Inositol has been classified as a member of the vitamin B complex, often referred to as vitamin B8, and is present in all animal tissues, with the highest levels in the heart and brain. It is part of the membranes (outer coverings) of all cells, and plays a role in helping the liver process and export fats as well as contributing to the function of muscles and nerves. Inositol helps to maintain proper electrical energy and nutrient transfer across the cell membranes.
Inositol is available from both plant and animal sources. The plant form in which inositol is available is phytic acid, which can bind with minerals and so affect their absorption negatively. The body is also able to manufacture this factor. Inositol is available from wheat germ, brewer’s yeast. bananas, liver, brown rice, oat flakes, nuts, unrefined molasses, raisins and vegetables.
Inositol, as a naturally occurring compound in the body or when consumed in one’s diet, is primarily used in the treatment of liver conditions, diabetes, obsessive compulsive disorder, and panic disorder. It has been found that people suffering from clinical depression have decreased levels of inositol in their cerebrospinal fluid, and treatment therapies for depression have included its use. A double-blind study has been conducted that supports the claim that inositol helps reduce the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Inositol has also had some success therapeutically in improving the nerve function in diabetic patients with pain and numbness due to nerve degeneration. Generally, diabetic people should take extra inositol. People with multiple sclerosis may also receive some benefit with inositol supplementation, as there seems to be a higher percentage of inositol deficiency in nerve cell membranes in those patients.
Inositol is found in plants, as Inositol Hexaphosphate (IP6). It is a phosphorylated form of Inositol commonly found in fiber-rich plant foods. IP6 supports natural cell defense against damaging hydroxyl free radicals by chelating with reactive iron. It boosts the body’s natural cellular defenses by increasing the levels of inositol phosphates in the cells; as a result, it dramatically increases natural killer cell activity, which plays a key role in strengthening the body’s immune system.
Inositol is found in a variety of foods such as nuts, seeds, oats, rice, beans, corn, chickpeas, liver, pork, veal, whole grains, cantaloupe, most citrus fruits, lecithin granules, and wheat germ. It is available as a supplement in capsule or powdered form. Jarrow Formulas makes a powdered form that is readily available from online health retailers. There are others. Inositol powder has a delicious sweet, creamy taste and is a fabulous addition to smoothies.