Research & Education

PCOS and Inositol

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS is a condition primarily characterized by insulin resistance and sex hormone imbalances highlighted by excessive androgen production. Symptomatically the hallmark of PCOS is the proliferation of small cysts on the ovaries that further contributes to hormone imbalance. Additionally weight gain acne depression and secondary facial and body hair growth may also be experienced with conversely thinning of head hair. In addition irregular menses followed by infertility can accompany PCOS. Women with PCOS are at a higher risk of preeclampsia the toxic condition developing in late pregnancy that is characterized by a sudden rise in blood pressure excessive gain in weight generalized edema albuminuria severe headache and visual disturbances.

Working with PCOS can be rather complex as several systems may be affected. A weight loss strategy that includes less reliance and consumption of carbohydrate foods and the introduction of moderate to vigorous exercise is crucial. Typically medications that include birth control pills as well as the medication metformin which is used to control diabetes are recommended.

One compound however that has consistently been shown to significantly aid in various aspects of the PCOS cascade is inositol. Inositol sometimes called vitamin B8 is related to the B complex vitamins but is not officially recognized as a vitamin as it can be synthesized in the body from glucose by intestinal bacteria. Inositol can refer to a group of related isomers of varying biochemical activity. The most common natural form of it is myoinositol. Inositol is present in all body tissues and is an important structural component of cell membranes and molecules that serve as messengers within the body. The highest concentrations are found in the brain and heart and lens of the eye.

Therapeutically inositol has been used in a variety of mental disorders including panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as well as schizophrenia and depression. It has also been shown to be helpful in those who suffer with insomnia.

In PCOS inositol as implied above has a therapeutic effect on a variety of symptoms and systems in those experiencing the condition. One theory states that inositol depletion may contribute to the pathogenesis of insulin resistance as there is evidence that inositol is an important mediator on the insulin signaling pathway.

In two in vivo trials myoinositol use was shown to significantly improve ovary function including ovulation frequency compared to those on placebo. Weight loss was also significantly improved in the study subjects consuming the inositol as well as certain parameters of blood lipid measurements.


In women with PCOS luteinizing hormone (LH) is hypersecreted and while the mechanism is not entirely clear excess production of insulin may be a contributing factor. Hypersecretion of LH contributes to inconsistent menses and therefore adversely affects consistent ovulation.  In another study of women with PCOS inositol was shown to improve insulin sensitivity thus reducing the hyperinsulinemic state that contributes to ovulatory dysfunction.

D-chiro-inositol is another isomer of the inositol group that the body can manufacture from myoinositol but in much smaller quantities. It has also been shown to be particularly effective in addressing and improving PCOS. It is however a much more expensive compound than myoinositol and thus not a realistic choice for many.

By addressing the contributing factors of insulin resistance weight and attendant hormonal imbalances with the incorporation of myoinositol the difficulty and frustration of PCOS can be alleviated with a great degree of success.

by Michael Fuhrman D.C.