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Does inositol help with weight loss?

In recent studies, inositol has been shown to be effective in weight loss and the treatment of many health conditions, including PCOS. How effective is it in your weight-loss journey? What does research say about it? This article will answer your questions and more.

Image showing a bottle of supplement with some capsules poured out on a table

Key takeaways

  • Inositol is a sugar-like compound produced by the body and is also found in many foods. It exists in different forms, including myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol.
  • Inositol is efficacious in weight loss and the treatment of PCOS, obesity, and diabetes, especially when taken as a mixture of Myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol.
  • Inositol supplements do not have an aggressive approach. So, it shouldn't be taken with the expectation of immediate result

Inositol is a naturally occurring sugar-like compound produced by the human body and is also found in many plant foods. It exists in nine different forms that are of the same composition but have different chemical structures. The commonest forms are Myo-inositol (which is more abundant) and D-chiro-inositol. 

Myo-inositol is synthesized from glucose, while D-chiro-inositol and other derivatives are synthesized from myo-inositol. Inositol is produced by different organs of the body, such as the kidneys, testicles, liver, and brain. The kidney produces this compound in large amounts (about 2g per day), but concentration is highest in the brain. 

Moreover, inositol can also be found in some foods, such as brown rice, beans, grains, nuts, whole wheat, organ meats, and fruits (more in cantaloupes and oranges). 

Inositol plays a role in metabolic and hormonal processes in the body. It helps transport signals between cells, i.e., it helps convey messages from one cell to the other. It also increases the body's use of insulin (insulin sensitivity), carbohydrates, and fats, which helps achieve weight loss

Some studies have also suggested that inositol, administered as a supplement, regulates blood pressure and cholesterol, reduces anxiety and depression, improves ovulation and fertility, regulates the menstrual cycle, and reduces weight, especially when combined with diet and exercise.

Does inositol help with weight loss?

Studies have indicated that inositol supplements are effective in weight loss. However, its effectiveness is more significant when combined with diet and exercise. 

A 2022 meta-analysis showed that inositol, in the form of Myo-inositol, had a stronger effect on body mass index (BMI) reduction than only diet or exercise and can be considered an adjunct to improve BMI.

Another study conducted among obese/overweight women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) revealed a fast decrease in body weight and BMI after 6 months of administering myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol in association with dieting.

Likewise, a 2019 study carried out among the same population showed reduced weight after 3 months of Myo-inositol, D-chiro-inositol, and glucomannan (a dietary fiber) administration.

How inositol helps with weight loss

Inositol has a 'gentle’ approach and works harmoniously with the body's natural processes to improve the body's health, including aiding in weight loss. It helps with weight loss in the following ways:

1. Improves the body's use of fats

Inositol is involved in lipolysis, the breakdown of fats. It mostly targets fats in the liver, preventing fat accumulation and enhancing fat use in the body. Also, it increases the production of adiponectin, a hormone involved in fatty acid breakdown and regulating glucose levels. By this means, inositol may also regulate the body's cholesterol levels. 

A 2018 study found that inositol supplementation reduced total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels (dubbed the ‘bad’ cholesterol) but did not affect high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (known as the ‘good’ cholesterol) among patients with metabolic diseases.

This suggests that in healthy individuals, it may reduce the risk of developing medical conditions like fatty liver disease and cardiovascular diseases. 

2. Increases insulin sensitivity

When you consume food, it is broken down into glucose. Your pancreas, then, secretes insulin to help carry the glucose from the blood to the cells where it is needed. When the cells fail to respond to the insulin, insulin resistance is said to have occurred.

This will lead to increased levels of glucose in the blood, which may increase the risk of certain diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, PCOS, and obesity.

Inositol plays a significant role in increasing insulin sensitivity in this situation, i.e., increasing the response of the cells to insulin, increasing insulin signaling, and thereby enabling the body to utilize blood glucose and, thus, maintaining blood sugar levels. 

Because insulin resistance can lead to obesity or the accumulation of fat, an increase in insulin sensitivity will help reduce the fat and, as a result, may help in weight loss.

Additionally, inositol, in this case, works similarly to metformin,, a drug used to lower blood sugar levels. However, it should not be a replacement for your diabetes medications

3. Reduces cravings and overeating

Low levels of serotonin (a ‘feel-good’ hormone) can lead to increased cravings and overeating. Inositol supports the production of serotonin. This may reduce the excessive cravings, thereby maintaining the caloric deficit that is necessary for weight loss.

4. Reduces inflammation

Chronic inflammation can hinder weight loss as it is associated with hormonal imbalances. Increased inflammation in the body can also increase resistance to hormonal signals, including insulin. 

Inositol has anti-inflammatory properties which is beneficial for creating a more conducive metabolic environment for weight loss. 

Also, the increased production of adiponectin (a protein hormone that is produced by fat cells), which is supported by inositol, can play a part here, as adiponectin also plays a role in reducing inflammatory processes. This role may benefit people with PCOS and other inflammatory conditions that may lead to weight gain.

How to take inositol for weight loss

Inositol supplement is an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved drug available as pills, powder, and syrup (mostly for children). The adult dosage for inositol supplements depend on the condition they are being used to manage.

About 1-4g (1000–4000 mg) daily intake of inositol can be effective for weight loss. It may be taken as a single dose or in two divided doses (morning and evening). While this supplement can be taken with or without food, it is more effective when taken with food or immediately after a meal.

Inositol is more effective for weight loss when combined with other dietary and lifestyle practices than when taken alone. Studies have also revealed that this combination is more effective than only dietary or lifestyle practices.

Furthermore, inositol can be taken in different forms, i.e., Myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol. Research has shown that taking a mixture of these different forms of inositol is more effective than taking either of them. The most effective combination should be commensurate with the physiological ratio of Myo-inositol to D-chiro-inositol in the blood, which is a ratio of 40:1, respectively.

This means that if the amount of myo-inositol is 2000mg, then D-chiro-inositol should be approximately 50mg, and if myo-inositol is 4000mg, D-chiro-inositol should be approximately 100mg.

How inositol can help improve PCOS symptoms

People with PCOS can benefit from inositol supplementation in the following ways:

  • Increased insulin sensitivity: Insulin resistance is common in PCOS. Inositol can help reduce this while increasing insulin sensitivity.
  • Reduced androgen levels: When the body uses insulin properly and at lower levels, it tends to lower the levels of male hormones called androgen, particularly testosterone, which are high in people with PCOS.
  • Improved ovulation and fertility: PCOS is one of the common causes of fertility. There are often no or a few ovulations in PCOS. Inositol can help increase the frequency of ovulation and improve the quality of eggs, facilitating the chances of pregnancy. It does this by increasing the production of follicle-stimulating (FSH) and luteinizing hormones (LH).
  • Regulation of menstrual cycle: People with PCOS often experience irregular menstruation. Inositol may play a role in its regulation by improving hormonal processes.
  • Reduced risk of developing metabolic syndrome: PCOS increases the risk of developing metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and fatty liver. However, inositol may reduce the risk of these diseases by increasing insulin sensitivity, among other actions.

Other benefits of taking inositol

Aside from playing roles in weight loss and the treatment of PCOS, inositol may also be beneficial in the treatment of:

  • Type II diabetes
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • High cholesterol
  • Infertility
  • Irregular menstrual cycle

Nutrients that can be found in inositol supplements

Inositol is sometimes referred to as a pseudovitamin. This is because it plays the role of a vitamin in the body, but is not classified as a vitamin because it is produced by the body.

Because the body is unable to synthesize vitamins, which are organic compounds necessary for the body's normal growth and operation, we must obtain them from our diets.

However, inositol supplements often contain other compounds and vitamins such as folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin E, melatonin, and alpha-linoleic acids.

Potential side effects of taking inositol supplement

Inositol has little or no side effects when taken in lower doses (≤ 4g). However, in high doses (>4g), significant side effects may manifest, e.g., nausea, diarrhea, flatulence, abdominal pain, dizziness, and fatigue.

Wrap up

Inositol is a naturally occurring compound in the body. When administered as a supplement, it may act as an adjunct for the treatment of certain conditions, such as PCOS, insomnia, mood disorders, diabetes, and metabolic diseases.

Studies have also shown that it may play a significant role in weight loss when combined with diet and exercise. Nevertheless, it's important you consult your doctor and/or certified dietitian before you commence inositol supplements. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can inositol cause weight gain?

There's no direct evidence that inositol causes weight gain. Studies, however, have shown effective weight loss with inositol supplementation.

How much inositol should you take per day for weight loss?

Studies have suggested that 1000–2000 mg (1-2g) of inositol per day may be effective for weight loss.

How long does it take inositol to work?

Inositol has a gentle approach and does not work aggressively. Therefore, immediate gratification shouldn't be expected. Some research indicates that inositol shows results after a minimum of 3–6 months.

Does inositol cause heavy periods?

Inositol has been shown to play a role in regularizing the menstrual cycle and regulating menstrual flow. A recent study on D-chiro-inositol showed that treatment with this form of inositol improved heavy menstrual flow and the length of menstruation. 

In addition, another study found that myo-inositol can help correct menstrual irregularities and menstrual flow.

References

  1. Baldassarre, M., et al (2021). Myoinositol Reduces Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in Human Endothelial Cells Exposed In Vivo to Chronic Hyperglycemia.
  2. Caputo, M. et al. (2020). Inositols and metabolic disorders: From farm to bedside 
  3. Concerto, C., et al (2023). Neurobiology and Applications of Inositol in Psychiatry: A Narrative Review
  4. Choi, H., et al (2020). Multifaceted Physiological Roles of Adiponectin in Inflammation and Diseases
  5. Freeman, A., et al (2021). Insulin resistance
  6. Grases, F., et al (2006). Influence of concomitant food intake on the excretion of orally administered myo-inositol hexaphosphate in humans. 
  7. Gudović, A., et al (2024). The Comparative Effects of Myo-Inositol and Metformin Therapy on the Clinical and Biochemical Parameters of Women of Normal Weight Suffering from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  8. Haris, M., et al. (2011). In vivo mapping of brain myo-inositol
  9. He, J., et al (2021). Impact of different stereoisomers of inositol on insulin sensitivity of gestational diabetes mellitus patients
  10. Khatoon R, et al (2022) Impact of Myo-Inositol on Ovary and Menstrual Cycle in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) – A Therapeutic Approach. 
  11. Le Donne, M., et al. (2019). Effects of three treatment modalities (diet, myoinositol, or myoinositol associated with D-chiro-inositol) on clinical and body composition outcomes in women with polycystic ovary syndrome
  12. Mukai, T., et al. (2014). A meta-analysis of inositol for depression and anxiety disorders
  13. Nordio, M., et al. (2019). The 40:1 myo-inositol/D-chiro-inositol plasma ratio is able to restore ovulation in PCOS patients: comparison with other ratios.  
  14. Porcaro, G., et al (2023). D-Chiro-Inositol in Endometrial Hyperplasia: A Pilot Study
  15. Sobhanifar, A., et al (2024). Effects of inositols on adipokines: A systematic review of current knowledge and potential mechanisms
  16. Tabrizi, R., et al. (2018) The effects of inositol supplementation on lipid profiles among patients with metabolic diseases: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
  17. Troisi, J., et al (2019). Metabolomic change due to combined treatment with myo-inositol, D-chiro-inositol, and glucomannan in polycystic ovarian syndrome patients: a pilot study. 
  18. Zarezadeh, M., et al. (2022). Inositol supplementation and body mass index: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized clinical trials