Inositol is a water-soluble vitamin-like structure commonly called vitamin B8, yet it’s not strictly an essential B vitamin because it can be synthesised in the body. Inositol is an organic component of every cell membrane and functions in a similar way to choline. The body naturally produces a few grams of inositol each day.1 It can be found in large amounts in heart, liver and skeletal muscles. Referred to as a pseudovitamin, it can be classified as an important nutrient which is required to support certain crucial functions in the body. Closely related to the carbohydrate, glucose, its structure is classified as the alcohol form of cyclohexane. There are nine isomers of Inositol, but the only active form is Myo-Inositol.2
Inositol can be found naturally in food; rich sources of which are the cantaloupe melon, oranges and other citrus fruits. Inositol can also be sourced naturally in lecithin oil, seeds, whole grains, pulses, nuts, yeast, liver, brown rice, cereals, soy flour and green leafy vegetables.
History of Inositol
The name ‘Inositol’ is derived from the Greek word “inos” which loosely translates to “muscle”. This clever pseudovitamin was first discovered in 1850 by a German physician named Johannes Joseph Scherer, who found it in muscle tissue. Initially, it was referred to as ‘muscle sugar’, then given the name Inositol. It was first classified as a B vitamin in the 1940’s. Although Inositol has now lost this status, because it isn’t technically an essential vitamin as it occurs naturally in the human body, it nonetheless has a number of crucial functions to perform in the body and can be classified as a ‘conditionally’ essential nutrient.3
Role of Inositol in the body
A major role undertaken by Inositol in the body is the transportation of fats and to help break down fats. This is particularly useful in areas such as the brain and heart where fat deposits are harmful to health.
Inositol functions as a neurotransmitter, acting as a secondary messenger in a number of signal transduction pathways; helping to support nervous system function.4 It’s required by neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and GABA to send messages, so plays a vital role in mental health and cognitive function. The ability of inositol to promote brain cell health has meant it’s used to support memory and concentration and generally good for overall cognitive activity; and is used also to treat depression, anxiety and improve mood. “Because all major neurotransmitters require inositol in order to relay messages, it’s essential to communication between brain cells and thus has a significant impact on mood and cognition.”5
- Inositol plays a vital role in the regulation of gene expression.6
- Inositol is key to various crucial elements of cell biology and is paramount to the regulation, health, differentiation and migration of cells.7
- Inositol helps maintain the health of cell membrane.
- Inositol has an active role in Insulin signalling; critical for regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism.
- Inositol has an important part to play in regulating intracellular calcium concentration and release in the body.8
- Inositol serves a crucial function in the regulation of the Cytoskeleton assembly.9
Health benefits of Inositol
- Active in promoting brain & liver health
- Has a role to play in regulating mood and nerve signalling
- Improves insulin sensitivity for PCOS, fertility & weight loss10
Range of Uses
- Diabetic nerve pain
- Increase energy levels
- Increase mental alertness and focus
- Panic disorder
- High cholesterol
- Liver disorders
- Improve blood circulation and lower blood pressure
- Anti-Cancer capabilities
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Respiratory conditions
- Promoting hair growth and general health of hair
- Psoriasis, Eczema and other skin conditions 11
Inositol; though perhaps not a name familiar to most of us, is actually very familiar to our bodies; it’s present in every cell membrane, so very much a part of our biological makeup and its presence in the body is vital for human health.
Inositol plays a crucial part in enabling the brain, nerves and muscles to function properly. It has a range of important and diverse roles to play in the human body and a deficiency in this nutrient can cause an imbalance in areas such as cognitive function, for example, and potentially lead to nerve related conditions, such as depression and anxiety. A deficiency in Inositol can also cause other issues such as hair loss; constipation and high cholesterol.12
As a supplement, it’s a naturally sweet powder (being closely related to glucose)13 and is used as both a preventive and treatment for a host of different health conditions, such as Eczema; Schizophrenia; Alzheimer’s disease and ADHD.
Inositol is favoured by those wishing to lose weight or maintain a regular healthy body weight, as it plays a vital role in regulating metabolism and stimulating the breakdown of fats in the body.
If suffering from sleepless nights Inositol could be a great supplement to take, especially effective when combined with other sleep-inducing supplements such as Green Tea, for its L-theanine content; and 5-HTP. These both synthesise serotonin and melatonin (crucial hormones required by the body for sleep). Coupled with Inositols ability to improve serotonin receptor sensitivity, this trio could help regulate wake-sleep cycles.
It’s worth noting, both caffeine and antibiotics can decrease the amount of Inositol in the body so if you regularly consume lots of caffeine or are on antibiotics for a prolonged period of time an Inositol supplement could be advisable.14
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2 Profiles of the NutrientsÑ3. Water-Soluble and Fat-Soluble Vitamins. Richard Rydon. LULU COM, 2016. P193.
7 Modulation of ATP-Dependent Chromatin-Remodeling Complexes by Inositol Polyphosphates. Xuetong Shen, Hua Xiao, Ryan Ranallo, Wei-Hua Wu, Carl Wu. Retrieved from: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/299/5603/112
8 Tracing the Evolutionary History of Inositol, 1, 4,5-Trisphosphate Receptor: Insights from Analyses of
Capsaspora owczarzaki Ca2+ Release Channel Orthologs. Kamil J. Alzayady, Arnau Sebe-Pedros, Rahul Chandrasekhar, Liwei Wang, Inaki Ruiz-Trillo, and David I. Yule. Retrieved from: https://oup.silverchair-cdn.com/oup/backfile/Content_public/Journal/mbe/32/9/10.1093_molbev_msv098/2/msv098.pdf?Expires=1495712427&Signature=az68zzWf6bJZMYXpUPJtt~dL6HmHUmec2lqCQAR9vVeiWlJRdkaHPUumbf-CTN~q7sFJSSEgbmAjvwbXNvvumBarlafFWoJUpa2ccn-L6Rknx~NBhe9FGzAbCvH9WP5thn09RSGi5FpByOn9MFHOBOmatptW2lyCnCpO4Ty7f-jnmV1ZlCyd8WIYApamO3UF5PNl7dChlFibV9l~ulo8Ij9YjwfyO7b~pwRAasaXK7Bbw0p2UvIDY64JLZRBcHSgiiDY-IsTKqmuRW8yb11fYUoJJIHgxZWQYyhp7N2tMWblkgWFS~3ZsAvrbsuaGp4GyybHdkULwGPJsqEHoY2bZw__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAIUCZBIA4LVPAVW3Q
9 Inositol – Background and History: http://stakeholder.aoac.org/SPIFAN/Inositol_Pres.pdf
12 EveryBODY Can Heal. Page.80. Frances Bleuet, Angela, Ncpt LaMor RMA. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=NSuOAgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false