Inositol is essentially a form of ‘sugar’ that can influence the way the body processes insulin. It is often referred to, incorrectly, as “Vitamin B8.” Inositol is not a B-Vitamin, nor is it a vitamin of any kind.
Inositol is a compound that is naturally found in fruits and plant-based foods (beans, grains, nuts, and seeds) and is also sold as a supplement. It is also naturally produced by the body from the foods you eat.
In supplement form, the term ‘inositol’ is actually a broad signifier. Usually, most supplements will be in the form of “myo-inositol” “IP6 – inositol hexaphosphate” and “D-chiro-inositol.”
Inside your body, inositol plays several important roles related to the action of insulin and impacts serotonin and dopamine. Structurally, inositol is most similar to the sugar ‘glucose,’ and is involved in signaling between cells.
While the benefits of inositol have been reported in doses of over 10 grams a day, the standard amount consumed through dietary means is a dramatically lower 1 gram.
With higher doses, inositol is used to typically address concerns such as insulin resistance, PCOS, depression, anxiety, and PMS.
How Inositol Works – and What It Can Be Used For
So, how does inositol (or Myo-inositol) work, and does which form of inositol you choose to matter?
Ultimately, which form of commercial inositol as a supplement you purchase does not matter – they will generally be in two forms and both have been studied for their protective benefits.
As inositol(s) help the transduction of hormones and neurotransmitters, any sort of reduction in the amount of inositol or defective metabolism of inositol can help implicated in things like PCOS, anxiety, depression, and insulin resistance.
In studies where women with PCOS were given either myo-inositol or D-chiro-inositol – markers of abnormalities and reproductive symptoms were improved.
PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) can cause hormonal imbalances in women from the ovaries producing too many androgens – male sex hormones that women also have, but in much smaller amounts. Small cysts form in the ovaries. PCOS can lead to irregular or painful periods, infertility, and high blood sugar/cholesterol markers.
In those with mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, inositol may help with the balance of certain chemical signals and hormone production – including serotonin and dopamine.
Additionally, inositol was found to be helpful for metabolic disorders. These markers include things like higher blood pressure, higher blood sugar, and high “bad” cholesterol levels (LDL).
In a study involving taking 4 grams of inositol for over a year, women with metabolic disorders saw an improvement in reduced cholesterol and triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar. This was without changing any other sort of behavior or dietary habits.
Inositol is linked closely to the function of insulin in the body, and as such, appears to be highly beneficial for addressing type 2 diabetes.
Is Inositol Safe?
Generally, inositol is extremely well-tolerated. It is a supplement that has been used at a fairly high dose for prolonged periods of time (years) without any reported side effects or adverse effects in multiple studies. It is also naturally obtained from food and produced by the body – just in smaller amounts.
At dramatic doses of 10 grams or greater a day, some people do report nausea, gas, or upset stomach.
As with any sort of health supplement, always do your independent research prior, and ensure you consult with a health care practitioner or naturopath prior to use.
Generally, the dosage will depend on what symptoms you are trying to directly address.
For PCOS, a dose of 2 grams twice daily for 6 months or greater is recommended, while for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, 2 grams twice daily for up to a year is recommended. In those with mental health conditions, up to 10 grams once daily (as tolerated) is recommended for a shorter duration of time while self-monitoring.