Inositol, also known by the name cyclohexane hexol, is a vitamin like substance. In its naturally occurring form, this chemical compound can be found in a wide variety of plants and animals. Inositol, which is also a sugar alcohol, may also be constructed in a laboratory setting. Many people report that the compound’s taste is similar to the saccharine sweetness of common table sugar.
1. Let’s start off with a bit of scientific background information: Myo-Inositol often serves as the structural basis for a variety of secondary messengers in eukaryotic cells. This is very important, as eukaryotic cells are living cells that form the organisms of nearly all the life kingdoms on the planet. Fungi, plants and animals are all composed of eukaryotic cells. Additionally, inositol is a necessary component of the structural lipids phosphatidylinositol (PI) and its associated phosphates, as well as a lipid known as phosphatidylinositol phosphate (PIP). This may sound like over complicated Scientific jargon, but it is import to understand that these particular lipids make up the membranes of the eukaryotic cells, which are the basic building blocks of life on Earth.
Now, on to some easily understood information: Inositol, as well as the aforementioned phosphates and associated lipids, are found in a myriad of foods we as humans encounter—or consume—on a daily basis. Many fruits, especially oranges and cantaloupe, contain high levels of Inositol. As do most nuts, brans and beans.
Oddly enough, when inositol presents as phytate—or a saturated cyclic acid—is it not directly bioavailable to humans in the diet because we are not able to digest it. Now there are food preparation techniques that partially break down these phytates to alleviate this issue.
But you may be wondering why we need Inositol at all—and what it can be used for. That is a good question, with many answers. In clinical applications, Inositol is used for the treatment of many conditions, including panic disorder, diabetic nerve pain, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), high cholesterol, insomnia, cancer, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and autism. It may also be used to promote hair growth, treatment of an itchy skin disorder called psoriasis, and to diminish the side effects of medical treatment with lithium (which is often prescribed by medical professionals for the treatment of Bi Polar Disorder). In fact, a few preliminary study results also indicate that a high-dose of inositol via supplement shows promising results for those suffering from bulimia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and agoraphobia. The effectiveness has been compared to SSRIs, which are typically prescribed for these types of conditions, without the negative side effects.
Inositol is also widely used orally for the treatment of conditions associated with polycystic ovary syndrome, which may include a woman’s failure to ovulate; high triglycerides; high blood pressure; and higher than normal levels of testosterone.
Another recent study published by the Cochrane Collaboration has shown evidence that Inositol is also effective in reducing adverse neonatal outcomes in preterm—or premature–babies who either have or are at a high risk of developing respiratory distress syndrome, often simply referred to as RDS.
At one time Myo-Inositol was considered a member of the vitamin B complex, however, since the human body naturally produces the chemical compound from glucose—or sugar—the medical community no longer considers this an essential nutrient. Additionally, some substances, such as niacin—which is also found in oranges–can also be synthesized in the body, but are not made in amounts considered adequate for good health. Due to this, niacin is still classified as an essential nutrient while Inositol is not.
We’ll wrap up with a bit of interesting trivia: On a completely unrelated—and non-medicinal note–Inositol is often used as a stand-in for cocaine on many television and film sets.