Inositol (also known as myo-inositol or vitamin B8) is an unofficial water soluble, B complex vitamin. It is not officially classed as a vitamin because it can be produced by intestinal bacteria in the body. Inositol works very closely with choline to maintain healthy cell membranes, metabolise fats and much more. In this article I will be discussing inositol in greater detail.
WHEN WAS INOSITOL DISCOVERED?
Inositol was initially isolated in 1849 by Scherer. In 1915 Wieland and Wishart became the first people to produce inositol and the full chemical structure was later published by Dangschat and Posternakt in the late 1930s.
HOW DOES YOUR BODY USE INOSITOL?
Inositol can be found in all the body’s tissues with the brain, heart and lens of the eye containing the highest levels. As discussed above inositol works very closely with choline (another unofficial vitamin) to perform numerous important functions which include maintaining healthy cell membranes, and metabolising fats. The list below outlines the main functions of inositol in the body:
- Acting as a primary component of myelin (a protein that covers and protects the nerves).
- Acting with choline as a primary component of cell membranes.
- Acting with choline to produce lecithin (which supports the production of healthy cell membranes).
- Assisting in the production of neurotransmitters (chemicals which transmit messages between nerve cells) such as acetylcholine and serotonin.
- Improving nerve function in people suffering from diabetes.
- Preventing arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
- Preventing skin disorders such as eczema.
- Promoting brain health.
- Promoting the growth of strong, healthy hair.
- Reducing blood levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (which builds up on the artery walls and causes blockages).
- Supporting the growth of cells in the bone marrow, eye membranes and intestines.
- Supporting fat metabolism (by breaking fats down into smaller particles).
There is also preliminary evidence that inositol may have further important roles in the body although more research needs to be done to confirm this. The list below outlines these potential other roles of inositol in the body:
- Possibly reducing the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (an endocrine disorder which can lead to female infertility).
- Possibly treating depression.
HOW MUCH INOSITOL DO YOU NEED?
The human body can produce some inositol but most sources suggest that additional consumption is needed to meet the body’s needs. Since it is not an official vitamin there is no recommended daily allowance (RDA) for inositol. Most sources suggest an intake of between 100mg and 1,000mg per day is adequate but higher doses are sometimes taken for therapeutic purposes. If you are considering taking inositol for therapeutic purposes make you sure you consult your doctor beforehand.
WHICH FOODS CONTAIN INOSITOL?
Most foods contain some inositol. However, fruits, vegetables and nuts are normally the richest source of this nutrient. The table below highlights some of the best inositol foods:
|FOOD||MG OF INOSITOL PER 100G|
|Great Northern Beans||440|
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF GETTING TOO MUCH INOSITOL?
Like other water soluble vitamins, excess inositol is excreted from the body so it is very difficult for toxic levels of this nutrient to accumulate. The only known overdose symptom associated with inositol is diarrhea and this has only been reported in some individuals when extremely high doses have been taken.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF NOT GETTING ENOUGH INOSITOL?
Inositol deficiencies are rare as the body can produce it naturally and it is present at some level in almost every food. However, certain antibiotics can interfere with inositol and reduce the levels of this nutrient in the body. Coffee can also destroy inositol so drinking lots of cups on a daily basis can contribute to a deficiency. The symptoms of inositol deficiency include:
- Alopecia (hair loss).
- Atheriosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries).
- Eye abnormalities.
- Excess liver fat.
- Increased cholesterol levels.
- Memory loss.
Whilst inositol is not an official vitamin it is still crucial for good health. I hope this article has given you a good overview of its role in the body. Most foods contain inositol but if for some reason you are neglecting this important nutrient make some changes and start eating it today.
Myo-Inositol Content of Common Foods (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)
Vitamin List (Health Supplements Nutritional Guide)
What is Inositol (Health Supplements Nutritional Guide)
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