Inositol is an essential building block of cell membrane LIPIDS. Chemically, inositol is a Cyclic ALCOHOL with six hydroxyl groups, one per carbon atom. Inositol is a constituent of the inositol-containing phospholipid, phosphatidylinositol, a component of inner-cell membranes. Derivatives of inositol function as HORMONE relay signals in cells. Diverse hormones such as VASOPRESSIN (from the pituitary gland), EPINEPHRINE (from the adrenal gland) and releasing factors from the HYPOTHALAMUS stimulate the release of inositol triphosphate from phosphatidylinositol.
Animal studies show that inositol may protect against ATHEROSCLEROSIS and against hair loss. Inositol is also supposed to help reverse nerve damage caused by diabetes in animals. Oral supplementation in human diabetics has not verified this result. Diabetics should consult their health care providers before taking inositol supplements. Inositol has a low toxicity.
Nutritionists have not yet established the optimum amount of inositol in the diet. It is widely distributed in food and is also manufactured in the body. Sources include CITRUS FRUIT (except lemons), CANTALOUPE, whole grain bread, cooked beans, green beans and nuts. Inositol occurs in grains such as PHYTIC ACID, in which six phosphate groups are attached to the inositol molecule. Phytic acid can bind minerals and limit their uptake.
Sharnsuddin, Abulkalarnan M., “”Inositol Phosphates Have Novel Anti-cancer Function,”‘ Journal of Nutrition, 125 (supp. 3; 1995), pp. 725S-32S.