PCOS – Inositol and Fertility

An inexpensive B vitamin can help a woman get pregnant.

Women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a leading cause of infertility, may ovulate more often if they take the B vitamin inositol. Two research groups in Italy, both led by Enrico Papaleo, have done excellent studies with the dietary supplement myo-inositol and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), showing significant benefit. This is great news for women who suffer from this disorder as it gives them an alternative to the diabetes drugs that American doctors typically prescribe for PCOS.

Polycystic ovary syndrome is one of the leading causes of infertility. It also tends to cause hair growth where it’s not wanted, acne and difficult menstrual cycles. Although a few months of avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates and getting daily exercise almost always resolves PCOS, American doctors instead tend to prescribe diabetes drugs such as metformin to help regulate insulin levels. (It’s so much easier to write a prescription than it is to help women deal with diet and exercise.) This is unfortunate as these types of drugs have a lot of side effects and don’t address the underlying issue. Myo-inositol is a good middle-of-the-road approach.

Myo-inositol, a form of inositol, is a member of the B-complex family of vitamins. It’s not an essential vitamin, as it can be manufactured by the body, but it tends to be deficient in women with PCOS, and restoring it can help regulate insulin enough to restore normal ovulation and thus fertility, and assist with weight loss.

Here’s the Research

These aren’t large studies, but they’re nicely done. Inositol is very safe so there’s no harm in trying it, but if you’re already on a diabetes drug talk to your doctor first. If you want to get off a diabetes drug, do it gradually and under your doctor’s supervision.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Sept-Oct 2007 European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, 92 women were split into two groups, and the placebo half got folic acid, while the test group got folic acid plus 4 gms daily of myo-inositol, for 14 weeks. The myo-inositol group had a significantly higher rate of ovulation, higher HDL (good) cholesterol, and they lost weight, while the placebo group gained weight. It’s important to note however, that the heavier a woman was, the less effective the treatment was.

The other study, published in the Dec 2007 journal Gynecological Endocrinology, put 25 PCOS women on a combination of folic acid and inositol (2 gms combined) for six months. The results were reported as follows, “Twenty-two out of the 25 (88%) patients restored at least one spontaneous menstrual cycle during treatment, of whom 18 (72%) maintained normal ovulatory activity during the follow-up period. A total of 10 singleton pregnancies (40% of patients) were obtained.”

Based on these two studies, myo-inositol seems to be a remarkably effective treatment for PCOS, and for restoring fertility. Even better, it doesn’t have side effects and it’s relatively inexpensive. For women who are trying to get pregnant, it’s ideal to combine this treatment with improved diet and exercise, so that the insulin problems aren’t carried into pregnancy.

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