Inositol: What Is It and What Is It Good For?

November 18, 2022

The human organism is capable of synthesizing certain vitamins and other elements that strengthen it, but it does not always succeed in this process. 

Due to dietary deficiencies, health problems, and other aspects, it needs to obtain nutrients and vitamins, as is the case of inositol, through food, supplements, and even medicines.

Inositol is essential for the body to function properly, as it is involved in many processes such as the regulation of nerve development and the formation of the cytoskeleton. 

Given its importance, it is necessary to know in depth what it is all about. To find out all about inositol: what it is and what it is used for, keep reading this article.

What is inositol?

Inositol is a natural isomer belonging to glucose, specifically to the polyol family. Inositol can have up to 9 different isomers, myo-inositol being the most abundant in nature.

Inositol is considered to be a member of the B vitamin group, but it is not. It can be synthesized by the body and can also be obtained through food in seeds, nuts, whole grains, and citrus fruits. 

The main contribution of these foods is a fibrous compound called phytic acid: inositol is released by bacterial intestinal action.

Some foods of animal origin contain inositol in the form of myo inositol because it is the most abundant substance in the central nervous system. In the body, it can be found as phosphoinositides (lipid regulators of membrane protein) or in free form. 

Inositol is essential for the body to function properly. It is an essential component of cell membranes, involved in the transport of fats from the liver to the tissues, and plays a key role in cell transduction.

What is inositol used for?

Inositol has different functions to highlight since it is used for the treatment of depression, neurological disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, acts as an analgesic, and in metabolic abnormalities. If you want to know the benefits of inositol, we will tell you about it below:

Inositol for depression and neurological disorders

People with depression often have reduced levels of inositol in the cerebrospinal fluid. Inositol is useful for treating depression because intracellular phosphatidylinositol functions as a second messenger system for 5-hydroxytryptamine receptors.

Therefore, it is an alternative to antidepressant medications (especially selective serotonin inhibitors), being able to produce a similar effect and avoiding the side effects caused by the medication.

Inositol for obsessive-compulsive disorder

Serotonin plays an essential role in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors produce a positive effect in the treatment of this disorder. Through the administration of myo-inositol, the lack of serotonin receptor sensitization decreases, and there is a considerable improvement in the treatment of the disease.

Inositol as an analgesic

Although it is still under study, the analgesic usefulness of inositol is being contemplated for a long time. It is also useful for the relief of certain negative effects caused by lithium therapy (treatment of manic episodes in people suffering from bipolar disorders).

Inositol for metabolic abnormalities

A relationship has been established between certain abnormalities of inositol metabolism and insulin resistance. The dietary administration of inositol has a beneficial effect on diseases related to insulin resistance, such as metabolic syndrome, gestational diabetes mellitus, or polycystic ovarian syndrome.

In addition, inositol produces beneficial effects in cataracts and neuropathy complications.

Inositol dosage 

There is no established maximum daily dose of inositol, but in terms of obtaining it by dietary supplementation, the body needs about one gram daily. The common supplementation dose ranges from 0.5 to 2 grams daily.

However, you should be aware that some medical treatments for depression include high doses of inositol, containing up to 12 grams per day. Such high doses should only be taken under medical prescription.

Diet is essential to achieve the required daily amount (1 gram) of inositol. A balanced and healthy diet is the best secret, so a good dietary plan is recommended before resorting to other supplements.

Still, if you are wondering when to take inositol, apart from in cases of mental disorders, when there is poor nutrition, such as diets based on industrial and processed foods. In these cases, it is useful to supplement with this compound so that the body gets the recommended daily dose of inositol.

Inositol side effects

If you are wondering "What if I take inositol?", you should know that this nutrient is safe for a large majority of adults, but it has several contraindications for certain groups. These are as follows:

  • Pregnant women: it is a calcium agonist, so it can indirectly cause uterine contractions.

  • Children: those suffering from hyperactive disorder or attention deficit disorder should not take inositol-based supplements because they may aggravate some symptoms of these diseases.

Although it does not have serious side effects, when they appear, they are in the form of gastrointestinal system complaints such as flatulence, diarrhea, and nausea. 

In any case, consult a medical specialist about its suitability in case you experience any of these side effects frequently from taking inositol supplements.