Inositol Information and Benefits
Inositol is a glucose isomer that plays important roles in the body. The most prominent form, known as “myo-inositol,” is used to form phospholipids that are incorporated into the brain and other tissues. In addition, inositol metabolites facilitate communication between nerve cells and help transport fats throughout the body.
Inositol is sometimes described as a B-vitamin, but it’s not a human vitamin at all. Vitamins are considered essential to the human diet, and although inositol is valuable, it can be synthesized by the body from glucose (via glucose-6-phosphate). Myo-inositol can also be obtained from dietary sources, such as fruits, beans, nuts and grains.
Nonetheless, supplemental myo-inositol may have therapeutic value. It may be beneficial for treating certain psychiatric conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, trichotillomania and bipolar disorder.
A few animal experiments also suggest it may reduce diabetic embryopathy, although human data is lacking. In addition, myo-inositol may be useful for ameliorating some of the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Do inositol supplements have any value for healthy people?
Choline and inositol are often combined in products advertised to “promote healthy nerve function,” although their utility is debatable.
Some health/fiitness web sites imply that supps can counter “inositol deficiency” caused by heavy caffeine use, although this is sheer speculation.
While some cell culture experiments suggest caffeine interferes with the production/action of inositol phosphates, I was unable to track down any reports of caffeine-induced inositol deficiency in humans (or laboratory animals, for that matter).
Beyond myo-inositol, there are other inositol compounds found in food and/or supplements:
- Inositol Hexaphosphate: also known as phytate, inositol hexaphosphate may have anticancer properties. Its presence in high-fiber foods may help explain why a high-fiber diet is associated with lower rates of cancer. It is important to note, though, that too much phytate can bind with calcium, iron and zinc and interfere with the absorption of those minerals.
- D-Chiro-Inositol: this is a relatively rare isomer of inositol, which has also been investigated for use in women with PCOS.
- Inositol Hexaniacinate/Inositol Hexanicotinate: also known as “no flush niacin,” this compound has been promoted as an alternative to niacin for reducing serum cholesterol and triglycerides, although it has not been thoroughly studied for this purpose. One small study also concluded it may be beneficial for Raynaud’s syndrome, although more research is needed. As is true for niacin, large doses of inositol hexanicotinate may interact with certain medications, so caution should be observed.
Though few adverse reactions have been reported from taking inositol supplements, diarrhea is a possible side effect of large doses of myo-inositol. In addition, pregnant women and people with chronic renal failure should consult a physician before using any inositol products.
Inositol with choline is available online from one of our recommended online retailers, BodyBuilding.com.