Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormonal disorder that can cause symptoms such as menstrual irregularities, infertility, acne and weight gain. It also increases your risk for developing serious health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Research suggests supplementing with inositol, sometimes referred to as vitamin B-8, can help address various aspects of this condition. While promising, not enough evidence exists to draw any firm conclusions, but inositol is a generally safe supplement. Talk to your doctor before trying any dietary supplements to manage PCOS.
The Mayo Clinic names PCOS as the most common cause of infertility. A study published in the November 2003 issue of the “European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences’’ tested the effects of inositol supplementation on irregular or absent ovulation in women with PCOS. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial had 136 women take 100 mg of inositol twice daily while 147 took a placebo. The researchers found women in the treatment group began experiencing normal ovulation sooner and with greater frequency compared to the control group.
A study in the April 2010 issue of ‘’Gynecological Endocrinology” compared the effects of supplementing with 4 g of inositol plus 400 mcg of folic acid daily or metformin on stimulating ovulation. Metformin is a diabetes drug used to treat insulin resistance, a common problem in PCOS sufferers that can contribute to infertility. Fifty percent of the metformin patients achieved spontaneous ovulation and 18.3 percent of these subjects got pregnant. Sixty five percent of the inositol group achieved spontaneous ovulation and 30 percent got pregnant. Women who could not achieve pregnancy on their own were given fertility treatments along with the test treatments and 26.1 percent of the women in the metformin/fertility drug group got pregnant, while 28.9 percent of the inositol/fertility drug group got pregnant.
Reducing Androgen Levels
The excess production of androgens, or male hormones, is characteristic of PCOS and can cause distressing symptoms such as acne and excess hair growth on the face and other areas. A study published in the March 2009 issue of the ‘’European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences’’ tested the effects of inositol plus folic acid or just folic acid on conditions present in PCOS sufferers, including elevated testosterone levels. Researchers found subjects taking inositol experienced significant drops in testosterone levels.
Reducing Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that increases your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. They include high blood pressure, low levels of ‘’good’’ cholesterol, insulin resistance, high triglycerides and obesity. PCOS increases your risk of suffering all of these problems.
The March 2009 study found subjects using inositol experienced a decrease in triglycerides and diastolic and systolic blood pressure as well as increased insulin sensitivity. The November 2003 study found inositol supplementation increased levels of “good cholesterol” and led to weight loss.
Considerations for Use
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center states inositol appears a generally safe supplement but notes that some concern exists that it might trigger manic episodes if you suffer from bipolar disorder. If you are pregnant, nursing or have liver or kidney disease, always clear the use of any supplement with your doctor.
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: Inositol
- "European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences''; Metabolic and Hormonal Effects of Myo-Inositol in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome; D. Constantino, et al.;March 2009
- "Gynecological Endocrinology''; Insulin Sensitiser Agents Alone and in Co-Treatment with r-FSH for Ovulation Induction in PCOS Women; E. Raffone, et al.; April 2010
- ''European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences"; Effects of Inositol on Ovarian Function and Metabolic Factors in Women with PCOS; S.Gerli, et al.; November 2003