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Benefits of Inositol or IP6

By John Brennan

Inositol is a simple carbohydrate that belongs to a class of compounds called polyols. It has a six-membered carbon ring with six chemical groups called hydroxyl groups attached to it. Inositol with six phosphate groups attached is called inositol hexaphosphate or phytic acid (or IP-6).

Inositol is a simple carbohydrate that belongs to a class of compounds called polyols. It has a six-membered carbon ring with six chemical groups called hydroxyl groups attached to it. Inositol with six phosphate groups attached is called inositol hexaphosphate or phytic acid (or IP-6). Neither compound is an essential dietary nutrient, although both compounds have been studied for their roles and possible applications in human health.

IP-6

IP-6 is often found in the form of an insoluble salt, calcium phytate. Humans and other animals, such as pigs, with a similar digestive system can only digest phytate to a limited extent, so they are unable to retrieve most of the phosphate bound to the phytate. Ruminant animals, such as cows, however, can digest phytate and retrieve phosphate from it; phytate in fodder can benefit these animals and cattle ranchers by providing a rich source of phosphate in the cows' diet.

Research

According to the American Cancer Society, scientists have found IP-6 can sometimes slow the growth of tumor cells in petri dishes. There is also evidence to suggest it may help prevent tumors from forming in specific organs in lab animals. At present, however, researchers do not know if it exhibits similar effects in humans. Moreover, high levels of dietary phytate can potentially bind and lock up certain minerals like calcium and zinc, preventing the body from absorbing them.

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Inositol

According to the American Cancer Society, scientists have found IP-6 can sometimes slow the growth of tumor cells in petri dishes. There is also evidence to suggest it may help prevent tumors from forming in specific organs in lab animals. At present, however, researchers do not know if it exhibits similar effects in humans. Moreover, high levels of dietary phytate can potentially bind and lock up certain minerals like calcium and zinc, preventing the body from absorbing them.

Beneficial Effects

As noted in a 2009 review in the Cochrane Library, there is some reason to think inositol supplementation might be helpful in the treatment of depression, although the evidence is unclear. A 1999 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found evidence that d-chiro inositol, a specific form of the compound, might be helpful in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome. Further research would be needed to confirm inositol's effectiveness in the treatment of either condition.

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