Inositol

Nonessential Micronutrient

OVERVIEW

Summary

Drink a lot of coffee — more than two cups a day? You might be depleting your body of its natural reserves of inositol — a critical B vitamin. As an exporter of fats from the liver, inositol helps redistribute the fat throughout the body to be used more efficiently as energy, which may even help detoxify the liver. But there is more to this nutrient: inositol is also necessary for proper brain, nervous, and muscle functioning, helping to form and hold structure to our cell membranes.

Other names for Inositol

phosphatidylinositol, phytic acid, myo-inositol, phytate

Where to find Inositol

Inositol is naturally produced in our bodies from glucose/sugar (which we Americans eat plenty of), but in case you don’t, it can be found in nature in most citrus fruits, brewer’s yeast, lecithin, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

Note While inositol is found in high concentrations in mother’s milk, this is obviously not a common source for most adults.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Inositol

Usually taken in the form of lecithin or found in a high-quality B-complex formula, inositol has been shown to not only act as an emulsifier (exporter) of fats from the liver, which helps redistribute fat throughout the body to be used more efficiently as fuel, it may also help detoxify the liver, which could prove useful when taking other supplements.

Ways that Inositol can enhance Fat Loss:
  • Support the redistribution of bodyfat as a mild lipotropic agent
Ways that Inositol can enhance Mental Functioning:
  • Potentially produce mild anti-anxiety properties, providing a calming effect before sleep

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Inositol deficiency

No deficiency conditions exist; however, drinking coffee (over two cups per day) will substantially deplete our bodies’ natural stores of inositol.

Potential uses for Inositol

Research indicates that Inositol may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Liver disorders
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis
  • HIV
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia/sleep disorders
  • Muscle spasms and tension
  • Raynaud’s disease
  • Bipolar disorder (manic depression)

DISCUSSION

More about Inositol

Part of a B-vitamin complex, inositol is closely linked with choline, attributing to its similar ability to positively affect nerve transmissions — acting as a mild “anti-anxiety” agent. Perhaps inositol’s greatest role in our bodies, though, is its ability to help with the formation and integrity of cell membranes within our tissues, including skin and hair. Just as important is its key functioning as an emulsifier (exporter) of fats from the liver, which helps redistribute the fat throughout the body to be used more efficiently as fuel, which, in a way, helps detoxify the liver.

Support a balanced mood

Certain neurotransmitters or chemical signals in our brains responsible for our feelings of adequacy and well-being require inositol to function properly. Because people who suffer from depression and other less-than-positive mood states have been shown in some cases to have lower levels of inositol in their bodies, some experts have theorized these patients may benefit from supplementation of inositol at greater amounts. For this reason, inositol has been studied extensively for treating mild depression, anxiety, intense stress, memory loss, and various other mental challenges and has shown a high rate of success. And in many cases when supplemented, it does increase a sense of well-being, even showing mild anti-anxiety effects.

Fat distribution

There are even suggestions that inositol supports mild liptropic properties, as it’s commonly prescribed to overweight people to help with fat loss. Although usually part of a “fat-metabolizing” formula, combined with healthy diet and exercise, of course, anecdotal evidence has revealed inositol may help redistribute fat, transporting these fats elsewhere in the body to be used as energy.

Other health benefits

Most of us have heard that a high-fiber diet can improve liver health, reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases, and even support weight loss. Well, fiber is made up of various components, including inositol, and researchers have theorized that one of the most beneficial components in fiber may just be inositol.

Inositol is considered an “unofficial” B vitamin that helps form lecithin, which, along with potentially lowering cholesterol levels, also supports the proper functioning of the thymus gland and boosts the body’s ability to fight disease. According to human studies, it may even prove to be useful in the fight against arteriosclerosis, protecting against heart disease.

In truth

Inositol clearly has some intriguing benefits that make it a valuable inclusion in any high-quality B-complex formula. It’s not something you would run out and take as a single nutrient unless you’re depleting your body of inositol with high-caffeine consumption (over and above the typical daily cup or two in the morning), or if you happen to be fighting off some form of mild depression or other negative mood state — in those cases, it might be worth it.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

Most active individuals and hard-training athletes typically use 500 to 1,000 mg per day, which is shown to prevent any deficiencies.

For liver health and other health disorders such as diabetes, 500 mg twice per day is recommended.

For improved sleep, 500 mg before bed may be helpful.

Timing

Inositol is most commonly supplemented with other B vitamins, especially choline, or in a high-quality multivitamin/mineral formula. It’s best to take it with food.

Tip

Soy lecithin (a great source of inositol) yields only about 40 mg of phosphatidylinositol per capsule.

Synergists of Inositol

Inositol has been shown to aid Vitamin E’s effectiveness as a potent antioxidant.

Safety of Inositol

Has not yet been determined for pregnant or lactating women.

Toxicity of Inositol

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Benjamin, J., et al., “Inositol Treatment in Psychiatry,” Psychopharmacol Bull 31.1 (1995) : 167-75.
  • Benjamin, J., et al., “Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Trial of Inositol Treatment for Panic Disorder,” Am J Psychiatry 152.7 (1995) : 1084-6.
  • Fux, M., et al., “Inositol Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder,” Am J Psychiatry 153 (1996) : 1219-21.
  • Haas, E.M., Staying Healthy with Nutrition (Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA, 1992) 136-7.
  • Levine, J., “Controlled Trials of Inositol in Psychiatry,” Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 7.2 (1997) : 147-55.
  • Levine, J., et al., “Double-Blind, Controlled Trial of Inositol Treatment of Depression,” Am J Psychiatry 152.5 (1995) : 792-4.
  • Lubrich, B., et al., “Inhibition of the High Affinity Myoinositol Transport System: A Common Mechanism of Action of Antibipolar Drugs?” Neuropsychopharmacology 21.4 (1999) : 519-29.
  • Murray, M., Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements (Prima Health, Rocklin, CA, 1996) 142-4.
  • Shamsuddin, A.M., “Inositol Phosphates Have Novel Anticancer Function,” J Nutr 125.3S (1995) : 725S-32S.