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Diabetes & Inositol

By Beth Conlon ; Updated August 14, 2017

Inositol is a type of sugar in the human body that plays an essential role in human health and disease. Inosital’s diverse roles include maintaining cell structure and facilitating cell signaling. Decreases in inositol and defects in inositol metabolism have been associated with numerous diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, panic disorder, and depression.

Background

There are nine chemical isomers of inositol, of which myo-inositol is the most abundant. Myo-inositol is readily consumed through foods and absorbed into the bloodstream. Concentrations are particularly high in peripheral nerve tissues, where decreases in myo-inositol have been associated with diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage caused by prolonged high blood sugar.

Uses

Myo-inositol supplements are sought by some individuals with diabetes to treat diabetic neuropathy. Myo-inositol is readily available in supplement form, and is commonly called vitamin B-8. However, there is controversy over its classification as a vitamin because it can be produced by the body. By definition, vitamins cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained through food or supplement.

Effectiveness & Safety

Myo-inositol supplements are widely available for purchase, however, the use of myo-inositol for diabetic neuropathy has been deemed ineffective through research. According to the National Medicines Comprehensive Database, inositol is classified as possibly safe for adults when administered orally in amounts up to 12 g per day for up to four weeks, and 6 g per day for up to 10 weeks. There is insufficient data on dosages and length of dosages greater than these, as well as regarding dosages for pregnant and lactating women. Therefore, they should be avoided in those cases.

Considerations

When possible, nutrient needs should be met through a balanced, healthy diet rather than through a pill or supplement. A well-rounded diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and lean proteins provides sufficient amounts of inositol. Fruits, beans, grains, and nuts contain the highest amount, and fresh fruits and vegetables are a better source of inositol than frozen, canned, or processed. Before making dietary changes or taking supplements, always consult with a physician.

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