Myo-inositol is being hailed as a game-changing supplement for PCOS treatment. We tell you all about the research-backed benefits of inositol and how you should take it.
According to a study published in the Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences (India) in 2020, PCOS affects between 4 percent to 20 percent of women of reproductive age worldwide, with the proportion of women with PCOS increasing over the past decade. PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is a metabolic, endocrine and reproductive disorder. PCOS is a complex condition that can affect many aspects of your physical health, which may include menstrual dysfunction, infertility, acne, obesity, hirsutism, hair loss, insulin resistance and increased risk of metabolic syndrome. It can cause very individual physical and psychological symptoms, which makes it hard to have a comprehensive cure.
The good news is that necessary dietary and lifestyle changes can be of significant help to deal with PCOS and its symptoms, and supplementation of certain nutrients is one of these changes. Inositol is one such supplement which has received widespread attention in recent years for its ability to improve some key symptoms of PCOS.
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Myo-inositol is one of the nine different types of inositol that has been intensively researched for its benefits for PCOS. “It is like the new kid on the block in terms of treatment for PCOS,” says Dr Anuradha Panda, senior obstetrician and gynaecologist, Apollo Hospitals, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad. “The best part is that it is actually effective.”
What is myo-inositol?
Myo-inositol is a naturally occurring glucose-like substance synthesized by the human body. Although similar to sugar, it is considered to be a part of the B complex family of vitamins, and referred to as Vitamin B8. Because the body produces sufficient amounts of myo-inositol to support physical health, it is not termed an essential nutrient. Apart from the body’s own production, myo-inositol is also found naturally in foods like grains, beans, nuts and fresh fruits, but only in trace amounts. To get sufficient benefits for PCOS and other health concerns, you need to add supplemental myo-inositol to your diet.
How does myo-inositol help with PCOS?
● It increases insulin sensitivity.
Research shows that 70 percent of women who are diagnosed with PCOS have insulin resistance as one of the underlying reasons for the condition. This is when the body does not respond to insulin as fast as it should, leading to high glucose levels in the blood. “Insulin resistance is a risk factor for pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes,” says Dr Panda. “Increasing insulin sensitivity in people with PCOS is important to reduce these risks and also manage the condition itself.” In multiple studies carried out on groups of women with PCOS from 2009-2014, inositol was found to increase insulin sensitivity and improve glucose tolerance.
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● It helps in regulating ovulation.
PCOS interferes with the growth and release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation), making it a leading cause for infertility amongst women. “Inositol can help with ovulation, and thus improve fertility,” says Dr Panda. In a study conducted by Medical University, Sofia, Bulgaria in 2014, researchers found that myo-inositol helps with ovulation in 61 percent women when taken by itself, and in 72 percent women when taken with folic acid. Further research has found myo-inositol to be useful for improving oocyte (immature egg cells) quality and pregnancy outcomes.
● It helps in regulating menstruation.
“Because of the interference with ovulation, those with PCOS often have irregular periods. Inositol, by helping with ovulation, can also regulate the menstrual cycle,” says Dr Panda.
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● It improves hyperandrogenism and hirsutism.
Hyperandrogenism, or excess of androgens, is one of the characteristics found in women with PCOS, and it clinically presents as hirsutism, a condition where one has increased hair growth on the face and body. Although the reasons behind hyperandrogenism are complex, insulin resistance is known to play a critical role in it. Inositol, by improving insulin sensitivity, improves hyperandrogenism, and reduces excess body hair growth.
● It has positive effects on mental health.
PCOS is a complex condition that can also affect mental health, although the reasons behind it are unclear. People with PCOS are three times more likely to be diagnosed with depression and anxiety than those without it. In a 2018 trial published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, it was found that the use of inositol for 12 weeks on subjects with PCOS caused a positive effect on depression, anxiety and stress levels.
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How to use myo-inositol?
“Although inositol is available over the counter, I would still recommend consulting your gynaecologist before you start taking it,” advises Dr Panda. Inositol has no side effects when taken in appropriate quantities. Side effects like nausea and dizziness were observed by the Obstetrics & Gynecology Center, Rome, Italy in a 2011 study when people took more than 12g of inositol in a day, Dr Panda recommends up to 2g of consumption of inositol per day, combined with 200 mg of folic acid to get its full benefits.
D-chiro inositol is another form of inositol that is showing promise in terms of its benefits for PCOS. Recent research shows that a combination of myo-inositol and d-chiro-inositol might be even more beneficial in regulating metabolic parameters and improving insulin sensitivity.
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