Inositol may turn out to be a key natural supplement for women trying to deal with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Here I take a look at the facts and evidence.
PCOS is among the most common hormonal diseases in women during their reproductive period. It occurs in up to seven percent of women in this age group. The exact cause of PCOS is unknown at this point. However, insulin resistance, excessive exposure to androgens (male hormones) during fetal development, genetic influence, and low-grade inflammation are possible culprits. As the name implies, in many but not all women with PCOS, small multiple small cysts appear in the ovaries of these women. In addition to this abnormality, women with PCOS most commonly have abnormal menstrual period that may include one or more of the following symptoms:
— No menstrual period for more than four months
— Menstrual intervals longer than 35 days
— Fewer than eight menstrual cycles in a year
— Prolonged menstrual periods that may be heavy or scant
There are several other commonly observed conditions associated with PCOS.
— Obesity: Over 50% of women with PCOS are obese.
— Prediabetes/Type 2 Diabetes: Insulin resistance is a key feature of PCOS. It simply means that body tissues are resistant to insulin action (allowing the transport of glucose into the cells). As a consequence, blood insulin as well as glucose rise leading initially to prediabetes and eventually to type 2 diabetes.
— Acanthosis Nigricans: This skin condition is characterized by the presence of pigmented velvety skin underneath the breasts, in the vulva, on the inner thighs, in the armpits, and/or on the nape of neck.
— Infertility: The most common cause of female infertility is PCOS.
Current medical treatments of PCOS include the use of low-dose birth control pills and several types of drugs to regulate the menstrual cycle, reduce bodily hair growth and
induce ovulation. In the case that these medications fail to work, an outpatient surgical procedure, “laparoscopic ovarian drilling,” is another treatment option.
Here is what studies have shown with inositol on PCOS.
1999: In 22 patients, researchers tested 1,200 milligrams of inositol or placebo for six to eight weeks. Results: 1) Reduced area under the insulin curve meaning decrease in insulin resistance; 2) A reduction in free testosterone; 3) Lowering of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure; 4) A reduction in triglycerides; and 5) Of 22 patients, 19 ovulated.
2002: In 20 patients, researchers tested 600 milligrams of inositol or placebo for six to eight weeks. Results: 1) Reduced area under the insulin curve, meaning a decrease in insulin resistance; 2) A reduction in free testosterone: 3) Lowering of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure; 4) A reduction in serum triglycerides; and 5) Out of 10, six ovulated.
2007: In 92 patients, researchers tested four grams of myoinositol plus 400 micrograms of folic acid, vs. only the folic acid over 14 weeks. Results: 1) No change in fasting blood sugar, insulin or insulin response to glucose challenge; 2) Weight loss; and 3) Improved ovarian function.
2008: In 20 patients, researchers tested two grams of myoinositol plus 200 micrograms of folic acid, vs. only the folic acid over 12 weeks. Results: 1) Insulin resistance improved; 2) Plasma luteinizing hormone, prolactin, testosterone, and insulin decreased; and 3) Menstrual cycle restored in all.