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Inositol: A Truly Versatile General Health Supplement

Inositol

If you’ve ever taken any kind of multi-vitamin, there’s a good chance it contained Inositol.

Though not a vitamin, Inositol is commonly grouped in with B Vitamins because of its relative importance to our health and the fact that it “acts like a vitamin” inside the body.

If you’ve never heard of it, or you’ve heard of it but have no idea what it is, keep reading…

In this article, we’ll answer questions like:

  • What Is Inositol?
  • Why Do People Supplement With It?
  • What Are The Benefits?
  • What Is Considered An Effective Dose?
  • Is It Safe?

And plenty more.  So, if you’re all set to learn everything you could realistically want to know about this long-lost vitamin, let’s get started…

What Is Inositol?

The term Inositol actually refers to a group of related chemical compounds with similar structures and functions.  This group includes:

  • Myo-inositol
  • Scyllo-inositol
  • Epi-inositol
  • Cis-inositol
  • Allo-inositol

When we’re talking about Inositol though, we’re usually referring to Myo-inositol specifically.  Unless you’re a chemistry major, you probably couldn’t even tell the difference between them all anyway.

In terms of chemical structure, they all look exactly the same.

Inositol Molecule

They differ only in the spacial arrangement of their atoms, meaning you need a 3d model to notice the differences.  That’s how slight they are…

The reason Myo-inositol gets most of the spotlight is that it’s the most pervasive in the human body and has been studied the most individually.

From here on out, when we say Inositol, we’re referring to Myo-inositol unless otherwise stated.

Inositol can be found in a ton of foods including Dairy, Veggies, Meat, and Grains.  It’s often referred to as Vitamin B8.  This is a bit of a misnomer though, since Inositol is not actually a vitamin.

The term vitamin is reserved for vital nutrients which we require in small amounts but cannot make in the body.  Inositol fits the definition except for the most part, except that our bodies are capable of making it from Glucose.

So, while it does not fit the traditional definition of a Vitamin, Inositol acts like a Vitamin in the body and is definitely essential to our health.

It’s primarily involved with maintaining the structural integrity of cell membranes which makes it critical for things like:

  • Brain Function
  • Eye/Skin/Hair Health
  • Bone Health
  • Nerve Function
  • Anxiety

The list of potential benefits if continually expanding, but so far, most of the research has been in these key areas.

Well get to the research soon, but first let’s talk about why people use Inositol in the first place.

Why Do People Use Inositol Supplements?

You’ll find Inositol in all kinds of supplements including (but not limited to):

  • Anxiety Supplements
  • Sleep-Aids
  • Skin Health Supplements
  • Workout Supplements
  • Nootropics

As with most supplement ingredients, the benefits of Inositol have been exaggerated by supplement companies who are always trying to think of new ways to market old products.

Unfortunately, most of the claims are just flat out false.  However, there are some areas where Inositol supplementation has actually proven effective…

What Are The Proven Benefits Of Inositol?

Due to it being involved in so many processes and functions throughout the body, research on Inositol has been all over the place.  With many supplements, the research focuses on one or two key areas of interest, but that’s not the case here.

Inositol has been studied for everything from treating anxiety and depression to helping manage diabetes.  But what has it actually been proven to do?

Inositol Reduces Anxiety

One of the most popular reasons people use Inositol is to help manage anxiety.  Studies in mice have yielded some encouraging results, demonstrating that it can reduce anxiety when exposed to an outside stressor.  This has been shown more than once.

Great, so it work in mice.  What about humans though?

Well, in one human study, a high dose of Inositol (18g/day) proved as effective as the reference drug, Fluvoxamine, at reducing anxiety associated with Panic Disorder.  This was replicated in another study as well.

More research is required to figure out how it works, but there’s more than enough evidence to indicate that it certainly has a role in reducing Anxiety.

It’s not quite clear how, but there’s more than enough research to conclude that Inositol can be useful for treating anxiety.

Inositol Helps With Depression

Given it’s efficacy for treating anxiety, it makes sense that some of the research would look at depression as well.  While anxiety and depression aren’t the same thing, they often occur in tandem.

Many psychiatric disorders are characterized by both depression and anxiety so it’s not uncommon for treatments that work for one to be tested on the other.

The idea that Inositol supplements could potentially help with depression comes from a couple studies which found that Inositol concentrations were abnormally low in the brains of depressed individuals.

Such a correlation indicates that Inositol may be an important factor in mood state and emotional health.

Research has shown that Inositol supplementation (12 grams/day) can help treat depression.  Upon stopping treatment, depressive symptoms return.

It has also proven effective with regards to treating the depression that accompanies Bulimia and PMS in women.  It may even be useful for treating major depressive episodes in Bi-Polar individuals.

Although a mechanism has yet to be established, Inositol can definitely be useful for treating depression.

Inositol Improves Insulin Sensitivity

Although it may seem like a far reach from helping with anxiety and depression, a nice chunk of the research on Inositol pertains to how it influences Insulin sensitivity, glucose metabolism, and Diabetes.

In human subjects with Metabolic Syndrome, Inositol supplementation has been shown to improve Insulin Sensitivity.  Interestingly, the benefits do not fade but are actually more noticeable with prolonged use.

Similar improvements have been noted in instances of Gestational Diabetes.

Inositol has also been shown to improve symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy.  This is likely due to it’s role in nerve signalling, which is compromised with Diabetic Neuropathy.

Inositol is known to play an important role in Insulin signaling and Glucose metabolism.  It’s one of the few supplements that has bee shown to improve Insulin Sensitivity in both Diabetic and non-Diabetic people.

Inositol Encourages Healthier Skin

Throughout many of the studies that looked at how Inositol supplementation impacted various health conditions, there are various reports of improved skin health.

Inositol has been shown to reduce the severity of acne and psoriasis.

It’s not exactly clear how it does this, but it may have something to do with the fact that it’s an Osmolyte.

Osmolytes are substances that regulate the amount of fluid (water) inside the cells in our bodies.  Some well known Osmolytes include:

  • Taurine
  • Creatine
  • Betaine

By maintaining optimal hydration in cells, Osmolytes can potentially benefit skin health.

It definitely requires a lot more research, but Inositol may have skin health benefits.

Inositol Improves Fertility In Women

Much of the research on Inositol has to do with how it can potentially impact fertility, specifically in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

Although not characterized by infertility, PCOS is known to cause it in the long-term.  Inositol supplementation has actually been shown to restore fertility in instances of PCOS, in multiple human studies.

While the fertility-restoring benefits of Inositol may not be of interest to some, as many as 10% of women suffer from PCOS in their lifetime.  That’s a lot of people that can potentially benefit from Inositol supplementation!

As a fertility agent, Inositol is relatively confined to instances of PCOS.  That said, a lot of women get PCOS at some point.

Does Inositol Make Sense As A Workout Supplement?

You’ll find Inositol in a lot of pre-workout and amino acid supplements.  To be crystal clear…

There are absolutely no studies in this area.

Supplement companies will always find ways to try to justify the use of random ingredients.  In the case of Inositol, they might tell you that it’s an Osmolyte like Creatine and Betaine which means it can potentially enhance your performance.

While it is definitely an Osmolyte, there’s no evidence that it can enhance exercise performance like some Osmolytes have been shown to do.

The truth is most supplement companies that use Inositol in their formulas are just taking advantage of the fact that it’s cheap, pretty much tasteless, and most people don’t really know that much about it.

Don’t fall for the hype!

Inositol Dosing

Dosing is everything when it comes to supplements.  It’s just enough to simply take the right supplement.  You have to also take the right dose.

With Inositol, it’s more of a range and what that range is depends on what you’re using it for.

For Insulin Sensitivity and other physical benefits, 2000-6000mg daily.

If we’re talking anxiety and depression, bump that up to 12000-18000mg (12-18 grams) daily.

It’s possible that lower doses are effective, but wouldn’t you rather just take a dose that you know for a fact is effective.

Is It Safe?

Inositol is naturally occurring inside the body which makes it of interest to anyone looking for an all natural alternative to the drugs which are usually prescribed for the conditions we discussed here.

There are no known adverse events associated with standard doses, but high doses (15 grams plus) at once may cause an upset stomach.

For that reason, it’s best to space it out over the course of the day.  If you’re taking 18 grams per day, divide it into 3 doses of 6 grams each.

Other than that, there’s nothing to worry about with this one.

The Bottom Line

As a supplement, Inositol remains relatively obscure.  Most people have no idea what it is or what it does, but it’s actually proven quite useful in some instances.

If you’re anxious, depressed, have poor Insulin sensitivity, are prone to acne, or suffer from PCOS, you may want to consider it as first-line treatment option.

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