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Inositol

Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More

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Updated May 16, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Inositol is a substance that is naturally present in human cells and in certain foods. Also sold in supplement form, inositol is touted as a natural remedy for various health conditions.

Health Benefits of Inositol:

Research on the potential health benefits of inositol is fairly limited (and most research is more than 10 years old). Some of these studies suggest that certain forms of inositol may offer beneficial effects. Here's a look at several key findings:

1) Panic Disorder

Myo-inositol may aid in the treatment of panic disorder, according to a small study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology in 2001.

For the study, 20 patients with panic disorder underwent one month of treatment with 18 g of myo-inositol per day, followed by one month of treatment with 150 mg of fluvoxamine (a medication commonly prescribed for psychiatric disorders) per day. Study results showed that inositol reduced the number of panic attacks per week by four (compared with a reduction of 2.4 with fluvoxamine).

See Natural Remedies For Panic Attacks.

2) Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

D-chiro-inositol may help manage PCOS, suggests a small study published in Endocrine Practice in 2002. For the study, 20 women with PCOS were given either a placebo or 600 mg of D-chiro-inositol once daily for six to eight weeks. Results revealed that D-chiro-inositol helped treat several abnormalities associated with PCOS, including blood pressure and elevated levels of blood fats.

Learn more about a Natural Approach to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

3) Cancer

Some preliminary research indicates that inositol may offer cancer-fighting benefits. In a 2006 research review published in Nutrition and Cancer, for instance, scientists note that inositol hexaphosphate appears to reduce the growth and spread of cancer cells (possibly due to its immune-stimulating and antioxidant effects).

See my other articles on Natural Remedies For Cancer.

4) Metabolic Syndrome

In a small study published in Menopause in 2011, researchers found that myo-inositol supplements may aid in the treatment of metabolic syndrome in postmenopausal women.

The study involved postmenopausal women with the metabolic syndrome. Results showed that those assigned to six months of treatment with myo-inositol supplements experienced significantly greater improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol levels (compared to those assigned to a placebo for the same time period).

Learn about other Natural Remedies for Metabolic Syndrome.

Common Uses For Inositol

Proponents suggest that inositol can help treat a wide range of health conditions, including:

In addition, inositol is purported to help prevent cancer and heart disease. Some individuals also use inositol to promote hair growth.

Forms of Inositol

There are several different forms of inositol, including inositol hexaphosphate (often referred to as "IP6"). Known to play a vital role in several cellular processes, inositol hexaphosphate also aids the body in the metabolism of certain minerals (including calcium).

Found naturally in many fiber-rich foods (such as beans, brown rice, corn, sesame seeds, and wheat bran), inositol hexaphosphate is one of the most widely used forms of inositol.

Other forms of inositol include myo-inositol, inositol hexanicotinate, D-chiro-inositol, and inositol hexaniacinate.

Although some proponents suggest that combining inositol with choline may offer unique health benefits, there is currently a lack of scientific support for this claim.

Side Effects of Inositol

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of long-term use of inositol. However, there's some concern that increased intake of inositol hexaphosphate may reduce the body's ability to absorb zinc, calcium, iron, and other essential minerals.

Where to Find Inositol

Widely available for purchase online, inositol supplements can also be found in many natural-foods stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Sources

American Cancer Society. "Inositol Hexaphosphate." November 2008.

Giordano D, Corrado F, Santamaria A, Quattrone S, Pintaudi B, Di Benedetto A, D'Anna R. "Effects of myo-inositol supplementation in postmenopausal women with metabolic syndrome: a perspective, randomized, placebo-controlled study." Menopause. 2011 Jan;18(1):102-4.

Iuorno MJ, Jakubowicz DJ, Baillargeon JP, Dillon P, Gunn RD, Allan G, Nestler JE. "Effects of d-chiro-inositol in lean women with the polycystic ovary syndrome." Endocr Pract. 2002 Nov-Dec;8(6):417-23.

Palatnik A, Frolov K, Fux M, Benjamin J. "Double-blind, controlled, crossover trial of inositol versus fluvoxamine for the treatment of panic disorder." J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2001 Jun;21(3):335-9.

Shamsuddin AM, Vucenik I, Cole KE. "IP6: a novel anti-cancer agent." Life Sci. 1997;61(4):343-54.

Singh RP, Agarwal R. "Prostate cancer and inositol hexaphosphate: efficacy and mechanisms." Anticancer Res. 2005 Jul-Aug;25(4):2891-903.

Vucenik I, Shamsuddin AM. "Cancer inhibition by inositol hexaphosphate (IP6) and inositol: from laboratory to clinic." J Nutr. 2003 Nov;133(11 Suppl 1):3778S-3784S.

Vucenik I, Shamsuddin AM. "Protection against cancer by dietary IP6 and inositol." Nutr Cancer. 2006;55(2):109-25.

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