Inositol or more specifically, myo-inositol, is a carbohydrate present in food and dietary supplements, as well as in your body. This molecule comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with a chemical structure that is comparable to the major sugar in your blood… glucose!
This carbohydrate is widespread in vegetables such as green beans, peas, asparagus, walnut leaves, grape extract, pears, cherries, apples, tomatoes, yeast and carrots.
Myo-inositol plays a great structural role in cell membranes and affects the activity of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. It also has an effect on chemical messengers in the brain like serotonin and dopamine.
So why is this sugar of interest to us?
Inositol supplements may help treat specific medical conditions, but this blog post takes a detailed look at the benefits of myo-inositol regarding fertility in PCOS and menopause.
Inositol for Fertility
PCOS is a condition in which a woman's body creates excessive levels of specific hormones and it puts women at a higher risk for a variety of disorders, including infertility. Insulin sensitivity issues could be one of the reasons why PCOS women have lower fertility, and inositol has been investigated as a possible therapy to improve this insulin sensitivity. Multiple studies have found that inositol may be beneficial for improving the function of the ovaries and fertility in women with PCOS, and typical doses in these studies used doses of 2–4 grams per day1,2,3. Furthermore, preliminary study suggests that combining inositol and folic acid may aid ovulation in women suffering from PCOS4,5. In one study, 4 grams of inositol and 400 mcg of folic acid taken daily for 3 months induced ovulation in 62% of treated women6! In summary, Inositol is a promising supplement to improve several aspects of reproductive function in women with PCOS.
Inositol in Menopause
Inositol supplementation has been shown to prevent and improve insulin resistance in postmenopausal women with metabolic syndrome. So what does that mean? Insulin resistance is a resistance to the hormone insulin, resulting in increasing blood sugar and metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels). In one six-month study in 80 postmenopausal women with metabolic syndrome found that 4 grams per day of inositol improved insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and cholesterol levels more than a placebo7. The researchers concluded that, “Supplementation with myo-inositol may be considered a reliable option in the treatment of metabolic syndrome in postmenopausal women.” This study is large enough to lead to additional research in this field.