It seems like every single day there’s a new “it” supplement that everyone’s talking about on social media. Sometimes, these trends are truly new innovations—yet more often than not, they’re actually long-loved by dietitians and natural medicine experts and only now getting some street cred.
One prime example: inositol. Even though you may have just recently seen it on your Instagram feed, inositol has been around for more than a century. In fact, it was first discovered 150 years ago and has been well-known amongst the medical community since the late 1990s.
What is inositol?
Inositol is a vitamin-like sugar, often referred to as vitamin B8, though it’s not technically a vitamin, explains naturopathic doctor and clinical nutritionist David Friedman, N.D., D.C. The compound is found in certain food sources such as fruit, wheat bran, navy beans, and nuts.
In the body, you’ll find inositol in the structure of your cell membranes, where it’s part of important signaling pathways between cells, explains Toronto-based naturopathic doctor Olivia Rose, N.D.
What Inositol Does In The Body
In its role in communication between cells, inositol “supports proper chemical messenger communications in the brain that impact our emotions,” says Friedman. In particular, it influences the function of hormones such as insulin, as well as the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, adds Rose.
Because of its interaction with insulin, inositol can support cardiovascular health (particularly healthy blood pressure and cholesterol), as well as the body’s sensitivity to insulin. One study published in the journal Menopause, for example, linked daily supplementation of four grams with positive effects on insulin function and improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Plus, according to Friedman, since inositol also impacts important serotonin and dopamine, it can play a role in regulating our mood and mental and emotional well-being.
Also worth noting: “It has antioxidant properties, which means it can help protect cells, including brain cells, from free radical damage,” adds Rose. Another impressive perk!
Who Can Benefit From Inositol
Given its specific roles in the body, inositol may be especially beneficial for certain groups of people when taken in supplement form.
1. People With Mood Issues
A recent theory in the world of mental health: That some individuals who deal with anxiety have lower levels of inositol in their brains—and can thus benefit from incorporating a supplement into their wellness regimen, says Toronto-based naturopathic practitioner Rachel Corradetti.
Research published in The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology has linked the compound with increased production of serotonin (the “happy” neurotransmitter) and dopamine (the “reward” neurotransmitter), suggesting it may help those with low mood find greater balance, too.
If you’re interested in taking inositol to support your mental and emotional well-being, Friedman recommends speaking with your healthcare provider about whether it’s appropriate for you.
2. Those With Blood Sugar Concerns
If you have blood sugar problems, taking an inositol supplement may be one natural way to help your system get regulated, notes naturopathic physician and certified nutrition consultant Kellyann Petrucci, N.D. “One study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology found that both fasting blood glucose and HbA1C (a measure of long-term glucose levels) improve after three months of inositol supplementation.”
Read More: How To Get Off The Blood Sugar Rollercoaster
To promote healthy blood sugar, Petrucci recommends adding a minimum of four grams of inositol to your routine daily.
Who shouldn’t take inositol
Overall, “[inositol] is a very safe supplement, with very few and very minor side effects,” Petrucci says. However, despite its many potential benefits, Rose recommends consulting with your healthcare provider before supplementing with it if you take multiple medications.
“It can also cause dizziness and headaches in some people, so if you are prone to either of those conditions be careful with supplementation—especially with high doses (greater than 12 grams per day),” she adds. “If you suffer from low blood sugar or hypoglycemia, inositol can also worsen your condition.”
Petrucci recommends that anyone interested in taking large doses and pregnant and nursing women also check with a doctor before taking inositol, just to be on the safe side.
Best Practices For Supplementing
Inositol supplements are available in powder and capsule forms, but capsules are typically more useful for people taking smaller doses while powders are easier for people using higher doses, notes Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and member of The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council.
“There’s no general recommended amount, as studies involve a wide range—from 200 to 4,000 milligrams per day,” he explains. (The Vitamin Shoppe brand Inositol, for example, provides 650 milligrams per serving.) Given that, speak to your healthcare provider about the right dose for your needs before starting an inositol regimen.