Found in many common foods, inositol (also called myo-inositol) falls into a category sometimes called pseudovitamins. Pseudovitamins play an important role in bodily functions, but do not necessarily cause health disorders when their levels deplete. Inositol is sometimes referred to as vitamin B8.
Inositol supports several biological processes in the body, such as fat metabolism, insulin signaling, and nerve functioning. Inositol is sometimes referred to as the “female health supplement”, as it has been shown to help with female infertility issues. There is strong evidence that supports the role of inositol in alleviating mood issues and anxiety-related symptoms.
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Benefits of Inositol
Inositol is somewhat unique in that it displays promise in treating a variety of health conditions in clinical trials, and in some cases is more promising than prescription medications.
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PCOS and Type 2 Diabetes
Inositol shows the most promise as a supplement in supporting insulin levels, particularly in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and type 2 diabetes. Inositol supplementation may also help alleviate symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) and PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder).
In clinical research studies, inositol supplementation is consistently and highly effective at improving all of the following symptoms of PCOS and type 2 diabetes:
- Weight and body composition
- Ovulation and fertility
- Insulin secretion
- Insulin sensitivity
- Blood glucose levels
- Cholesterol levels
- Gestational diabetes
- Estrogen and testosterone levels
There have been fewer studies performed on the benefits of inositol for anxiety disorders as compared to PCOS, but they are no less promising. Research studies have shown that high doses of inositol may decrease anxiety symptoms, including panic attacks. Some research suggests that the effects of inositol are comparable to the drug fluvoxamine (Luvox) for the treatment of panic attacks.
Similar to anxiety disorders, inositol supplementation significantly reduced symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in psychiatric clinical trials.
Inositol is not effective in treating all cases of psoriasis; only in the cases caused by long-term lithium therapy. Lithium can deplete natural inositol levels, which is why concurrent treatment with inositol supplements is so effective.
Inositol may also be effective as a supplemental treatment for the below conditions:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Diabetic Nerve Pain
- Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Hair Growth
- High Cholesterol
- Fat Metabolization
Sources of Inositol
As previously mentioned, inositol is found in naturally in certain foods but in fairly low levels. The highest levels of inositol are usually found in whole grains and citrus fruits.
Common Food Sources
- Dried prunes
- Great northern beans
- Navy beans
- Stone ground wheat
- Bran flakes
Inositol is sometimes marketed as vitamin B8 – however, so is a substance called AMP (adenosine monophosphate). Be sure to look for supplements specifically labeled inositol or myo-inositol.
Do I Need A Inositol Supplement?
Inositol is a psuedovitamin and not critical for human function. However, as seen in long-term lithium therapy, inositol depletion can result in psoriasis. Given the promising results of clinical trials for conditions ranging from fertility problems and metabolic disorders to behavioral and neurological conditions, inositol supplementation should be given strong consideration for anyone struggling with these conditions.
How Much Inositol Do I Need?
To experience maximum benefits from inositol, the dosage will vary depending on both the goals of supplementation and the type of inositol taken. The below-recommended amounts are for powdered inositol supplements.
- For the treatment of female-specific conditions such as PCOS or PMDD, clinically effective dosages range from 200-4000mg daily. The more severe the condition, the higher the recommended dosage of inositol.
- For behavioral and neurological conditions, therapeutic doses range from 6-18g daily.
If inositol soft gel supplements are used, approximately 30% of the recommended powdered dosage is considered equivalent.
What are inositol side effects?
Side effects associated with inositol supplementation are rare, and usually limited to mild stomach upset in unusually high doses. Other side effects reported may include feeling “wired”, anxious, jittery, insomnia, yellow urine, and palpitations. Research has not yet evaluated the safety and effectiveness of inositol during pregnancy, so do not use while pregnant unless instructed by a physician.
Are There Any Medications or Supplements I Shouldn’t Take With Inositol?
There is currently no sufficient evidence that inositol supplements cause negative interactions with any other drugs and supplements. However, phytic acid – the form of inositol found in foods – may interfere with the absorption of minerals, especially calcium, zinc, and iron.
Should you be supplementing with Inositol?
Individuals with PCOS, type 2 diabetes, depressive and/or anxiety disorders will almost certainly benefit from an inositol supplement. Research has shown that women benefit from inositol supplementation for health conditions as mild as PMS or as severe as PCOS, as well as the conditions mentioned in the benefits section. Men, however, may only see benefits when supplementing for the specific conditions mentioned in the benefits section.
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