5 Evidence-Based Inositol Health Benefits

by Grant Tinsley, PhD

Inositol is a carbohydrate found in your body, as well as in food and dietary supplements.

There are various forms of this molecule, and each of them has a chemical structure similar to the main sugar found in your blood — glucose.

Inositol plays a role in many bodily processes. Therefore, it has been studied for its potential health benefits.

Inositol supplements may help treat specific medical conditions, including some anxiety and fertility disorders. They may also have other health-promoting effects.

Here are five evidence-based health benefits of inositol.

1. May Reduce Anxiety by Affecting Serotonin

Inositol affects the processes that make neurotransmitters, the molecules responsible for relaying information within your brain (1).

Serotonin is one important neurotransmitter affected by inositol. This molecule has many roles in your body and impacts your behavior and mood (2).

Researchers have examined whether inositol supplements can improve symptoms associated with conditions affecting serotonin and the brain.

This includes anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Several studies have shown that inositol may be able to reduce the number of panic attacks in those with panic disorders (34).

One study in 20 people with panic disorders found that 18 grams of inositol each day reduced the number of weekly panic attacks by four — more than the reduction of 2.4 per week seen in individuals on anxiety medication (4).

Another study in people with OCD found that 18 grams of inositol each day improved symptoms better than a placebo (5).

However, the small amount of research examining inositol and PTSD has not shown any benefits (6).

In fact, some researchers have questioned whether inositol is effective in treating any of these anxiety disorders (7).

Overall, inositol could have benefits for certain types of anxiety disorders, but more studies are needed to determine these effects.

2. May Aid Blood Sugar Control by Improving Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin is a hormone that is critically important for controlling blood sugar levels in your body.

Insulin resistance, a problem with your body’s ability to respond to insulin, is considered one of the key factors associated with conditions like metabolic syndrome (8).

Inositol can be used to produce molecules that are involved in insulin’s action in your cells (9).

Therefore, inositol has been explored for its potential to improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin— thus, reducing insulin resistance.

One six-month study in 80 postmenopausal women with metabolic syndrome found that 4 grams per day of inositol improved insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and cholesterol levels more than a placebo (10).

Other research in women with gestational diabetes has also shown benefits of inositol for insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control (11).

What’s more, inositol may improve insulin’s action in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), though the results are mixed (121314).

3. May Improve Fertility in Women with PCOS

PCOS is a syndrome that occurs when a woman’s body produces abnormally high amounts of certain hormones.

Women with PCOS are at a higher risk of several diseases and can experience infertility issues (15).

Problems with insulin sensitivity may be one of the causes of reduced fertility in women with PCOS. Since inositol may improve insulin sensitivity, it has been studied as a potential treatment (14).

Studies have found that inositol may be beneficial for improving the function of the ovaries and fertility in women with PCOS (161718).

These studies have typically used doses of two to four grams per day, and benefits have been seen in normal-weight, overweight and obese women.

Overall, research has found that inositol supplements may improve menstrual cycle regularity, ovulation and pregnancy rates in women with PCOS (192021).

4. May Reduce Symptoms of Depression

Due to its effects on neurotransmitters in the brain, inositol has been explored as a treatment for depression.

Some research has shown that 12 grams of inositol per day taken for four weeks can reduce symptoms of depression relative to a placebo (22).

Another small study reported that six grams per day improved depression in nine of 11 participants (23).

However, other research has shown that adding inositol to standard medication for depression does not improve symptoms more than the medication alone (24).

What’s more, inositol has not proven effective in reducing depression in those who previously failed to respond to standard medication (25).

5. Good Safety Record with No to Few Side Effects

Inositol is found naturally in your body and in a variety of foods.

The quantity obtained from food can vary from less than 1 gram up to several grams, depending on the composition of your diet (26).

Even when given as a dietary supplement, it has a very good safety record.

In research studies, doses have ranged from about two to 18 grams per day (413).

At higher doses of 12–18 grams, some mild side effects have been reported. These primarily consist of stomach pains, upset stomach and flatulence (127).

However, slightly reducing the dose of inositol appeared to improve these symptoms in some studies (1).

Inositol supplements have even been given to pregnant women at doses of around four grams per day with no concerning effects (11).

Other Possible Benefits

Inositol has been examined for several other health benefits, including:

  • Weight loss: This supplement may cause a small degree of weight loss in women with PCOS (2829).
  • Blood lipids: Some improvements in blood lipids like cholesterol have been reported (1030).
  • Blood pressure: Several studies have reported small reductions in blood pressure in women with PCOS (1012).

Though there may be other health effects of inositol, many of them currently have very limited evidence.

Sources and Dosage

Inositol is found in a variety of foods, but the highest concentrations are seen in beans, fruits, nuts and grains.

The amount normally consumed each day may range from less than one gram up to a few grams depending on the foods you eat (26).

Though there are several forms, inositol in supplements usually refers to the molecule myo-inositol, which makes up over 90 percent of the inositol content in your cells (3132).

Studies of inositol supplements have used higher amounts than typically found in food, with doses of up to 18 grams per day (14).

Doses for insulin sensitivity and fertility are usually much lower than those used for neurological conditions like anxiety disorders and depression (413).

The Bottom Line

Inositol is a carbohydrate that is found naturally in your body and certain foods.

It plays many roles in your body, including affecting levels of neurotransmitters and the way your body handles glucose.

It may be effective in improving some anxiety disorders and your body’s sensitivity to insulin.

Additionally, inositol appears to offer several health benefits for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), including improving menstrual function and fertility.

This molecule has a good safety record, and few adverse effects have been seen at both moderate and high doses.

Due to its many functions, future research will likely continue to investigate inositol’s significance for health and medical applications.

Image via Thinkstock

16 comments

Camilla V
Camilla Vaga10 days ago

thx

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Ruth S
Ruth S10 days ago

Thanks.

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Danuta W
Danuta W12 days ago

thanks for posting

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Debbi W
Debbi W13 days ago

I took Inositol for a few years, but I don't recall why I stopped. I can't eat everything that has inositol naturally.

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Peggy B
Peggy B13 days ago

TYFS

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Anne M
Anne Moran13 days ago

Okee dokee.....

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Christine D
Christine D13 days ago

Interesting. I'm sure I don't need a supplement because I eat everything on that list but go easy on the grains.

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Carol S
Carol AWAY S13 days ago

Thanks

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RK R
RK R13 days ago

Thank you Kris. We enjoy your articles about how the human body provides many of the proteins and enzymes necessary to achieve an overall health balance. You are killing the big pharmaceuticals.

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Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn13 days ago

Many thanks to you !

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