Tag Archives: PCOS

Myo-inositol: a safe and effective supplement for PCOS

Recently, there has been a lot of interest in the role of inositol in the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). A recent systematic review has weighed up the evidence behind the claims (1).

The systematic review looked at the clinical outcomes of myo-inositol supplementation as a treatment for PCOS. Specifically, it examined the effects of myo-inositol on ovarian function and metabolic and hormonal parameters in PCOS sufferers.

What is inositol?

Inositol
Inostiol is crucial for a whole range of processes from nerve signals to the breakdown of fats

Inositol is a substance that occurs naturally in the human body, and is also present in foods such as fruits, seeds, grains and nuts. It was once thought to be a member of the B Vitamin group, but this is not strictly true – vitamins are essential nutrients that the body cannot make on its own, whereas our body can actually synthesise inositol from glucose.

Inositol is used by the body to form signalling molecules, and so it is crucial for a whole range of processes, from nerve signals to the breakdown of fats. There are several different forms of inositol, and the two forms that are considered helpful in PCOS are myo-inositol and d-chiro-insolitol.

How is inositol helpful in PCOS?

The researchers found evidence that suggests myo-inositol is helpful in PCOS because it decreases levels of excessive androgens. The study also found evidence that the nutrient improves the ovarian response to hormones called gonadotropins, helping to achieve regular menstrual cycles and successful ovulation.

Women with PCOS often have a defect in the way that their body processes insulin. This has a knock-on effect on other hormones and proteins. Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) is decreased, testosterone levels are raised, and the results are problems with acne, hirsutism (excessive hair growth) and fertility.

The insulin-signalling pathway is heavily dependent on myo-inositol. Supplementing extra myo-inositol therefore appears to correct the mal-functioning insulin pathways, reducing the signs and symptoms of PCOS.

The blights of PCOS: ovulation problems, acne and hirsuitism

Other studies echo these findings. A previous randomised controlled trial investigated the effects of myo-insolitol supplements versus placebo on ovarian function (2). Ninety-two women with PCOS were given either 2g myo-inositol twice daily, or a placebo pill for 16 weeks. At the end of the study, significantly more women in the inositol group were found to have normal levels estrogen and progesterone, and experienced normal ovulation. The women in the myo-inositol also showed a significant amount of weight loss over the study period. The researchers concluded that the results indicate “a beneficial effect of myo-inositol in women with oligomenorrhea and polycystic ovaries in improving ovarian function.”

A further study investigated the benefits of myo-inositol on symptoms such as acne and excessive hair growth in women with PCOS (3). After three months of supplementation, levels of insulin, testosterone and luteinizing hormone were significantly reduced. At the six-month mark, both hirsutism and acne had also decreased. The researchers concluded that myo-inositol is a “simple and safe treatment that ameliorates the metabolic profile of patients with PCOS, reducing hirsutism and acne.”

Myo-inositol is not considered toxic even at high doses. It has been supplemented in doses up to 18g daily without significant side-effects, though digestive symptoms may be experienced at this level (4). Of course, it is not at all necessary to supplement at such as high dose for PCOS where results are seen at levels of around 2-4g daily.

I always consider the two most important questions to ask when considering supplementation to be ‘is it safe?’ and ‘is it effective?’ In light of the supporting evidence for the safety and effectiveness of this particular nutrient, I would not hesitate to use myo-inositol alongside a low G.I diet as an initial therapeutic approach to address PCOS.

References

  1. Unfer V, Carlmango G, Dante G, Facchinetti F (2012) Effects of myo-inositol in women with PCOS: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Gynecol Endocrinol 28(7):509-15.
  1. Gerli S, Papleo E, Ferrari A, Renzo GC (2007) Randomized, double blind placebo-controlled trial: effects of Myo-inositol on ovarian function and metabolic factors in women with PCOS. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences 11: 347-354.
  1. Zacchè MM, Caputo L, Filippis S, Zacchè G, Dindelli M, Ferrari A (2009) Efficacy of myo-inositol in the treatment of cutaneous disorders in young women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Gynecol Endocrinol 25(8):508-13.
  1. Lam S, McWilliams A, leRiche J, MacAulay C, Wattenberg L, Szabo E (2006) A Phase I Study of myo-Inositol for Lung Cancer Chemoprevention. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 15: 1526.
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The benefits of diet on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a very common female endocrine (hormone secreting glands) condition which is characterised by excessive androgens (mainly the male hormone testosterone) in the blood and anovulation (no ovulation). This leads to underdeveloped ovary follicles which are unable to fully release their eggs, then becoming attached to the ovary edges and developing into excess amounts of egg filled cysts (polycystic). Symptoms of PCOS often include sub-fertility, irregular periods, acne, excessive hair, insulin resistance and obesity which can all be extremely distressing for the individual. Consequently, low self esteem and depression are also common for sufferers.

PCOS can be positively influenced by a healthy diet
Diet has been shown to be a powerful influence on the symptoms of PCOS

A review (1) on PCOS published last year (2010) in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society journal looked into the roles that diet and weight have on the symptoms. The review reports on the great impact weight loss has for those that are obese as it helps with insulin resistance and reduces the male hormone testosterone, which then improves ovulation and fertility. However, weight is not the only concern with PCOS and diet has also been shown to be a powerful influence on the symptoms. Due to the link between PCOS and insulin resistance, low glycaemic index diets (which include foods which release glucose in to the blood slowly and steadily to prevent sugar highs and lows) have been shown to benefit insulin sensitivity and the menstrual cycle for sufferers. These foods include beans, lentils, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, nuts, salmon, meat (excluding red meat), all vegetables except green peas, sweet corn and carrots and fruits such as apples, oranges, grapes and pears among many others. As you can see from this list of healthy foods, low G.I foods are a great addition to any diet as they also keep you fuller for longer, are packed with nutrients, and can help with weight management as well. In addition to these foods, the authors of the review also commented on reports that fatty acids may help with the symptoms of PCOS as they reduce the levels of abdominal fat and liver fat, and new research suggests that fatty acids may also reduce androgen secretions, which again can benefit PCOS symptoms.

The fantastic effects of food on PCOS was also recently addressed on the Channel 4 programme Food Hospital which many of you may have seen, where a young lady was suffering with the classic symptoms previously described. After 12 weeks of improving her diet aiming to reduce the amount of testosterone in her body (by including the foods mentioned earlier, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and limiting junk food), the sufferer significantly reduced her symptoms. She also had a considerable boost to her self esteem as her facial hair had reduced and she had lost weight. The results were positive and are a good representation of how powerful food can be for our health, and supports any efforts to make more healthy diet and lifestyle choices.

Written by Lauren Foster

References

(1)  O’Connor, A. Gibney, J.  and Roche, H.M. (2010) Metabolic and hormonal aspects of polycystic ovary syndrome: the impact of diet. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 69, 628–635.

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