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Inositol:  A Necessary Nutrient



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Inositol is recognized as part of the B-Complex vitamins.  It works closely with Choline as one of the primary components of the cell membrane.  The human body contains more inositol than any other vitamin except Niacin (1).  It is found in large quantities in the spinal cord nerves, the brain, and the cerebral spinal fluid.  It is also needed for growth and survival of cells in bone marrow, eye membranes, and the intestines.  It also encourages hair growth and can help prevent baldness.

Like Choline, Inositol helps to move fat out of the liver, and helps prevent serious liver disorders, as well as disorder involving high cholesterol.  Serotonin and acetylcholine, two neurotransmitters, both depend upon Inositol, and it supplementation therefore can assist in the reduction of depression and panic attacks (2).  Loss of Inositol from nerve cells is the primary reason for Diabetic neuropathy, so Inositol supplementation can assist in improving this condition.  Phytic acid, the plant source of Inositol, has been shown to have anticancer properties, which may be one reason why a high-fiber diet protects against many cancers (3).

Inositol also has a prominent calming effect on the central nervous system, so it is sometimes helpful to those with insomnia.  Studies on brain waves have shown that it has an effect similar to that of Librium or Valium.  It can gradually lower blood pressure, and can be helpful in cases of schizophrenia, hypoglycemia, and those with high serum copper and low serum zinc levels.

Because it stimulates muscles of the alimentary canal, Inositol is helpful in cases of constipation.  It can also induce labor contractions in pregnant women.

Most sources state that Inositol is not essential in the human diet.   If it is a fundamental ingredient of cell membranes and is necessary for proper nerve, brain, and muscle function, how can it NOT be essential?  Cell function is impaired when inositol is not present.  Perhaps it is seen as not necessary in the diet because it can be synthesized by the intestinal flora.  The action of the intestinal bacteria liberates inositol from phytic acid, which is found in citrus fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.   The same kind of statement is made in reference to the amino acids.  The ones which the body manufactures are considered "non-essential" amino acids.  But I believe this is incorrect terminology.  All the amino acids ARE essential to bodily functions, it's just that some are made by the body, so we don't have to concentrate on how much we eat.  That doesn't mean they aren't essential to the body's functioning, and so the same is true of inositol.

However, just because the body can manufacture a certain nutrient doesn't mean that it necessarily provides all that is needed in every circumstance.  In certain disease states, certain nutrients may be required in greater quantities than the body can produce, which is why it is also found in foods.  My belief is, if it's found in food, then we need to consume it, otherwise why would it be there?

Daily dosages include:

As a general rule, if you have none of the specific problems listed in this article, it is generally thought that the dosage of Inositol should be the same as that of Choline daily.

For liver support - 100 to 500 milligrams daily
For depression or panic attacks - 12 grams
For diabetes, 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams (4)
For blood pressure - one gram in the morning and one gram at night (5).

Nutritional sources for Inositol:

Beef brains and heart, cabbage, citrus fruits, raisins, whole grains, lecithin, and unrefined molasses.
 

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References:

(1)  Dunne, Lavon J.  (1990).  Nutrition Almanac. New York:  McGraw-Hill, p. 41.

(2)  Murray, Michael T. (1996).  The Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. New York:  McGraw-Hill, p. 143.

(3)  Shasuddin, A.M.  (1995).  Inositol phosphates have novel anticancer function. J Nutr 125, 725-732.

(4)  Murray, as in (2) above, p. 144.

(5)  Dunne, as in (1) above, p. 42.