Relevance of Inositol and Choline Supplementation for Women with PCOS
Inositol is a biological compound related to the vitamin B complex group. Its actions in the body include: the formation of cell membrane integrity, the transportation of fats from the liver, and the activation of serotonin receptors. In short, inositol’s physiological roles are especially important for those with diabetes, high or imbalanced cholesterol, PCOS, and mood disorders such as anxiety, panic attacks or depression.
Phytic acid from fiber ingested through fruits, nuts, whole grains and vegetables is converted into bio-available inositol in the intestines. In women with PCOS the mechanism of this conversion is obscured causing a decrease in available inositol (as myo-inositol or D-chiro-inositol) necessary for the above mentioned physiological processes. Glucose can inhibit the absorption of inositol through the intestines and into the body’s tissues. It is notable to observe that insulin resistance (and higher glucose levels) is one of the symptoms of most women with PCOS.
One of the roles of inositol in the body is the development of follicles. Studies have shown that myo-inositol supplementation, where there is depletion, can promote the healthy maturation of follicles. This is of interest to women with PCOS because of evidence showing decreased levels of circulating myo-inositol and increased levels of myo-inositol excreted in the urine, lending an overall deficiency of inositol available for use by the body.
Because inositol is widely available in the foods eaten through a balanced diet-the issue of an inositol deficiency lies in the individual’s inability to absorb the nutrient or perhaps convert it from foods. Aside from this, coffee appears to have the ability to wipe out inositol from the body.
Choline is similar to inositol in its functions in the body. It is an intermediary in the production of an important neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. It aids in the regulation of homocysteine- a compound whose elevated levels are associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Choline is also important in the metabolism and transport of fats from the liver.
Foods that are adequate sources of choline are peanuts, eggs, milk, wheat germ, lecithin and liver. Inositol and choline are essential nutrients. They both have functions in the body that are relevant to human reproduction and may be considered for supplementation especially by women with PCOS.
Rebecca Rice M.S., L.Ac.
CNY Healing Arts Center, Latham, NY
1. Papaleo E., Unfer V., Baillargeon J.P., Chiu T.T. Contribution of myo-inositol to reproduction. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2009 Dec;147(2):120-3
2. Chan J, Deng L, Mikael LG, Yan J, Pickell L, Wu Q, Caudill MA, Rozen R. Low dietary choline and low dietary riboflavin during pregnancy influence reproductive outcomes and heart development in mice. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Apr;91(4):1035-43.