What is inositol?

Inositol is a nonessential nutrient, a carbohydrate or, more specifically, a sugar alcohol that can be produced in your body from glucose, so you do not need to get it from foods in order to be healthy [1,10]. Two most common naturally occurring forms of inositol are myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol.

Inositol Formula

Inositol structure

Picture 1. Inositol structure

Inositol Functions in the Human Body

  • Inositol helps to build cell membranes [1].
  • Myo-inositol acts as a secondary messenger in the nervous system; it increases the effect of neurotransmitters [1].
  • D-chiro-inositol and myo-inositol increase the insulin sensitivity.

Foods Rich in Myo-Inositol

  • PLANT FOODS: beans, peas, rutabaga, okra, wheat and oat bran, whole grains, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, blackberries, nectarine, kiwi [3]
  • OTHER FOODS: energy drinks

D-Chiro-Inositol Deficiency

In one study, individuals with diabetes 2 (non-insulin dependent diabetes) had lower excretion of D-chiro inositol in the urine and lower D-chiro inositol content in muscles than healthy people [4].

Inositol Supplements

Nonprescription oral inositol supplements are available in the following forms:

  • Inositol
  • Myo-inositol
  • D-chiro-inositol
  • Inositol choline

Inositol Health Benefits

Myo-inositol is POSSIBLY EFFECTIVE in:

  • Lowering triglyceride and testosterone levels, improving insulin sensitivity and improving fertility in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) [5,11,13,14,15]. NOTE: Unlike for myo-inositol, there is INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE about the effectiveness of D-chiro-inositol in increasing insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS [12]
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in preterm infants [5,19,21]
  • Psoriasis triggered by lithium (a drug used in bipolar disorder) [5,16,17,18]

Inositol is POSSIBLY INEFFECTIVE [5,7] in the prevention or treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, autism, nerve damage (neuropathy) in diabetes [3] and schizophrenia.

There is INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE [5] about the effectiveness of inositol in the prevention or treatment of anxiety, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) [7], binge eating and bulimia nervosa [22], cancer, depression [20], high cholesterol, insomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) [5,7,24,25], panic disorder [5,7,24,26], premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) [8,23] and Raynaud’s syndrome [9] or in promoting hair growth.

Inositol Safety: Side Effects, Toxicity

Inositol is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults, and for treatment of infants with acute respiratory distress syndrome [5].

Side effects may include nausea, tiredness, headache and dizziness [5].

Not enough is known about the safety of inositol supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so women in these periods should avoid them.

Inositol-Drug Interactions

There are no known inositol-drug interactions [5].

  1. Myo-inositol  PubChem
  2. Phytic acid  PubChem
  3. Clements RS et al, 1980, Myo-inositol content of common foods development of a high-myo-inositol diet  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  4. Kennington AS et al, 1990, Low Urinary chiro-Inositol Excretion in Non-Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus  The New England Journal of Medicine
  5. Inositol uses, side effects  WebMD
  6. Unfer V et al, 2011, Myo-inositol rather than D-chiro-inositol is able to improve oocyte quality in intracytoplasmic sperm injection cycles. A prospective, controlled, randomized trial  PubMed
  7. Levine J, 1997, Controlled trials of inositol in psychiatry  PubMed
  8. Nemetz B et al, 2002, Myo-inositol has no beneficial effect on premenstrual dysphoric disorder  PubMed
  9. Sunderland GT et al, 1988, A double blind randomised placebo controlled trial of hexopal in primary Raynaud’s disease  PubMed
  10. Inositol (weird carbs)  ScienceBlogs
  11. Unfer V et al, 2012, Effects of myo-inositol in women with PCOS: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials  PubMed
  12. Galazis N e al, 2011, D-Chiro-inositol and its significance in polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review  PubMed
  13. Ciotta L et al, 2011, Effects of myo-inositol supplementation on oocyte’s quality in PCOS patients: a double blind trial  PubMed
  14. Minozzi M et al, 2011, The effect of a combination therapy with myo-inositol and a combined oral contraceptive pill versus a combined oral contraceptive pill alone on metabolic, endocrine, and clinical parameters in polycystic ovary syndrome  PubMed
  15. Bizzarri M et al, 2014, Inositol: history of an effective therapy for   European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences
  16. Jafferany M, 2008, Lithium and Psoriasis: What Primary Care and Family Physicians Should Know  PubMed Central
  17. Allan SJ et al, 2004, The effect of inositol supplements on the psoriasis of patients taking lithium: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial  PubMed
  18. Kim GK et al, 2010, Drug-Provoked Psoriasis: Is It Drug Induced or Drug Aggravated?  PubMed Central
  19. Hallman M et al, 1986, Respiratory distress syndrome and inositol supplementation in preterm infants  PubMed Central
  20. Taylor MJ et al, 2004, Inositol for depression  Cochrane
  21. Howlett A et al, 2015, Supplementing preterm babies who have respiratory distress with the nutrient inositol may reduce death and disability  Cochrane
  22. Gelber D et al, 2001, Effect of inositol on bulimia nervosa and binge eating  PubMed
  23. Mukai T et al, 2014, A meta-analysis of inositol for depression and anxiety disorders  PubMed
  24. Palatnik A et al, 2001, Double-blind, controlled, crossover trial of inositol versus fluvoxamine for the treatment of panic disorder  PubMed
  25. Fux M et al, 1999, Inositol versus placebo augmentation of serotonin reuptake inhibitors in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder: a double-blind cross-over study  PubMed
  26. Benjamin S et al, 1997, Acute inositol does not attenuate m-CPP-induced anxiety, mydriasis and endocrine effects in panic disorder PubMed

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