Inositol, or vitamin B8 – functions, demand and sources


Inositol (actually its isometric form of myo-inositol) also known as vitamin B8 is a unique nutrient. Its unusual character is related to the fact that it can be synthesized by the body. Therefore, from a scientific point of view, it should not be called a vitamin at all. 

Vitamin B8 plays an important role in maintaining the health of the nervous system. The properties of inositol make it used in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) as well as schizophrenia. Inositol was detected more than one hundred years ago in the urine of people with diabetes, but then its significance was not recognized. However, it was not until 1941 that scientists learned about its metabolic functions and considered it a substance affecting insulin sensitivity. 


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Why has inositol become a vitamin? 

The most correct form of vitamin B8 determination is the most active form of inositol – myo-inositol (MI). There are also other active forms of inositol such as, for example, D-chiro-inositol (DCI), L-chiro-inositol, muco-inositol, allo-inositol and neo-inositol. The naming of inositol with vitamin is not correct from the scientific point of view, because it is produced in the body. Most inositol is found mainly in the kidneys, but also in the brain and the liver. Currently, scientists do not describe inositol as a vitamin, but still in everyday language and in dietetics it is called as B8. 

Currently, myo-inositol is obtained by the industrial method and added to dietary supplements and medicines. It consists in the hydrolysis of phytic acid obtained from maize. 

Why does the body need inositol? (inositol functions) 

Myo-inositol acts as a component of phospholipids and cell membranes. Vitamin B8 also participates in cellular morphogenesis, cellular cytogenesis and lipid production. However, her role does not end there. Myo-inositol acts as a precursor to the synthesis of second order hormone relays, incl 

– gonadoliberine 

– insulin 

– TSH (thyrotropic hormone) 

Inositol is added to energy drinks because it has a positive effect on mood and well-being. Due to the fact that it has a beneficial effect on the nervous system and the reproductive system (found, among others, in semen), vitamin B8 is referred to as the vitamin of happiness and fertility. Fertility also because it reduces the risk of hyperandrogenism (an excess of male hormones in the female body), which increases the chances of conception. It also positively affects women using the in vitro method – they have a better quality of oocytes (cells that give rise to egg cells), embryos and a greater number of pregnancies after the transfer. 

Inositol plays an important role in maintaining the proper management of carbohydrates (which is particularly important in diabetics). An adequate level of vitamin B8 can counteract the development of diabetic neuropathy, because inositol improves the conduction of nerve signals. In addition, inositol prevents the development of bronchopulmonary dysplasia in children. The indicated disease is a chronic lung disease. The danger associated with it is that it can cause respiratory failure and bronchial asthma. 

Inositol belongs to lipotropic substances that effectively support the metabolism of fat and cholesterol and prevent the accumulation of these substances around the liver. The process of accumulation of cholesterol and fat around the liver leads to its steatosis disturbing this function. 

Vitamin B8 can support not only the treatment of schizophrenia, but also obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic attacks and memory disorders that are associated with age. In recent years, its role in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease has been increasingly talked about. The effect of inositol on the nervous system is also related to the fact that inositol allows to maintain a balance between the content of copper and zinc in brain cells and increases the sensitivity of receptors to serotonin. 

Myo-inositol is produced by saprophytic bacteria found in the gut. The mechanism of self-made vitamin B8 is similar to the production of vitamin K1. The amounts of vitamins produced by the body are so small that most of the demand for this ingredient is satisfied by the food. 

Inositol food sources and inositol need 

The daily requirement for inositol is about 1 g (1000 mg), which is easily covered by providing inositol in the form of food. The deficiency of vitamin B8 is very rare. Rich sources of vitamin B8 (inositol) are 

– fruits and dried fruit (cantaloupe melon, oranges, grapefruit, prunes, kiwi, nectarines, peaches, dates) 

– vegetables (turnip, tomatoes, squash, okra, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, avocado, asparagus, potatoes) 

– cereal products, cereal, rice (bread, bran, cereal, brown rice) 

– legumes (all pods) 

– meat and offal (liver, beef, lamb, poultry) 

– nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, cashews) 

Inositol is absorbed from food or produced by bacteria in the gut, from where it enters the bloodstream. Together with blood, vitamin B8 is delivered to the brain, liver, heart and other organs. For the inositol to be absorbed into the bloodstream, the need for an enzyme called phytase. 

When is it worth to supplement inositol? 

Inositol supplementation is recommended, among others patients suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The reduced level of B8 in the body may contribute to the development of hyperinsulinaemia and hyperandrogonemia, which then contributes to the worsening of polycystic ovary syndrome. Hyperinsulinemia leads to an increase in the level of LH (luteinizing hormone) in the body, and increased secretion of LH stimulates excessive secretion of testosterone. Supplementing inositol can counteract this disease, increase the frequency of ovulation and restore its regularity. Women with PCOS usually struggle with overweight, insulin resistance and increased LDL cholesterol. Thanks to myo-inositol, insulin sensitivity is increased. The use of vitamin B8 therefore reduces the likelihood of excess male sex hormones in women and carbohydrate disorders. 

Dietary supplements containing inositol are also recommended for patients who suffer from pre-menstrual symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, due to its anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects. Thanks to this, it can effectively reduce the mental and emotional ailments associated with PMS. 

In the case of diseases of the nervous system and other ailments indicated above, in which inositol can be used, the patient should consult a physician who will assess whether there are no contraindications in a given case and whether indeed inositol supplementation may be helpful. It’s good to know that vitamin B8 is often found in food supplements that support good hair condition because studies have proven that inositol prevents androgenetic baldness. 

The demand for inositol grows with the pace of life 

The faster the pace of life, the more stress every day, the more inositol need. Vitamin B8 may become more important in the near future. Due to the fact that an improvement in well-being and increased resistance to stress as well as improvement of mental performance has been observed, more and more consumers are interested in the use of dietary supplements containing this ingredient. Inositol deficiency currently belongs to rarely occurring avitaminoz. However, according to some doctors, the situation may change. The reasons for vitamin B8 deficiency include permanent exposure to stress. In addition, inositol is easily washed out of the body by coffee – just like magnesium. 

Inositol as a component of lecithin 

Inositol – like other B vitamins plays a big role in maintaining the proper functioning of the brain. Vitamin B8 is also a component of lecithin – a mixture of compounds (mainly lipid) that performs many important functions in the body. Inositol as a component of lecithin participates in metabolic processes, creates a protective barrier of the stomach walls, acts as a building block, among others cell membranes, brain tissue and myelin sheath, protects the liver, helps to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K and regenerate the body after exercise. Vitamin B8 as a component of lecithin ensures maintenance of the proper level of LDL cholesterol in the body. 

Symptoms of vitamin B8 deficiency 

The main symptoms of inositol deficiency include worsening mood and a tendency to depression. Patients who provide the body with not enough inositol in the form of food, and their intestinal bacteria are unable to produce enough of vitamin B8, may also have problems falling asleep. B8 vitamin A may also be a skin rash, hair loss, constipation and eczema. Prolonged insufficiency of inositol leads to an increase in the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood. 

Vitamin B8 should not be called a vitamin, because the body can produce it. However, on the other hand, the main source of this ingredient is still food. Inositol is a vitamin known only in the second half of the twentieth century. Research on the possibility of using it in modern medicine is still underway, and the results obtained are very promising. Recent scientific reports point to the potential role of inositol in anticancer prophylaxis and in the prevention of neural tube defects in the fetus. 


You can read also: Vitamins for her and for him – does it matter?

Posted on: May 20, 2019

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