Inositol may be known for its PCOS-fighting properties, but it’s far from being a one-trick pony. It’s a sweet-tasting powder that’s probably on many women’s shopping carts, but that doesn’t mean that men won’t benefit from it, too. If you’ve never taken inositol powder before, prepare to get your mind blown! In this article, I’ll share with you the health benefits, uses, and recommended dosage for managing various health conditions.
Table of Contents
What is inositol?
Inositol is a white, water-soluble sugar alcohol that is half as sweet as table sugar. Some people may think inositol powder is made in a lab, but it’s actually very abundant in nature! Here’s why:
- It’s found naturally in the human body, specifically in our brain, tissues, and cell membranes.
- Our kidneys make about 2 grams of inositol from glucose (which is converted from the carbohydrates we eat).
- It’s found in high quantities in meat, fruits (especially citrus), vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds. So, it’s important to eat a healthy diet and not stuff yourself with junk food!
Inositol was formerly known as vitamin B8, but it has since been reclassified as it’s not really a true vitamin. It’s also not considered an essential nutrient, since the body makes it from glucose synthesis. By definition, essential nutrients are those that are needed by the body, but we either can’t make it or can’t make enough of it. So, it must be obtained via diet (or supplements) to meet the body’s needs.
What is myo inositol?
Inositol has 9 forms or isomers. The most common and abundant form is myo inositol (or myo-inositol). Myo inositol is so abundant that whenever you read or hear the word inositol, it’s actually myo inositol that’s being referred to. When required, the human body can convert myo-inositol to its other isomers.
These are the other inositol isomers:
- D-chiro-inositol (second most abundant form)
Unless otherwise specified, every time you read the word inositol in this post (or in our blog, for that matter), know that we’re referring to myo-inositol.
What is d-chiro-inositol?
D-chiro-inositol is another inositol isomer. While it doesn’t occur in large quantities in nature, it’s the second most abundant type of inositol, next to myo inositol. As mentioned above, our bodies can convert myo inositol to d-chiro-inositol, if necessary.
The body’s normal ratio of myo inositol to d-chiro-inositol is 40:1. Most inositol blends (supplements) offer a combination of myo-inositol and d-chiro-inositol in this ratio.
Why inositol powder?
Inositol can be purchased in powder, tablet or capsule form. While some brands offer both types, we believe inositol powder is a far better option. But don’t take our word for it, check out the pros and cons of each format so you can decide for yourself!
Scooping out your daily inositol dose may sound like a chore, but it’s actually the more practical option. As you’ll learn later on in this article, inositol dosage varies from one malady to another. The powder form makes it easy to adjust the dosage.
For example, if the manufacturer says 1 scoop is 1 serving, then it’s easy to figure out how many scoop(s) you need for your specific needs. To take half a serving, just take half a scoop. To double or triple your serving, just double or triple your scoop! Easy!
Also, inositol powder is very easy to take. You simply need to mix it with water or some other liquid beverage and then drink it. Some brands claim to have a neutral tasting inositol powder, however, inositol actually tastes a bit sweet. So, it’s great for sweetening your morning coffee or tea.
Inositol tablet or capsule
Inositol is also sold in tablet or capsule format. It’s really the more convenient option because you can just pop one or two pills in your mouth and chase it down with water. However, adjusting the dosage isn’t as easy.
For example, some brands will require you to take 4 pills daily to meet the required serving size. This means if you were to double or even triple the serving size (yes, inositol is safe even in large doses – more on this below), you’ll be taking 8 or even 12 tablets in a single day! I don’t know about you, but that’s simply too many for me!
Capsules are easy enough to break open to get to the powder inside. But why go through all the hassle? Just get inositol powder in the first place!
What are the health benefits of inositol?
Inositol has so many health benefits, we will be dividing this section into 3 parts – health benefits for everyone, health benefits for the ladies, and health benefits for men.
8 health benefits for both men and women
1. Inositol promotes insulin sensitivity
Insulin is an important hormone produced by the pancreas. It regulates blood sugar levels in the body and it also plays a role in fat and protein metabolism. Poor insulin sensitivity, a.k.a. insulin resistance, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, PCOS, heart disease, and more.
So, how exactly does inositol improve insulin sensitivity? To answer this question, let’s look at the relationship between carbs and insulin:
In addition to vitamins and minerals, the foods we eat also give us fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Carbs are our body’s main source of energy. Once carbs reach the gut, they are broken down into glucose or blood sugar. Once the sugar enters the bloodstream, your blood sugar level will naturally spike. This is then a signal for the pancreas to release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin’s job is to move the glucose into the cells, where it’s either used for energy or stored as fat. This process allows blood sugar levels to go back down to normal.
Now, this is where the problem lies:
Eating too much carb-heavy foods over a prolonged period can lead to insulin resistance. Remember, more carbs = higher blood sugar levels. This oversupply of carbs will eventually lead to the pancreas going into hyper mode to produce even more insulin. Sooner or later, cells stop responding to insulin. When this happens, you’ll end up having both high blood sugar levels and high insulin levels. If left untreated, this can lead to insulin resistance.
Fortunately, inositol can help reverse insulin resistance. Several clinical studies support the fact that inositol can reduce blood sugar levels as well as insulin levels, thereby improving insulin sensitivity in both PCOS and non-PCOS patients (1, 2).
2. It reduces LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels
Cholesterol may have received a bad rap in recent decades, but it’s actually a pretty important nutrient that’s found throughout our cells. That said, there are two types of cholesterol:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – this is “bad” cholesterol. High LDL levels increase the risk of stroke and heart disease.
- High density lipoprotein (HDL) – this is “good” cholesterol. Raised HDL levels lower the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Together, these two make up your total cholesterol.
According to a review of 14 randomized controlled trials published in 2018, inositol supplementation led to significantly reduced LDL and total cholesterol levels. Inositol did not affect HDL levels, but it does not detract from the fact that inositol can help reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease (3)!
3. Inositol helps reduce triglyceride levels in the body
Just like bad cholesterol, it’s also important to manage your triglyceride as high levels increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, and heart attack. Unfortunately, those with poor insulin sensitivity also have high triglyceride levels. The good thing is that a number of studies point to the fact that inositol has a positive effect on plasma triglycerides (2, 3).
On a side note, omega 3 fatty acids are also known to help lower triglycerides. Check out this article on the 24 ways omega 3 can help improve your life!
4. Alleviate anxiety, depression and panic disorders
According to J. Levine, inositol has therapeutic effects in disorders that respond to SSRI’s or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These are antidepressants that are used to treat depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorders, and phobias like agoraphobia and social phobia (4).
Here is a summary of Levine’s findings:
28 patients were given 12g of inositol daily. After 4 weeks, their mental conditions showed a marked improvement according to the Hamilton Depression Scale.
21 patients with panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia) were given 12g of inositol daily for 4 weeks. The results were nothing short of amazing! The patients all experienced significantly fewer episodes of panic attacks, and when they did have them, they weren’t as severe as before.
Obsessive compulsive disorder
After 6 weeks of taking 18g of inositol daily, 13 patients with OCD experienced a significant improvement in their symptoms.
According to the same study, inositol did not help improve conditions that do not respond to SSRI’s. These include conditions like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, and autism.
5. Inositol powder shows promise for bipolar disorder
We all go through a roller coaster of emotions, but bipolar folks take it to extreme levels. Mood swings vary wildly from extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression), with some stable periods in between.
A study done on 24 bipolar kids (ages 5-12) with mild to moderate symptoms revealed an interesting outcome. The kids were divided into 3 groups. One group was given inositol, the second group was given omega-3, and the last group was given inositol + omega-3.
After 12 weeks, the group taking inositol + omega-3 showed the most significant improvement in their bipolar symptoms. This is according to the Young Mania Rating Scale and Children’s Depression Rating Scale (5).
6. Help treat psoriasis caused by lithium
Lithium is a mood stabilizer that is often prescribed to bipolar patients. It works as intended, but it does have a number of undesirable side effects, one of which is psoriasis. Psoriasis is an extremely itchy skin condition that show up as raised, scaly patches anywhere on the body.
Fortunately, switching from lithium to inositol has shown incredible results as evidenced by a case study done on a bipolar patient. Instead of lithium, the patient was prescribed 3g of inositol daily. After 4 years of regular follow ups, the study concluded by saying inositol is very effective for the patient’s bipolar symptoms and psoriasis (6).
7. May help promote weight loss
Anyone wanting to lose weight should not look at inositol as a weight loss supplement, because it really isn’t. However, because it’s so effective at promoting insulin sensitivity, one of its desirable “side effects” is weight loss! Of course, for best results, don’t forget to eat a healthy diet and exercise more often, in addition to taking inositol daily.
8. It’s a much safer Metformin alternative!
Metformin is a drug commonly prescribed for type 2 diabetes. It’s highly effective at lowering insulin and blood sugar levels. However, the downside is that side effects aren’t exactly minor. Here’s a few – muscle pain, physical weakness, urinary tract infection, low blood sugar, chest discomfort, heartburn, diarrhea, and constipation.
If you want to avail of Metformin’s benefits but keep the side effects away, then inositol is your best option. Inositol powder is 100% natural and works just as well as Metformin. Even at higher doses, side effects tend to be mild and minor, such as nausea, tiredness, headache, and gas.
10 health benefits for women
1. Inositol powder helps manage PCOS symptoms
PCOS may not be a life-threatening condition on its own. But if left untreated, it can lead to more serious conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver inflammation, endometrial cancer, etc. Unfortunately, there is no cure yet for PCOS, but you can keep its symptoms under control.
While Metformin can also keep PCOS symptoms at bay, there’s a far better option available – INOSITOL. Inositol is widely considered as safe and effective for PCOS and multiple clinical studies support this fact (2, 7, 8).
2. Improve egg quality in women with PCOS
A woman’s egg quality is essential to a healthy pregnancy, but a lot of factors can lead to poor egg health. These include a woman’s age, lifestyle, stress levels, diet, and of course, PCOS.
According to a study published in the Fertility and Sterility Journal, women who took 2g of inositol twice a day along with 400mcg of folic acid had better egg quality than the women who took folic acid alone (9).
3. Restore normal menstrual cycle
As mentioned earlier, Metformin can help treat PCOS symptoms, such as irregular menstrual cycles – or the lack of it. Once again, however, inositol trumps Metformin in this department.
A 2010 study showed that a combination of inositol plus folic acid not only restored menstrual cycles but also resulted in higher pregnancy rate (10)!
4. Improve fertility
So, a woman’s fertility is driven by egg quality. As you’ve learned so far, inositol can help improve a woman’s egg quality and restore normal menstrual cycles.
Add the other beneficial effects of inositol powder, and it’s no surprise that it will also have a positive effect on women’s fertility (8, 9).
5. Lowers testosterone levels in PCOS women
While testosterone is a male hormone, it is present in both men and women. However, women with PCOS have higher testosterone levels than normal. This is why most PCOS women have “masculine” symptoms. The hirsutism or excessive hair growth following a male distribution pattern, female pattern hair loss, severe acne, and the irregular periods.
By taking inositol and folic acid, testosterone levels go back to normal. This keeps the acne and hirsutism in check, as well as improves ovulation and fertility in PCOS women (2).
6. Gets rid of hirsutism
Some women embrace hirsutism (or at least learn to live with it), others not so much. If you belong to the latter group, try taking inositol! A 2008 study demonstrated just how powerful inositol is when it comes to balancing sex hormones. After 6 months of taking inositol, 46 hirsute women finally got rid of the unwanted hair growth! Inositol worked to decrease androgen levels and increase estrogen levels (11).
7. Prevents gestational diabetes
Pregnancy is considered a gift by many women. But getting pregnant is just the first step. Preventing gestational diabetes is high up on the pregnancy to-do list. Why? Because it can cause a lot of problems. It can lead to preeclampsia (high blood pressure), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and an extra large baby (which makes normal delivery impossible).
Unfortunately, gestational diabetes is prevalent amongst obese and overweight pregnant women. Fortunately, inositol helps reduce the risk of gestational diabetes in this demographic (12).
As a preventive measure, women with PCOS and/or a family history of type 2 diabetes should consider taking inositol to protect against gestational diabetes.
8. Supports postmenopausal women
Periods are one of the most uncomfortable things women go through in life. We bleed for a few days every month, like clockwork, for about 40 years! So, it’s easy to think we’re finally getting a break once we hit menopause.
But the decrease in estrogen and progesterone levels during menopause can lead to other conditions, such as an increased risk in developing metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.
A healthy lifestyle and balanced diet are recommended to manage these conditions but supplementing with inositol also helps. According to a recent study, taking as little as 2g of inositol daily is enough to see improvements in cholesterol & triglyceride levels, blood pressure, and HOMA index (13).
9. Helps clear up hormonal acne
From apple cider vinegar, honey, witch hazel, green tea, to aloe vera and tea tree oil, there seems to be no shortage of home acne treatments. Some of these options may work, but if the root cause of your acne is hormonal (as is the case with PCOS), then none may be effective. In that case, inositol may be your best bet.
Italian researchers gave 50 PCOS patients with moderate acne 2g of inositol twice a day for 6 months. By the time the study concluded, the patients taking inositol showed lower DHEAS (dehydroepiandrosterone) blood levels and improved skin conditions! This led the researchers to conclude that inositol can indeed be used to help treat hormonal acne (14).
10. Helps breastfeeding moms
As with most supplements and medications, it’s important to speak with your doctor before taking anything, especially if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. That said, human breastmilk is naturally rich in inositol. It is actually the third most concentrated nutrient in breastmilk, right after lactose and glucose (15).
Inositol for men – it helps improve sperm quality and fertility
According to a study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology, 45 men with metabolic syndrome and asthenospermia were given 1g of inositol (+ antioxidants) twice a day for 3 months. By the end of the study, the volunteers showed significant increase in insulin sensitivity and testosterone levels, as well as improved sperm quality (motility, concentration, and morphology) (16).
Inositol doesn’t have a recommended daily intake (RDI) like most other nutrients. This is because it is not considered an essential nutrient, since our bodies can make inositol on its own. But here are some suggested inositol dosage to help treat or manage various conditions:
- Insulin sensitivity – 2g twice daily
- Type 2 diabetes (Metformin alternative) – 2g twice daily
- PCOS – 2g twice daily + 400mcg folic acid
- Improve egg quality
- Restore menses
- Improve fertility
- Lower testosterone
- Get rid of hirsutism
- Weight loss
- Hormonal acne
- Metabolic syndrome – 2g twice daily
- Reduce blood triglyceride levels
- Lower LDL & total cholesterol
- Reduce blood pressure
- Lower blood sugar
- Depression – 12g for 4 weeks
- Panic disorder – 12g for 4 weeks
- Obsessive compulsive disorder – 18g for 6 weeks
- Bipolar disorder – 2g inositol + 3g omega-3
- Psoriasis caused by lithium – 3g daily
- Gestational diabetes – 2g twice daily + 400mcg folic acid
- Postmenopausal support – 2g twice daily
- Breastfeeding support – 2g-4g daily
Possible side effects of inositol
As you may have noticed in the list above, most conditions require 4g of inositol powder per day. However, even at high doses of up to 18g, inositol is still considered relatively safe and side effects remain relatively minor. Side effects include nausea, headache, dizziness, tiredness, gas, and stomach pain (17).
Some people may experience side effects during the first few days. To let your body get used to the supplement, we recommend taking inositol at a lower dose first (2g). After a few days, you can increase the inositol dosage to 4g per day.
Frequently asked questions about inositol powder
Can I get inositol from food?
Yes, there are plenty of foods rich in inositol. Here are some of them:
- Vegetables – green leafy veggies, bell pepper, asparagus, potatoes
- Beans – navy beans, lima beans
- Fruits – fresh citrus fruits like oranges, pears, peaches, cantaloupes, bananas
- Whole grains – brown rice, wheat bran, corn
- Nuts and seeds
- Meat and eggs
What will happen if I go beyond the recommended dosage?
Inositol powder is a relatively safe supplement. In studies where volunteers were given 12g-18g daily, only minor side effects presented, such as gas, nausea, tiredness, and stomach pain.
Can I use inositol as a sweetener?
Inositol is about 50% as sweet as table sugar. You can use it to sweeten up your coffee or tea instead of using sugar.
Is inositol powder keto-friendly?
Those on the keto diet may not be too keen on taking inositol since it’s a pure carbohydrate, with 1g of inositol being equal to 1g carb. To stay in ketosis, it’s recommended to consume less than 20g net carbs per day. But the 20g net carbs keto limit isn’t set in stone. Some people can go up to 30g, 40g and even 50g of net carbs and still remain in ketosis!
Most inositol supplements recommend you take at least 2g-4g of inositol per day. Now, it’s up to you to decide whether the health benefits of inositol are worth the carbs.
Supplementing with inositol powder brings a lot of benefits to the table. It’s a safe supplement to take even at more than 4x the usual dosage (from 4g up to 18g per day). Even at high doses, side effects remain minor, nothing at all like the side effects you’ll get from taking Metformin or another synthetic drug.