You may see vitamin B-8 on the labels of supplements, but the real name of this substance is inositol. Since inositol exists in several forms, you may also encounter names such as myo-inositol and inositol hexaphosphate, or IP6. It’s also found in plants in the form of phytic acid. Inositol contributes to the normal functioning of cells throughout your body and shows promise for treating cancer, certain psychological disorders and polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Overview of Inositol
Inositol is a form of glucose that helps your liver process fat and keeps muscles and nerves working. It also affects neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that transmit nerve impulses. As part of the membrane that encloses every cell, inositol influences cellular performance. In the form of inositol hexaphosphate, it works as a messenger between cells, triggering specific functions to occur. Your body produces inositol, but you also get it from eating beans, nuts, whole grains, cantaloupe and citrus fruits. A recommended daily intake has not been established; however, a typical supplemental dose is 12 to 18 grams taken two to three times daily, according to the University of Wisconsin.
Cancer Prevention and Treatment
In laboratory studies, inositol shows potential for stopping the growth of cancer cells. In December 2013, the “International Journal of Molecular Sciences” reported that inositol hexaphosphate from rice bran killed colorectal cancer cells. An earlier laboratory study also found that phytic acid from rice bran inhibited the growth of cancer cells, according to the December 2011 issue of the “Malaysian Journal of Nutrition.” One study involving humans was published in the February 2010 issue of the “Journal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research.” The researchers found that a combination of inositol and inositol hexaphosphate helped relieve side effects experienced by women receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer.
Potential to Treat Psychological Disorders
Inositol affects the amount of serotonin available to nerves in your brain. Since serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, researchers have studied inositol’s potential to treat psychological disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and panic disorder. Studies have produced mixed results, with inositol sometimes relieving symptoms and other times showing no impact, according to New York University. A review in the January 2014 issue of "Human Psychopharmacology" found that inositol did not significantly improve symptoms for depressive, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders. However, it showed superior effectiveness for depression associated with premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
Relieve Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormonal imbalance in women characterized by increased production of male hormones. Women with PCOS experience weight gain, irregular menstrual cycles, infertility and cysts in their ovaries. Many women also have high levels of insulin in their blood. Several studies show inositol my help by increasing ovulation frequency and supporting weight loss, reports New York University. A study published in the May 2012 issue of the “European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences” recommended using a combination of myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol as the first line of treatment for overweight women with PCOS.
- New York University Langone Medical Center: Inositol
- University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine: Supplement Sampler: Inositol
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Inositol Hexaphosphate
- Franklin Institute: The Human Brain: Inside the Network of Your Brain
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences: Pro-Apoptotic Effect of Rice Bran Inositol Hexaphosphate (IP6) on HT-29 Colorectal Cancer Cells
- Malaysian Journal of Nutrition: Antioxidant and Cytotoxicity Effect of Rice Bran Phytic Acid as an Anticancer Agent on Ovarian, Breast and Liver Cancer Cell Lines
- Journal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research: Efficacy of IP6 Plus Inositol in the Treatment of Breast Cancer Patients Receiving Chemotherapy: Prospective, Randomized, Pilot Clinical Study
- European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences: The Combined Therapy With Myo-Inositol and D-Chiro-Inositol Reduces the Risk of Metabolic Disease in PCOS Overweight Patients Compared to Myo-Inositol Supplementation Alone
- WomensHealth.gov: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Fact Sheet
- Human Psychopharmacology: A Meta-Analysis of Inositol for Depression and Anxiety Disorders