functions. It is a significant element of cell membranes and performs a structural role in the body cell. Additionally, inositol affects the activity of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. It also impacts brain chemical messengers like serotonin and dopamine. Inositol also possesses antioxidant qualities that protect the brain, cardiovascular system, and other body tissues from free radical damage.
Foods Rich in Inositol
While the body synthesises inositol, you also need dietary sources of inositol. The most common forms of inositol are d-chiro inositol and myo-inositol. Studies indicate a high amount of myo-inositol is present in fruits, beans, grains, and nuts. Fresh fruits and vegetables provide more myo-inositol than frozen, canned, or salt-free products.
Inositol is also present in meat sources and eggs. However, make sure to choose grass-fed and chemical-free meat sources. If the meat sources contain steroids and antibiotics, they can do more harm than good. Inositols are also present in the walls of all living cells (animal, plant, bacterium, and fungus).
Here are some food sources of inositol.
Beans and Peas
Canned beans, mainly canned great northern beans, have the highest concentration of myo-inositol among vegetables, with a 4.4 mg/g concentration. Great northern beans are mild-flavoured white beans that are somewhat bigger than navy beans but smaller than cannellini beans. 2.49 mg/g of myo-inositol is present in canned dark red kidney beans.
Furthermore, canned big English peas also contain inositol. They have around 2.35 mg/g of inositol. On the other hand, fresh green beans provide 1.93 mg/g of myo-inositol, making them an excellent vegetable choice.
Almonds or Peanut Butter
Almonds have a significant concentration of myo-inositol with 2.78 mg per gram. Walnuts contain 1.98 mg/g. Cashews, shredded coconut, and sunflower seeds contain less than 1 mg per gram.
There is minimal difference between raw(1.33 mg/g) and cooked peanuts (1.34 mg/g). However, creamy peanut butter has a substantially greater concentration of myo-inositol than chunky peanut butter (3.04 mg/g vs 1.28 mg/g). However, store-bought isn’t healthy food. It’s packed with processed sugar.
Dried prunes are rich in inositol with 4.7 milligrammes per gram. Prunes are high in fibre and work as a laxative. Increasing your prune consumption can improve your bowel movement if you have constipation troubles. However, it would be best to drink prune juice in moderation.
Cantaloupe or Citrus
The myo-inositol content of fresh cantaloupe is 3.55 mg/g. Therefore, the ideal time to eat cantaloupe is in July and August, when it is at its ripest.
Fresh oranges have 3.07 mg/g of myo-inositol (from November to May), and fresh grapefruit has 1.99 mg/g of myo-inositol. Therefore, you can enjoy grapefruit throughout the colder months (October through August) with more inositol.
Although fresh fruit and vegetables are better than frozen, canned, or juiced alternatives, frozen concentrated orange juice (2.04 mg/g) and frozen concentrated grapefruit juice (3.8 mg/g) are also excellent dietary sources of myo-inositol.
Whole Grain Bread and Bran
Stone-ground whole grain bread is one of the most refined foods for increasing inositol intake. It contains a whopping 11.5 mg per gram and 287.5 mg of myo-inositol in one slice of bread.
If you prefer cereal, consider substituting bran flakes for the sweet corn flakes. The inositol content of 40% bran flakes is 2.74 mg/g.
Health Benefits of Inositol
The polycystic ovarian syndrome is an endocrinal disorder that affects women of reproductive age and causes menstrual irregularities and infertility, hair fall, acne, etc. In addition, PCOS can cause weight gain, excessive blood sugar, and unhealthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Inositol supplements, especially when taken with folic acid, help with symptoms of PCOS. According to studies, for women with obesity and polycystic ovarian syndrome, taking a specific type of inositol (isomer D-chiro-inositol) will lower triglyceride and testosterone levels, moderately lowers blood pressure, and enhances ovulation.
Inositol works as a second messenger for several hormones in women with PCOS. It interacts with thyroid-stimulating hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and insulin to improve ovulatory function.
Inositol improves Mental Health
Inositol helps with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses by increasing the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine. These are the ‘feel-good’ hormones present in our bodies.
Panic attacks, which involve abrupt emotions of acute fright, are common in people with panic disorder. Accelerated heartbeat, breathlessness, dizziness, sweating, and a numbing sensation in the hands are symptoms. As per studies, taking inositol helps reduce the frequency of panic attacks.
Lithium carbonate is the most widely used long-term treatment for bipolar affective disorders. However, it triggers psoriasis. According to research, taking 3–6 grams of inositol supplements per day can help lessen the symptoms of psoriasis induced by lithium. In addition, inositol depletion is a common outcome of structurally disparate antibipolar drugs. So, it needs to get refilled back in the body. Therefore, taking inositol supplements is beneficial for people undergoing treatment for a bipolar mood disorder.
Improves Metabolic Syndrome
As per studies, inositol and its derivatives take part in several physiological processes, including metabolism. Inositol chemicals influence the actions of multiple hormones and metabolic pathways to prevent metabolic syndrome. On the other hand, inositol shortage causes various disorders, primarily in the metabolic and endocrine systems. Its two significant isoforms (Myo-inositol-inositol and D-chiro-inositol) are involved in glycemic and lipidic metabolism. They also aid in improving metabolism by functioning as insulin-sensitising compounds and free radical scavengers.
Diabetes is a common metabolic condition. Inositols work as possible mediators of insulin action and mechanism of insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes mellitus. The D-chiro-inositol acts by enhancing the activity of proteins involved in intracellular glucose metabolism, thereby accelerating insulin action in diabetic people.
Prevents Hair Fall
Inositol helps with hair growth. It is a chemical present in the body that can help to reduce DHT (the cause of hair loss) and promote healthy hair follicles and their development. Inositol, as a supplement, helps prevent hair loss and thinning. Additionally, inositol can lessen hair loss by lowering testosterone and stabilising good hormones. In combination with a multivitamin supplement, inositol can benefit more than other hair care substances. When combined with choline, inositol is very effective in halting hair loss. Inositol comes in a variety of forms; however, for hair loss, it’s best taken as a supplement.
Acne is a severe inflammation due to excessive sebum clogging the hair follicles. Sebum is an oily material generated by the sebaceous glands. This oversupply can be the result of increased hormonal stimulation. Myo-inositol, a naturally occurring chemical in our bodies, acts as a modulator of essential hormones, including insulin, FSH, and even TSH. It controls sebum production and acne formation. As per studies, inositol can help prevent and cure the pathophysiological pathways that cause acne.
How Much Inositol Do I Need?
There is no recommended daily allowance and no standardised dosing for inositol. The amount of inositol you need depends on why you’re taking it. For example, the more severe the condition, the higher the recommended inositol dosage.
The therapeutic inositol dose for PCOS is 2-4g. Most people take around 4g/ day, but you can also begin with a lower amount and slowly increase the dosage. For PCOS, you can take either myo-inositol alone or myo-inositol combined with D-chiro-inositol. Myo-inositol alone is less expensive than myo and d-chiro combined. Remember to take the combined inositol in a 40:1 ratio. For example, Ovasitol is a 100% pure inositol supplement. Each Ovasitol dose contains 2,000 mg of myo-inositol and 50 mg of D-chiro-inositol, forming a ratio of 40 to 1. However, check with your health practitioner before taking any of these supplements.
Therapeutic doses range from 6-18g daily for behavioural and neurological conditions. Manufacturers recommend the following dosages for supporting certain conditions:
- Metabolic syndrome (MS): 2 grams twice every day
- Psoriasis caused by lithium: Take up to 6 grams once every day.
- Anxiety and panic episodes: Up to 12 grams per day
Potential Drug Interactions and Side Effects of Inositol
Most people tolerate inositol pills well. However, mild side effects take place with dosages as high as 12 grams per day. Nausea, bloating, fatigue, headache, dizziness, and sleeplessness are some symptoms. Pregnant women take up to 4 g of inositol per day with no side effects. However, high doses of inositol hexaphosphate reduce the body’s capacity to absorb iron, calcium, zinc, and other vital minerals, leading to nutritional deficits even while consuming a well-balanced diet. In addition, people exposed to unusually high doses might experience mild stomach upset or gastrointestinal side effects. Before using inositol, consult your doctor.
There are no documented drug interactions cases from taking inositol with other FDA-approved medications. Therefore, inositol supplements do not cause any negative interactions with other drugs and supplements. Therefore, there is no particular concern about using it during lactation and child use.
Inositol is not officially a vitamin but is more like naturally-occurring sugar alcohol. There are nine different inositols, where myo-inositol is the most prevalent type. People who suffer from anxiety attacks, depression, bipolar disorder, polycystic ovarian syndrome, metabolic disorders, and diabetes can benefit from inositol. A daily dosage of up to 18 grams is safe for most individuals and has only a few adverse effects. But the dose value varies depending on the condition for which you use inositol. Although your diet includes a few levels of inositol, due to higher concentration, supplements may work better for some people. However, talk to your doctor before using inositol supplements.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What does inositol do to your body?
A. Inositol supplementation helps with mental illnesses including panic disorder, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder by balancing specific brain chemicals. It also aids insulin’s functioning, treats metabolic syndrome and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and prevents premature delivery.
Q. What does inositol do for PCOS?
A. PCOS women have poor insulin sensitivity and high insulin resistance. Inositol helps in increasing insulin sensitivity in cells. Therefore, it helps balance the blood sugar levels in PCOS women. Furthermore, inositol helps improve ovulatory function.
Q. When should I take inositol?
A. Supplements containing inositol are available as capsules or powder. You can take them any time during the day. It does not affect sleep, so that you can have it in the evening at your convenience. To enhance inositol’s absorption in the body, take it on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
Q. Does inositol increase weight?
A: No, inositol does not increase weight. Instead, it helps to some extent with weight loss. It helps regulate the hormone insulin in the body, which directly and indirectly affects weight. It enables the body to prevent insulin resistance and effectively absorbs blood glucose. Tackling insulin resistance prevents any excess fat storage in the body.
Q. Does inositol increase fertility?
A: Inositol helps with ovular infertility in PCOS women. Supplementing with inositol can promote ovulation and prepare the body for pregnancy. Infertile women who have had IVF or Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) treatments can also benefit from inositol.
Q. Does inositol cause liver damage?
A. No, inositol is healthy for your liver. Choline and myo-inositol are dietary supplements used to assist in the breakdown of stored fat in the liver. Therefore, choline and myo-inositol help prevent high cholesterol and triglyceride formation in the liver.
Q. Can I take inositol if I don’t have PCOS?
A: Yes, you can take inositol irrespective of whether you have PCOS. It aids with other health issues, such as insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, hair fall, and persistent acne.
Q. Is Ovasitol good for PCOS?
A. Ovasitol contains combined myo- and D-chiro-inositol in a 40:1 ratio to match your body plasma levels. This optimum ratio aids in insulin signalling, lowers insulin resistance, and restores menstrual regularity and hormonal levels. Compared to myo inositol alone, this leads to reduced insulin and blood sugar levels.
Q. Who should not take inositol?
A: In adults, intake of inositol is usually safe. If there are any side effects, they are typically minor and include nausea, stomach discomfort, weariness, headache, and dizziness. The majority of adverse effects occur at dosages above 12 grams per day. However, it may be harmful when administered for more than ten days in premature newborns with respiratory distress.
Q. What B vitamin is inositol?
A. Inositol is a form of sugar affecting the body’s insulin sensitivity and other hormones that affect mood and cognition. Although it is commonly known as vitamin B8, it is not a true vitamin. Instead, Inositol belongs to a group of pseudo vitamins.