Inositol – Find out the benefits of vitamin B8 for your body

Inositol – Find out the benefits of vitamin B8 for your body

Inositol is a carbohydrate with a cyclic structure and almost ubiquitous inside the human body. In fact, it is present in most of its cells. It is also known as vitamin B8.

What is Inositol?

It belongs to the so called immediate principles, more specifically to carbohydrates and group B vitamins. That is the reason why it is also called vitamin B8.

If we had to highlight an organic element in terms of the richness of this substance, it would be breast milk. At the same time, it proves the innate need of newborns to get a regular supply of this vitamin.

It is a substance with nutritional activity. Actually, it performs several biological tasks after being absorbed in the intestinal tract and entering the bloodstream. But unlike other vitamins, it is not essential for adults, since the body can synthesize it from glucose.

There are many chemical compounds in nature that slightly vary in terms of their structure: these are isomers.

Molecular structure

They have nine possible structures that only change in terms of the disposition of some of their atoms. More specifically, in the arrangement of the hydrogen and OH around the carbon atoms that make up its ring structure.

Inositol molecular structure

Of all of them, the most abundant one is myo-inositol. In fact, it is closely connected to the nervous system of mammals (including human beings, of course) apart from other locations.

Of all the remaining isometric isomers (technical name), only four of the are spontaneously present in nature. The others are synthesized in a laboratory; we are talking about D-inositol, L-inositol, myo-inositol and scyllo-inositol

Properties of inositol

A very relevant feature when it comes inositol metabolism is the fact that the human body is programmed to perform its synthesis. Some of the main tissues where said synthesis takes place are the intestinal mucosa, the central nervous system, the liver and kidneys.

Moreover, it is present in almost all the cells of the body. It is a substance whose molecular structure is made up of phospholipids, which are important fatty compounds for the cell membrane. Above all, it is crucial for neurons or nerve cells.


Involvement in the organization of tissues:

Supporting the nerve impulse and the synthesis of neurotransmitters

Thanks to this property, inositol can help to treat many pathologies connected to the nervous system:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Anorexia and bulimia
  • Agoraphobia or fear of open spaces, as well as claustrophobia
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Moreover, it improves the quality of sleep, the mood as well as the symptoms of anxiety and stress

In fact, it has been proven that the inositol levels in the spinal fluid of people with depression is considerably low. It seems that it is due to the dependence between inositol and the synthesis of serotonin.

Blood vessel cholesterol

Lowering the cholesterol levels at home

We can do so by combining it with choline.

Playing a lipotropic function in the liver

It is an important element for the transport of fats (also when combined with choline). In fact, it inhibits the storage of lipids in the liver, stimulating their transport to the cells of the tissues.

Stimulating the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract

It contributes to regulating the peristalsis and, consequently, it combats constipation.

Supporting the enzymatic activity of many metabolic biochemical reactions

  • Sight, skin and hair
  • Good digestions and digestive system on point
  • Proper formation of bone marrow cells, indispensable for the blood flow and immune system

Healthy sight

Inositol second messenger system

It has a molecular structure that allows it to move easily in the outside and inside of the cells. This is a determinant feature if we want to understand its importance for vital tasks. Therefore, it performs the so called second messenger system, which is the intracellular response of the inositol molecule to a specific hormone. Consequently, it sets a series of biochemical reactions into motion that result in a specific physiological effect.

Actually, it is necessary to have a subtle communication network in order to organize and specialize cells in tissues and organs. This network has to control the cell multiplication as well as the coordination of all their tasks.

Everything begins with the first signal which is called first messenger, which can be a hormone or a releasing factor of the hypothalamus, a growth factor, etc.

Said first messenger is released in the extracellular medium and moved by the so called taxes (specific stimuli), until they reach chemical contact. This occurs in the cell plasma by a highly specific membrane receptor that work as its lock and key. From then on, the biochemical phenomena which are responsible for the vital function in each case occur. Both at the level of the membrane as well as the organelle contained in the cell cytoplasm.

Myo-inositol and diacylglycerol

Between these receptors, there is a very important one that uses G proteins. These are bound to nitrogen bases called guanines (which make up the DNA). Said elements regulate the release of two new intracellular messengers, the second messengers, being: myo-inositol and diacylglycerol. Both are at the last link of the communication chain that goes immediately before the physiological effect.

Probably, the most important factor for the therapeutic effects of inositol is its ability to support the neurotransmitters. In turn, said ability comes from the fact that it indirectly affects the central nervous system without interacting with the brain receptors

Inositol transport cells

How does it perform this task

One of these methods consists of regulating the calcium content inside the cells. This occurs when inositol triphosphate projects itself on a cytoplasm organelle called endoplasmic reticulum. Inside, it makes it easier to release the calcium reserves that activate the neurotransmitters. On the other hand, inositol also regulates the osmosis (cell coating innate permeability), making it easier to move the water and the dissolution elements through the membrane.

Another great example of the significant changes of inositol is the response to the release of insulin from the pancreatic islets. This is a physiological pathway that works as a sensitizing agent of said hormone.

In fact, those who suffer type 2 diabetes have an altered inositol elimination through the urine

Metabolic syndrome

It is closely linked to changes in insulin resistance, where inositol also plays an important role by preventing some of its alterations: obesity or hyperlipidemia (high blood fat levels).

Specifically, a 20% less LDL, which is already indicative of a good control of the metabolic syndrome. This is due to its condition as a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.

Several studies have assessed the amount of inositol there is in the central nervous system. Their conclusions were that a prolonged inositol deficiency can result in the onset of severe neurological disorders. We will develop two of them in detail down below.

Alzheimer's disease

Benefits of inositol


To sum up, it is a neuronal failure caused by the degeneration of neuronal tissue.

This disorder involves an irregular neuronal signalling. However, the scientists claim that inositol can help to correct this irregularity even when the degenerative process has hindered the physiological capacity of its own cells.

Amyloid pathology

Scyllo-inositol stands out due to its potential to stabilize the deposits of a glycoprotein called β-Amyloide. In fact, it is closely related to different degeneration processes that happen throughout the body.

More specifically, we will focus on its effects on the hippocampus. It is a prominence located inside the brain which is directly connected to the memory and spatial orientation. In fact, its deterioration seems to be determinant in the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease according to a study. It lasted a year and a half and it was conducted on with patients suffering from mild and moderate Alzheimer.

It is also worth mentioning that the cyclohexanehexol-inositol isomer also seems to contribute to reducing the accumulation of the β-Amyloid deposits.


Obsessive compulsive disorder

This is a disorder that involves compulsive attitudes and obsessive thoughts.

Its onset goes with a drop in the serotonin brain levels. Said neurotransmitter is the one that affects our mental well being the most.

Role in the reproduction

The relation between Inositol and the polycystic ovary syndrome, deserves special mention.

Most women who suffer from this experience a high degree of insulin inefficiency when it comes to its role in the tissues. In the past, this encouraged research trials to assess if there was a cause-effect relationship between inositol and insulin resistance.

Their conclusions showed how the patients recovered their insulin sensitivity after taking myo-inositol for three months. In turn, it also lowered the risk of suffering polycystic ovary syndrome in the women who took the supplement

At the ovule level, myo-inositol seems to play a role in its maturation. In fact, it becomes an effective marker to identify those that are ready to be fertilized. Actually, women who suffer polycystic ovary syndrome have more high-quality oocytes after taking myo-inositol.

Other benefits

  • Prebiotic properties
  • Cardiovascular system protector
  • Immune response stimulant
  • Detoxifying effect
  • Cosmetic function: nails, hair, skin

Go for a walk

Inositol to lose weight

Some people lose weight when taking myo-inositol supplements. This can be partly due to the cell sensitization against insulin. Therefore, anyone who is insulin resistant can lose weight regularly by taking supplements of this substance.

Following this premise, the experts have advanced to the point of advising four grams daily. This amount seems to provide satisfactory.

But if we refer to weight loss supplements, we cannot forget the combination of choline and inositol. Both contribute to regulating the fat metabolism, enhancing the biochemical processes. Consequently, it improves its transport and combustion in order to obtain energy for the organism. That is the reason why they are commonly known as fat burners.

A good time to take them can be before sleeping at night, since they can stimulate the fat burning process while we sleep.

Inositol and pregnancy

When a woman wants to become pregnant, the sooner she starts taking nutrients to improve the fetal development, the better. Specially in terms of supplying folic acid and inositol.

From the School of Medicine of the University of Washington they confirm that the latter protects the fetus against neural tube malformations. The formation of this key organ occurs within the first month of pregnancy and affects the future spinal cord, brain and spine.

Among those caused by an inositol deficiency, the most common ones are spina bifida and anencephaly.

To avoid them, it is necessary provide a proper inositol and folic acid supply. Supplementation comes into play in order to lower the risk of malformations. However, we should start taking it before the fertilization, as long as it is a planned pregnancy.


Inositol regulates the blood glucose

Some people take myo-inositol in order to control the blood sugar levels, and it seems to provide good results.

It is advisable to start taking a small dose (between half a gram or a gram daily). Moreover, we should monitor the blood glucose levels for several months until we find the right dose.

The dose that seems to work most of the time is a couple of grams a day.

Inositol and mental health

There is evidence of the efficacy of combining omega-3 fatty acids and Inositol for psychological disorders such as mood swings. But the therapeutic possibilities, both as monotherapy and mixed therapy, have not been tested until recently on common manic-depressive disorders during childhood (up to 12 years) and non-severe bipolarity.

Well, apparently it has had promising results:

Combining omega-3 fatty acids (particularly EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid) and inositol helps to treat the symptoms of manic-depression symptoms at these ages. In terms of efficacy, it could be compared to the derivatives of psychotropic drugs that entail considerable side effects and contraindications.

Cherry inositol content

Sources of inositol

We could start by saying that food tends to contain the myo-inositol isomer to some extent. However, the ones with the highest content of this semi-essential vitamin are whole grain cereals and citrus fruits (although lemon is an exception). They would go at the top of the list, while dairy products and meat are at the bottom. But let’s take a closer look to this subject.


  • Raisins (4.70)
  • Cantaloupe (3.55)
  • Orange (3.07)
  • Mandarin (1.49)
  • Kiwi (1.36)
  • Cherry (1.27)
  • Nectarine (1.18)
  • Mango (1)
  • Pear (0.73)
  • Peach (0.53)
  • Apricot (0.52)
  • Watermelon (0.46)
  • Avocado (0.46)
  • Pineapple (0.33)
  • Apple (0.24)


  • Rutabaga swede (2.52)
  • Aubergine (0.84)
  • Brussels sprouts (0.81)
  • Cabbage (0.70)
  • Asparagus (0.68)
  • Spinach (0.66)
  • Artichoke (0.6), specially in its heart
  • Pepper (0.57)
  • Tomato (0.54)
  • Onion (0.27)
  • Lettuce (0.16)
  • Cucumber (0.15)
  • Carrots (0.12)
  • Mushrooms (0.09)

Vegetables and inositol content


  • Wheat bran (2.74)
  • Whole wheat (1.42) and wholegrain wheat (0.47)
  • Oat flour (0.40)
  • Pasta (0.31)
  • Brown rice (0.30) and white rice (0.17)
  • White bread (0.25)

Meat and thereof:

  • Beef liver (0.64)
  • Mince meat (0.37)
  • Egg yolk (0.34)
  • Sirloin (0.30)
  • Chicken breast (0.30)
  • Pork chops (0.42)

Fish and seafood:

  • Oysters (0.25)
  • Tuna (0.15)
  • Sardins (0.12)
  • Clams (0.03)

Oysters and inositol

Dairy products:

  • Whole milk (0.04)
  • Yogurt (0.1)


  • White (2.83), red (2.49) and green beans (1.93)

Inositol deficiency

  • Male sterility, since it contributes to the production of spermatozoa in the testicles.
  • Ocular diseases, since the eyes are precisely the area with the highest inositol concentration. A lack of this element could be responsible for nigh blindness and photophobia. The latter basically consists of an extreme difficulty to stand direct light.
  • Other nerve problems: as a vitamin, one of its functions is regulating the enzyme mechanisms that regulate the balance between copper and zinc from the neurons. A deficiency involves a loss of this balance in favor of copper. In fact, this could alter the nervous system, causing anguish, insomnia, phobias, etc.
  • It seems that its deficiency also worsens neurological problems in diabetic people, causing what is known as diabetic neuropathy.
  • A lack of inositol can result in a relaxation of the smooth muscles of the intestinal walls. These are in charge of performing the peristalsis, which can be a predisposing factor for constipation.

Inositol supplements

We need to follow a varied diet that will ensure that we meet the daily requirements of this peculiar vitamin.

Most specialists coincide that we need, on overage, around one gram of inositol daily

Actually, it is quite simple to meet this amount with a balanced diet. However, if we follow a poor diet or if we suffer some kind of disorder, our body will probably need supplementation.

Stop smoking

You need to take inositol if you…

  • Follow a poor diet, lacking fresh products and filled with processed and addictive products
  • Are addicted to tobacco, alcohol or drugs
  • Suffer disorders that affect the organs that synthesize inositol, basically the stomach mucosa, liver, kidney and central nervous system
  • Experience overexertion, stress or anxiety
  • Take drinks that are rich in caffeine or other stimulants (coffee, tea, cola, etc.)
  • Have to take antibiotics, since they can hinder its absorption by the intestines. There are other medicines that lower the inositol levels because they neutralize vitamins, like contraceptives
  • Urinate too much because you are taking diuretics or because you are drinking too much water

Inositol supplementation protocol:

The standard dose moves between 0.5 and 2 grams daily. However, if we want to treat a depression, we will probably need up to 12 grams daily.

The dose to treat psychiatric disorders that we mentioned previously moves between 10 and 12 grams daily. Most of the times, people choose water soluble powder format.

In general, it is advisable to start with a moderate dose and assess how we feel and increase them gradually. If we start taking high doses from the very beginning, we will experience some of the side effects from inositol supplementation (gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhea and nausea).

Inositol supplement

When to take inositol

In order to buffer the insulin resistance as much as possible in cases of polycystic ovary syndrome. Most experts advice taking inositol in one serving before breakfast

Supplement format

Above all, it is important to take into account that softgels or gels have a higher myo-inositol bioavailability. Therefore, we will be able to take a third part of the dose in order to benefit from its therapeutic effects.

Consequently, gels can be a great alternative if we want to improve our mental health.

In fact, we are talking about transforming the 12 grams that we need daily into 4 grams of myo-inositol.

On the other hand, if we want to use white crystalline powder, we will have to simply mix it in water or fruit juice. If we mix it with water it will have a slightly sweet flavor. Moreover, powder tends to be cheaper than capsules. The latter tend to have between 500 and 750mg of inositol, so we will have to take several ones in order to experience its benefits.

Chiro-inositol and myo-inositol

How to choose a supplement?

At the beginning of the article, we mentioned that there are nine inositol isomers, but most of them have myo-inositol. We need to take this into account when reading the product label. Sometimes, the brand omits the prefix ‘myo’, so we need to understand that the product in question has a myo-inositol isomer.

There are another two inositol isomers that are usually added to supplements:

  • Hexaphosphate
  • D-chiro

For instance, women who suffer polycystic ovary syndrome can benefit from these two substances: myo-inositol and D-chiro inositol.

Some of them solely base their treatment on 4 grams of myo-inositol daily (powder is better than capsules).

Capsules tend to contain a blend with metformin, which is an anti-diabetes medication. In other cases, people tend to combine myo-inositol and D-chiro inositol. In fact, people believe that it can significantly improve the clinical and metabolic profiles of patients.

The synergy between myo and D-chiro inositol plays an important role in normalizing hormone imbalances in terms of reproduction. Moreover, it can also help with ovulation and menstrual cycles. At the same time, it also significantly reduces the circulating androgen levels (like testosterone). They are responsible for the onset of body hair and acne, as well as the polycystic ovary syndrome.

Actually, obese and overweight women tend to obtain better results from a combined treatment of myo and D-chiro inositol.

Weight loss

Side effects of inositol

A lethal dose would be 10 grams per kilo of body weight. But therapeutic doses are quite safe overall. So, we could say that this is a very safe and well tolerated substance in general.

The side effects of the most conventional dose tend to be moderate and they mostly affect the digestive system: nausea, diarrhea, flatulence…


The following people must not take inositol by any means:

  • Children with hyperactivity disorder
  • People with bipolar disorder
  • Pregnant women

During pregnancy

Interestingly enough, women develop a state of insulin resistance during pregnancy. Its purpose consists of taking glucose from the bloodstream to the fetus in order to get the supply it needs to grow.

Quite frequently, this leads to the onset of gestational type 2 diabetes. Its treatment requires good counselling when it comes to the diet and lifestyle. In fact, pregnant women who cannot regulate their glucose levels tend to take hypoglycemic medication. On the one hand, it can be atoxic for the mother and fetus. On the other hand, it can keep the glucose levels stable; this could be myo-inositol.

Caffeine intake

An important precaution involves the caffeine intake. In fact, we need to lower its intake as much as possible if we take inositol supplements. This is due to the fact that this stimulant can neutralize it.


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About Alberto Ricón
Alberto Ricón
Alberto Ricón is a specialist in nutrition and food hygiene with a lot of experience in this field. He works as a Food Safety Technician in Castilla La Mancha.
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