What Is Inositol?

by Melissa Chichester

You have probably heard of many B vitamins, such as Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin B-3 (better known as niacin). But have you ever heard of Vitamin B-8? You might know it by another name: inositol. Inositol is technically not part of the B-complex of vitamins, but is rather a vitamin-like substance. 

It is a type of sugar that interacts with messengers in your brain, such as serotonin and dopamine. It is also a structural component of cells.

Inositol is an essential component of cell membranes, and plays an important role in cell growth and function.*

It is also involved in nerve function.*

The history of inositol

Inositol was discovered in 1850 by German physician Johanes Joseph Scher, who isolated it from muscle tissue. Originally called “muscle sugar,” inositol went through a name change inspired by two Greek words: “in”-, meaning “sinew,” and “-ose”, meaning “sugar.”

In the 1940s, was considered an essential vitamin; however, it was later discovered to be made by the body. In the late 1980s, further research on inositol began, and it is still being heavily researched today, including through clinical trials to identify its further potential.

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Inositol in foods 

You can consume inositol in many foods. The good news is, many of these foods are rich in other nutrients, such as fruits and grains; however, take note: cooking and freezing does reduce the amount of inositol in them. Foods that contain inositol include cantaloupe, oranges, lima beans, navy beans, and whole grain bread. 

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Inositol supplements

Inositol is frequently combined with essential nutrient choline. The body cannot make choline, and it is an important component of cell membranes, especially in brain cells.* Soy lecithin naturally contains both choline and inositol. 

Another way to supplement with inositol is by using a powder form. Inositol powder is a great way to increase your intake. It dissolves quickly and easily into water without changing the taste. Plus, it’s an easy addition to pop into smoothies or soups if you want to increase the nutritional value of foods. 

There are no recommended daily doses of inositol. Your body makes it, and certain foods you consume may contain inositol. Overall, inositol can support healthy cell growth and function.*