Inositol or D-Chiro Inositol (DCI) belongs to the vitamin B family and plays an important role in insulin action. Let us see the relationship between inositol and diabetes. Insulin acts through a complex chain reaction. Insulin is essentially a hormone, meaning it is only a “messenger.” It simply gives the “message” to the target cell (in this case; fat, liver or muscle cells) to take up glucose. The actual action is carried out by a chain of chemical compounds, one of which is DCI. The end result is that sugars (glucose) are pushed inside the cells where they generate energy from them.
Now, we do not get enough DCI from our diets and hence our bodies have to make it. And if the body isn’t able to make enough DCI, there is a problem with insulin action. This may lead to insulin resistance, wherein cells resist the action of insulin and blood sugars remain in the blood.
It is found that diabetic patients excrete more DCI in their urine as compared to non-diabetic individuals. This means that diabetic patients have a faulty metabolism of DCI and that enough DCI isn’t available for proper insulin action.
It has also been found that women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, have low levels of DCI. In such a scenario, these women are susceptible to type 2 diabetes. And we know for a fact that PCOS is one of the early signs of diabetes in women, as it is associated with insulin resistance.
Inositol and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a complex hormonal disorder affecting 25% of women of reproductive age. It is characterized by obesity, non-functioning ovaries, hyperandrogenism (expression of male characters, especially facial hair, due to high levels of male hormones) and menstrual irregularity. A review of all clinical trials done to evaluate the effects of inositols (myo and d-chiro) states that both these supplements are extremely safe and highly effective in treating PCOS. They reduce insulin resistance, improve ovulatory function and even help in reducing obesity by regulating glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis.
Apart from helping treat insulin resistance and conditions associated with PCOS, like high blood pressure, high triglycerides and high levels of testosterone, DCI is also used for:
- Diabetic nerve pain
- High cholesterol
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Psoriasis, and
- Treating the side effects of lithium treatment
What Does Research Have to Say About Inositol and Diabetes?
A study which assessed the inositol and diabetes type 2 connection was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It found that DCI increases the action of insulin in women with PCOS. DCI improved the function of the ovaries. It also decreased the levels of male hormones in the blood, which give rise to increased facial hair and obesity in women with PCOS. DCI was also found to decrease blood pressure as well as the concentrations of lipids in blood.
A review of different studies regarding the role of DCI in diabetes found conclusive evidence about the importance of this chemical in the role of insulin. In case of a defect in the production of DCI in the body, it could be externally supplemented to restore insulin sensitivity and the efficient disposal of glucose.
Are the terms Inositol, Myo-inositol and D-Chiro Inositol Different?
The term “inositol” refers to a group of nine closely related chemical compounds. These compounds are also known as pseudovitamins as they share their structure with the B family of vitamins. When the term “inositol” is used as a dietary supplement, it usually refers to myo-inositol, unless otherwise stated. Myo-inositol is most effective in issues concerning female health (promotes fertility, restores insulin sensitivity and also helps PMS symptoms like dysphoria – state of unease or general dissatisfaction with life – and anxiety).
Natural Sources of D-Chiro Inositol
Natural foods that are rich sources of DCI include:
- Soy lecithin (2100 mg per 100g)
- Chickpeas (760 mg per 100g )
- Brown Rice (700 mg per 100 g)
- Wheat germ (690 mg per 10g)
- Lentils (410 mg per 100g)
- Barley (390 mg per 100g)
- Oats (320 mg per 100g)
- Buckwheat products (from 14.5 to 89.5 mg per 100g of food)
- Meats, like veal and cow liver (340 mg per 100 g) and beef (260 mg per 10g)
- Fruits, like oranges (210 mg per 100 g), grapefruit (150 mg per 100 g), strawberries (95 mg per 100g)
- Vegetables, like peas (160 mg per 100 g), cauliflower (92 mg per 100g)
DCI is also produced inside the body from the conversion of myo-inositol.
How Much Would Help?
Studies suggest an average dosage of 600 mg of D-Chiro Inositol for every 130 pounds (60kg) of body weight. So, if you are below 130 pounds, you take one capsule of 600 mg. If you are above 130 pounds, then you take two such capsules.
It would also help if you took a supplement that was actually a combination of myo-inositol and D-Chiro Inositol in a ratio of 40:1. This means that a daily dose of MYO between 2 to 4 grams and that of DCI between 50 to 100 mg.
Is D-Chiro Inositol Safe?
We still do not know whether DCI is safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding, since no clinical trials have been done on that till date. But since it is a compound that plays a crucial role in a vital activity, there is no reason to believe that it cannot be safe to take in the form of a supplement when the body is unable to make it in sufficient amounts.
As always, it is best to consult your doctor on whether to take DCI supplementation to reduce insulin resistance. And if at any point you wish to discontinue taking DCI, you need to tell your doctor so that he/she can put you on a different medication.
A preliminary investigation did assess the efficacy of DCI, myo-inositol, manganese and folic acid supplementation in the second trimester of pregnancy. We can safely deduce from this study that since it assessed efficacy in pregnant women, it is really okay to take DCI during pregnancy.
Inositol and Gestational Diabetes
During pregnancy, many women have increased insulin resistance because their bodies produce high amounts of “diabetogenic” (diabetes causing) hormones. These hormones are produced by the placenta to provide nutritional support to the fetus (in the case of non-availability of food). Under normal circumstances, the insulin levels of the mother are able to keep the blood sugar levels under control. But in some cases, the pancreas of a woman isn’t able to produce enough insulin or there is too much insulin resistance. Such women are at a high risk of getting gestational diabetes (GD).
GD may harm the fetus and has to be controlled by medication. However, most conventional anti-diabetic medication crosses the placental barrier and enter the fetus’s body to cause more harm. Many researchers have explored the possibility of using inositol for treating GD. Many studies have indeed shown that myo-inositol supplementation can reduce the risk of GD. However, current research hasn’t shown the efficacy of inositol in reducing the risk or treating GD completely with the total confidence required from a scientific study. But inositol does have a potential to be used for GD, however, further studies are required.
What Are The Side Effects of D-Chiro Inositol?
In a study conducted to assess the safety and effectiveness of DCI in patients with type 2 diabetes, none of the participants reported any kind of side effects after the consumption of DCI for three months.
The Final Verdict on D-Chiro Inositol
There is conclusive evidence of the efficiency of D-Chiro inositol in increasing insulin sensitivity and helping bring down blood glucose levels. It has also been found to decrease blood pressure and lipid levels in the blood. DCI is both safe and effective at the suggested dosages.
We suggest that you take it as a supplement only after consulting with your doctor. Any dietary supplementation should complement a healthy diet and exercise regimen. Diabetes is reversible, but it needs a very disciplined approach with regards to the food that you eat as well as lifestyle habits. Dietary supplements play a crucial role in reducing the health complications associated with diabetes. They can also help with side effects of anti-diabetic medication.