What Is Inositol?
Inositol is a naturally occurring substance that belongs to the group of compounds known as sugar alcohols. It is often referred to as vitamin B8, although it is not officially recognized as a vitamin. Inositol is found in many foods, especially in fruits, grains, and nuts.
In the human body, inositol plays a crucial role in various biological processes. It is involved in cell signaling, nerve function, and the metabolism of fats. Inositol is a component of phospholipids, which are essential for the structure and function of cell membranes. In recent years, it has gained popularity as a novel nootropic.
Nootropic Benefits Of Inositol
Inositol has the capacity to augment the density of dopamine and serotonin receptors, thereby enhancing the efficacy of these neurotransmitters within the brain. Additionally, it amplifies the effectiveness of other prominent neurotransmitters such as dopamine, glutamate, and GABA resulting in heightened memory, motivation, focus, concentration, and alertness .
Inositol is frequently used in conjunction with common “antidepressant medications” to enhance their effectiveness. In some cases, it may even be used as a replacement for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in the treatment of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
How Does Inositol Work For The Brain?
Vitamin B8, also known as Inositol, offers significant benefits for brain health and function through various mechanisms. However, two specific aspects deserve attention.
Firstly, Inositol plays a crucial role in influencing neuroplasticity and neurotransmitters. Unlike typical nootropics that directly act on neurotransmitters, the effects of Inositol are not immediate.
Studies utilizing Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) for conditions like pain, stroke, and Parkinson's disease have shown that the maximum impact on the brain occurs several minutes after treatment.
This suggests that the effects of “tDCS” are not primarily due to direct neurotransmitter action. Researchers propose that the activation of a "secondary messenger system" and the modulation of “brain cell membrane proteins” best explain the effect of tDCS.
Secondly, the levels of Inositol in the body have been linked to various brain disorders and mental health conditions. Clinical research has demonstrated that individuals with depression, anorexia, and other brain disorders often exhibit decreased levels of Inositol. Furthermore, middle-aged adults with atypical myoinositol levels may indicate the early onset of cognitive decline, including conditions like dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
The Myo-inositol and phosphoinositide pathways strongly influence the neural signal transmission and synaptic plasticity necessary for long-term potentiation and depression, which are vital for encoding long-term memories[5,6].
Inositol supplements are available in the form of tablets and capsules. There is currently no established recommended daily allowance for inositol, and a standardized dosing schedule does not exist.
For specific conditions, manufacturers suggest the following dosages:
- Metabolic syndrome: 2 grams taken twice daily.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): 2 grams taken twice daily.
- Lithium-related psoriasis: Up to 6 grams taken once daily.
- Anxiety and panic attacks: Up to 12 grams taken daily.
Potential Side Effects
Inositol is generally considered safe for the majority of adults when taken by mouth for a duration of up to 10 weeks. However, some individuals may experience side effects such as diarrhea, gas, and nausea.
Topical Application: Insufficient reliable information is available to determine the safety of inositol when applied to the skin or to ascertain potential side effects associated with this mode.
- Inositol taken orally, either alone or in combination with alpha-lipoic acid, appears to be effective in improving insulin resistance, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and blood pressure in individuals with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a collection of symptoms that heighten the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
- Inositol taken orally demonstrates potential effectiveness in addressing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder characterized by enlarged ovaries with cysts. It has been observed to lower triglyceride levels, reduce blood pressure, improve blood sugar levels, enhance ovulation, and increase pregnancy rates in individuals with PCOS.
- For individuals at higher risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy, taking inositol orally along with folic acid appears to lower the risk of preterm birth when compared to those who have a similar risk but do not receive inositol and folic acid supplementation.
How To Take Inositol
To maximize the benefits of Inositol supplementation, it is recommended to follow these best practices:
- Choose high-quality supplements from reputable brands.
- Follow the recommended dosage guidelines.
- Take Inositol with meals to enhance absorption.
- Consider combining Inositol with other nutrients or supplements for synergistic effects.
Timing and Frequency of Supplementation
Inositol can be taken once daily or divided into multiple doses throughout the day. The timing of supplementation can vary depending on individual preferences and health goals. It is advisable to maintain consistency in dosage and timing for optimal results.
Many individuals have reported positive experiences with Inositol supplementation. Some have found relief from anxiety symptoms, improved mood stability, enhanced cognitive function, and better metabolic health.
One user said, “It is very effective for constipation and anxiety. Once you make up for any inositol deficiency you will get diarrhea. Be sure to then lower your dose to a maintenance level. You really have to figure out what dose works best for you”.
Comparisons with Other Supplements
Inositol differs from some other supplements in terms of its specific health benefits and mechanisms of action. For example, compared to omega-3 fatty acids, Inositol focuses more on mental health and metabolic support rather than cardiovascular health. Understanding these distinctions can aid in selecting the appropriate supplement for one's health goals.
Ongoing research on Inositol continues to unveil new insights into its mechanisms and potential health benefits. Future studies may delve deeper into its impact on specific health conditions, explore optimal dosages, and investigate potential interactions with other medications or supplements.
Inositol offers a range of potential health benefits, including support for mental health, and reduces blood pressure, and is helpful for relieving symptoms in patients suffering from PCOS. From reducing anxiety and stress to regulating blood pressure levels, Inositol has shown promise in improving overall well-being.
- Michell RH. The multiplying roles of inositol lipids and phosphates in cell control processes. Essays Biochem. 1997;32:31-47
- Clements RS Jr. & Darnell B. Myo-inositol content of common foods: development of a high myo-inositol diet. Am J Clin Nutr. 1980 Sep;33(9):1954-67.
- Hawthorne JN. Inositol lipid metabolism and cell membrane. Biochem J. 1972 Jun; 128(1): 19P-20P.
- Hawthorne JN. The inositol phospholipids. Department of Medical Biochemistry and Pharmacology, The Medical School, Birmingham 15, England. Apr 22, 1960.
- Benjamin J, et al. Inositol treatment in psychiatry. Psychopharmacol Bull. 1995;31(1):167-75.
- Berridge MJ. Inositol triphosphate and calcium signaling. Nature. 361, 315-325. 28 January 1993.
- Facchinetti F, Bizzarri M, Benvenga S, D’Anna R, Lanzone A, Soulage C, Di Renzo GC, Hod M, Cavalli P, Chiu TT, Kamenov ZA. Results from the International Consensus Conference on Myo-inositol and d-chiro-inositol in Obstetrics and Gynecology: the link between metabolic syndrome and PCOS. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. 2015 Dec 1;195:72-6.
- Santamaria A, Giordano D, Corrado F, Pintaudi B, Interdonato ML, Vieste GD, Benedetto AD, D'Anna R. One-year effects of myoinositol supplementation in postmenopausal women with metabolic syndrome. Climacteric. 2012 Oct 1;15(5):490-5.