Inositol is the most well-research and evidenced backed supplements for PCOS. In this article, I want to investigate exactly why it is so beneficial for PCOS and, what exactly it is that it does.
What Is Inositol?
Inositol, sometimes referred to as vitamin B8, is actually not a vitamin, it’s a form of sugar with several important functions, such as being a major component of cell membranes - this is important to note when understanding how it helps insulin sensitivity.
There are nine forms, or stereoisomers of inositol. With myo-inositol being the most well known and researched. Inositol naturally occurs in foods such as fruits, beans, grains and nuts.
Your body can also naturally produce inositol from the carbohydrates you eat, although, research suggests that additional inositol in the form of supplements may have numerous health benefits.
Inositol, Insulin, and Blood Sugar
Now, remember what insulin does? Insulin is a hormone that is released into your bloodstream by your pancreas whenever your blood sugar levels rise too high. Insulin is responsible for regulating your blood sugar level and keeping it even. How does it do this?
Insulin acts as the key to the cells of your body. It’s as if the cells of your body each have a door that’s locked. All of the nutrients and energy that's in your bloodstream, which needs to get into the cells to power you as a human, cannot without insulin.
With a condition such as insulin resistance, the doors on your cells are basically rusted shut, this leads to a buildup of energy (sugar) in your bloodstream as well as insulin, a situation called hyperinsulinemia.
Inositol can act as a secondary messenger, or ‘door’ for your cells. This allows a healthy amount of nutrients from your bloodstream into the cells that need it. This means a healthy level of blood sugar and insulin in your bloodstream.
This benefit of this is that it will help with symptoms of insulin resistance, such as:
- Weight gain
- Androgen excess
- Hair loss
- Hair growth
- Irregular periods
- Fertility issues
- Poor energy levels.
Some of my clients have gave me some wonderful feedback from them taking inositol.
What Is The Evidence Showing?
There has been a wide range of studies done on inositol and PCOS. Some of the findings have been incredibly exciting;
One study noted that 4 grams of inositol and 400 mcg of folic acid taken daily for 3 months induced ovulation in 62% of treated women. Compared to just 12% of women who only took a straight folic acid supplement without the inositol
In a 12 month long clinical study of 80 women with metabolic syndrome, 2 grams of inositol taken twice daily and resulted in reduced blood triglyceride levels by 34% and total cholesterol by 22%. Incredibly, 20% of the women taking inositol supplements no longer met the criteria for metabolic syndrome by the end of the study.
In a study that looked into metformin vs. inositol & folic acid treatment for pregnancy, metformin achieved an 18% pregnancy rate over a 6 month period while in the inositol & folic acid group, 30% of women managed to fall pregnant naturally.
A study looking into the effects of metformin (1500mg daily) vs. inositol (4 gram daily) on improving insulin sensitivity. The myo-inositol outperformed metformin when it came to improving insulin sensitivity and reducing testosterone levels, hirsutism, and markers of inflammation.
In a systematic review of 21 studies researchers found that myo-inositol
- Had a significant impact on the hormonal parameters of PCOS patients.
- Improved glucose/insulin ratios.
- Sent cholesterol levels in all the right directions – HDL increased, while LDL decreased.
How Much Should You Take?
In terms of how much inositol you should take, I recommend my client starting at 3 - 4 grams per day, or a teaspoon - to test your response to it. I know many women who take up to 6 grams a day without any side effects. It appears to be safe for most people and cause only mild if any side effects in daily doses up to 18 grams - which is a bloody lot!
If you’re taking inositol to help with your fertility then it would be smart to also take folic acid at 400 mcg daily. Always discuss the use of supplements with your healthcare provider first if you have any concerns at all.
About Drew Baird
Drew Baird is a qualified Personal Trainer, PCOS expert, who also has qualifications in sports nutrition and psychology. Drew takes a scientific approach to PCOS by combining the latest clinical research with empirical evidence from working with his PCOS clients. He is the owner of Drew Baird Fitness and Healthy PCOS.
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