What Are the Benefits of Myo-Inositol in Supporting PCOS Symptoms
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) has numerous physical symptoms that can impact women with the condition in their day to day lives. These symptoms include irregular periods, acne, facial hair, fertility problems and more. Often they can be quite difficult to deal with, PCOS women often develop emotional problems too, including depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.
Managing your symptoms
Managing PCOS symptoms can be tough, but there are a number of ways you can control them. As well as taking prescription medication, there are natural options and supplements you can take to alleviate certain symptoms. Myo-inositol is one supplement you can take.
Myo-inositol: what is it?
Inositol is a water-soluble vitamin-like substance that’s sometimes called vitamin B8, despite the fact that it isn’t a B vitamin at all. Inositol is found in all your cell membranes, with the highest concentration found in the heart and the brain. Your liver needs it to process and break down fats, and your muscles and nerves need it to function properly. As well as occurring naturally in the human body, inositol is found in many foods such as fruit, nuts, whole grains, brewer’s yeast and pulses.
There are several forms of inositol called isomers, the most common of which are myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol. Both these forms of inositol have shown promise in supporting certain PCOS symptoms, but myo-inositol – which is often sold simply as inositol – is thought to be the most effective.
Myo-inositol and PCOS: what is the connection?
Firstly, myo-inositol assists PCOS treatment through insulin resistance. Insulin resistance describes the condition where your body doesn’t respond normally to the hormone insulin. It is a common symptom of PCOS and has been linked to fertility problems, irregular periods and weight gain. It’s also thought to contribute to symptoms associated with hyperandrogenemia (high levels of ‘male’ hormones called androgens) such as excess facial and body hair, acne and thinning hair and hair loss from the scalp. In fact, up to 70 per cent of women with PCOS are believed to be insulin resistant.ii
Studies have found myo-inositol may help improve insulin resistance which could lead to a reduction in a number of PCOS symptoms.iii The supplement does so by helping your body use insulin more effectively. As it enters the body, it is converted into a molecule known as 'inositol triphosphate'. This molecule regulates several hormones including insulin. It does this by allowing the body to use glucose for energy without using high levels of insulin. Therefore, decreasing the chance of insulin resistance.
There have also been numerous trials that have investigated the use of myo-inositol to relieve PCOS symptoms – here are a few examples:
Irregular ovulation or a complete absence of ovulation is a common symptom in PCOS - understanding what the condition means for your fertility is important. This causes women to have irregular or no period all. This can affect fertility and is a reason why some PCOS find it difficult to get pregnant.
It has been reported that inositol can improve the function of the ovaries. In one study, 136 women were given myo-inositol at a dose of 100g twice a day for 14 weeks, while 147 were given a placebo (dummy pill).iv Those who took inositol were found to have more frequent ovulation compared with those who were given a placebo. Not just that, but they also lost more weight and had improved levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
Another study, carried out by some of the same researchers, found similar results.v Furthermore, a trial where women with PCOS took myo-inositol plus folic acid every day found all those who previously had irregular periods were having a normal cycle after just 12 weeks.vi Meanwhile in a six-month study, also combining myo-inositol with folic acid, 88 percent of women with infrequent or no periods had at least one normal cycle during treatment, and 72 percent of whom went on to have normal periods after the study had finished.vii
This is just one of the possible emotional side effects related to PCOS and coping with the condition’s symptoms. Some studies have found inositol may be helpful for depression. Levels of inositol are low in people who are affected by it. In one trial, volunteers suffering from depression were given a daily dose of 12g of inositol for four weeks, after which they showed higher levels of improvement in their mental health than those taking a placebo.viii PCOS women can also boost their self-esteem by engaging in regular exercise and talking about their symptoms and condition to family and friends.
Having high levels of ‘male’ hormones including testosterone is common in PCOS women and is thought to contribute to many of the condition’s physical side effects. Studies show, however, that taking myo-inositol may reduce testosterone levels.ix Lower androgen levels could see a reduction in many distressing PCOS symptoms, including excess facial and body hair, acne and irregular periods. Women can control these male hormones through dietary changes and hormone happy foods.
Taking myo-inositol: what you should know
Before taking any supplement you should speak to your GP or another trusted medical professional to ensure you are taking a safe amount. No serious side effects have been reported for myo-inositol, though it’s been noted that in high doses it may potentially cause mild effects such as stomach pain, tiredness, headache and dizziness.
To find out more about combatting symptoms of PCOS, explore the rest of the hub here.
Kalra, B., Kalra, S., Sharma, J.B. (2016). The inositols and polycystic ovary syndrome. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2016 Sep-Oct; 20(5): 720–724. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5040057/
Marshall, J.C., Dunaif, A. (2012 Jan). All Women With PCOS Should Be Treated For Insulin Resistance. Fertil Steril. 97(1); 18-22. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3277302/
Dona, G., et al. (2012 Apr). Inositol administration reduces oxidative stress in erythrocytes of patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. Eur J Endocrinol. 2012 Apr;166(4):703-10. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22223702
Gerli, S., Mignosa, M., Di Renzo, G.C. (2003). Effects of inositol on ovarian function and metabolic factors in women with PCOS: a randomized double blind placebo-controlled trial. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2003;7:151-9.0. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15206484
Gerli, S., Papaleo, E., Ferrari, A, et al. (2007). Randomized, double blind placebo-controlled trial: effects of myo-inositol on ovarian function and metabolic factors in women with PCOS. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2007;11:347-354. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18074942
Artini, E., et al. (2007 Dec). Myo-inositol in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome: a novel method for ovulation induction. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2007 Dec;23(12):700-3. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17952759
Benjamin, J., Agam, G., Levine, J., et al. (1995). Inositol treatment in psychiatry. Psychopharmacol Bull. 1995;31:167-175. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7675981
Costantino, D., Minozzi, G., Minozzi, E., Guaraldi, C.. (2009 Mar-Apr). Metabolic and hormonal effects of myo-inositol in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a double-blind trial. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2009 Mar-Apr;13(2):105-10. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19499845
Ozay, AC., et al. (2016). Different Effects of Myoinositol plus Folic Acid versus Combined Oral Treatment on Androgen Levels in PCOS Women. Int J of Endocrin. Vol 2016, Article ID 3206872. Available online: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ije/2016/3206872/