What is Inositol?
Often referred to as vitamin B8, inositol plays an important role in a number of the body’s biological processes. These include the metabolism of fat and the proper functioning of nerves, as well as insulin signaling. Inositol naturally occurs in animals, some plants and can also be created in laboratories.
Although inositol is frequently referred to as one of the B vitamins, it is actually a type of sugar that is essential to many of the body’s important functions. It is a major component of cell membranes (x). In addition, it plays a significant role in transmitting chemical signals to the brain that helps to control the release of serotonin and dopamine.
An inositol supplement may be beneficial for panic disorders, cholesterol issues, insomnia and even diabetes (x). It is also sometimes useful for the treatment of depression, bipolar disorder and psoriasis.
Benefits of Inositol
Some with lower levels of inositol in their brain suffer from mental health issues such as panic disorders. According to studies, inositol may be beneficial to some mental health conditions and mood disorders due to its potential for balancing certain chemicals in the brain (x).
More studies are needed to determine the extent of inositol’s benefits, but there is some evidence that it does have the potential for use as an alternative treatment to conventional medications with fewer side effects (x).
Inositol for Panic Attacks
Although more studies are necessary, inositol has been shown to help control panic attacks. When an individual has a panic attack they experience intense fear, often for ordinary situations, such as public speaking or being in a public location (x). Some of the symptoms of panic attacks include dizziness, shortness of breath, tingling in the feet and hands and hyperventilating (x).
One study found that those who took 18 grams of inositol daily for a month had fewer panic attacks than those in the study group that had taken a daily dose of a conventional anxiety medication (x).
May Ease Depression
Depression is another mental health condition where inositol may be helpful. But so far, research has been inconclusive.
While one study’s results indicate that those suffering from depression showed improvement after taking 12 grams of inositol per day for 4 weeks, additional studies haven’t shown a significant improvement in other test subjects suffering from depression (x, x).
In light of the mixed results of these studies, there is not enough evidence to conclude that depression can be successfully treated with an inositol supplement alone.
Possible Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
There has not been extensive research into the usefulness of inositol supplement in the treatment of bipolar disorder in children, though the results do appear hopeful.
A study on children suffering from bipolar disorder showed that both the symptoms of depression and mania subsided when up to 2 grams of inositol were taken daily for 12 weeks when combined with 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids (x).
Inositol has shown to be helpful in the treatment of those who develop psoriasis or whose symptoms worsen after they begin taking lithium. There does not seem to be any benefit to those with psoriasis not taking lithium (x).
Treatment of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a disorder that has been linked to a hormone imbalance. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome may find it difficult to conceive and may also have problems with weight gain and high blood sugar, as well as cholesterol (x).
Clinical studies indicate that when taken daily with folic acid, inositol may be helpful with managing the symptoms of PCOS, including lowering blood sugar and levels of triglycerides in the blood.
Another study suggested that in the case where infertility was the result of polycystic ovary syndrome, inositol could actually promote ovulation when taken in conjunction with folic acid. According to one study, 62 percent of participants ovulated successfully after taking it daily for three months (x, x).
Metabolic Syndrome and Weight Loss
Those suffering from metabolic syndrome are likely to have weight problems and be at risk for a number of other health issues. The risks associated with metabolic syndrome include an increase in blood sugar, as well as blood pressure, increased fat in the stomach area and higher levels of triglycerides (x, x).
One study with a control group of 80 women suffering from a metabolic syndrome took 2 grams of inositol twice daily for a year. The results were promising with many of the women showing an improvement in blood pressure and blood sugar. Additionally, blood triglyceride levels reduced by an average of 34 percent (x).
About 10 percent of women experience elevated blood sugar during pregnancy. This condition is known as gestation diabetes and can cause complication with the pregnancy (x).
Although only a small number of studies have been undertaken on the usefulness of inositol for gestation diabetes, there have been some encouraging results. When combining a daily dose of 400 mcg of folic with 4 grams of myo-inositol, the results were promising. It is important to note that not all studies returned the same results. Thus, more research is necessary before a conclusion can be drawn on its usefulness for gestation diabetes (x, x).
How Does Inositol Work?
Inositol works to control certain mental health conditions such as panic disorders, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder by balancing chemicals in the body. There is also some evidence that it helps the body be more sensitive to insulin so that the system uses insulin more effectively, which helps conditions such as gestation diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome (x).
Natural Food Sources of Inositol
There are a number of food sources that provide a natural source of inositol. This B8 vitamin naturally accumulates in the heart, brain, liver, kidneys, spleen and stomach. Foods that contain a high concentration of inositol include (x):
Lima and Navy Beans — 100 grams of beans equates to approximately 65 and 44 milligrams inositol.
Citrus Fruits & Cantaloupe — These fruits are a natural food source that contains a high concentration of inositol. Drinking an 8-ounce glass of grapefruit juice will provide approximately 468 milligrams of inositol.
Whole Grain Bread — Whole grain bread also contains a high concentration of inositol. A slice of whole grain bread contains approximately 13 milligrams.
Inositol Side Effects
Most people tend to tolerate inositol supplements well, though some have reported mild side effects. The most common side effects associated with taking an inositol supplement include headaches, dizziness, difficulty sleeping or sleeplessness (x).
There has been only limited research into the safety of taking inositol while pregnant, though the studies that have been conducted with pregnant women have shown no ill effects. There is also not enough research into the effects of inositol on breastfeeding babies (x, x, x).
As there have been no long-term studies, the safety of inositol for long-term use has not been determined.
The suggested daily dose should not exceed 600 mg. Be sure to keep the supplement in a cool, dry and dark location. Consult your doctor before adding this supplement to your regimen.
The Bottom Line
Inositol powder or other forms of the supplements may prove beneficial in a number of areas. With so many possible health benefits and few side effects, inositol is a supplement worth considering. It is important to talk with your doctor before you begin taking any type of supplement. Only your doctor will know if it is right for you.
By: Tamara Montoya