Inositol is a carbohydrate that was once considered a B vitamin. This carbohydrate is found in certain foods, such as oranges, cantaloupe, nuts, beans, seeds and high-bran cereals. The inositol found in oranges and cantaloupe, as well as in the plant component lecithin, are easily digested and absorbed, which makes them a good source if inositol. That found in nuts, beans, seeds and high-bran cereal aren’t digestible, and therefore aren’t a good source. While you can get inositol from certain foods, you can make sure you’re getting enough of it to help lower your cholesterol by taking it in supplement form.
What is High Cholesterol?
Fatty deposits develop in your blood vessels when you have high cholesterol. The deposits limit blood flow to the arteries, and you may not get enough oxygen-rich blood. This can increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke. While regular exercise, a healthy diet and medication can help prevent and treat high cholesterol, sometimes other methods or supplements are needed as well.
There are different types of cholesterol, and some are better than others.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)—This “bad” cholesterol is in charge of transporting cholesterol particles through your body. This type of cholesterol builds up in your arterial walls, which makes the walls hard and narrow.
Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL)—This lipoprotein is high in triglycerides, which is a type of fat. This fat attaches to the proteins in your blood. Medication alone can often not help lower a high VLDL level, because VLDL also increases the size of LDL.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL)—This “good” cholesterol transports excess cholesterol back to your liver.
Certain factors that increase your risk of high cholesterol include smoking, obesity, a large waist circumference, poor diet, lack of exercise and diabetes. For others, genetics alone makes them susceptible to high cholesterol. While medications are often prescribed to help manage cholesterol, inositol is a natural substance that benefits cholesterol by lowering its levels. This natural substance has been known to help manage cholesterol for over 50 years.
How does Inositol Lower Cholesterol?
Inositol lowers cholesterol by liquefying lipids (fats) through its “lipotropic” properties. This process prevents lipids from clogging the arteries. Inositol acts as a positive agent by preventing the accumulation of cholesterol in the liver, which helps reduce the risk of developing fatty liver. The liver plays an important role in cholesterol synthesis, through both metabolism and excretion. Inositol redistributes body fat, most noticeably away from the liver. It emulsifies fat, which keeps this fat from solidifying and causing damage. This process helps prevent clogged arteries and thickened arterial walls. Inositol therefore has a positive effect not just on cholesterol levels, but also on other cardiovascular functions.
The Role of Niacin
Niacin and inositol are often paired together in the lowering of cholesterol. Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is a very important nutrient. When there is not enough niacin in the body, you can experience a serious deficiency syndrome, similar to other vitamin deficiencies. Niacin inhibits fat breakdown in the adipose (connective) tissue. It prevents the release of lipids, and thus lowers the amount of very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol that is synthesized in the liver. Niacin also increases the blood level of good cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. By changing blood cholesterol levels, niacin is able to improve the lipid profile in the body and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The Benefits of Combining Niacin and Inositol
Despite its health benefits, niacin can cause what’s called “niacin flush.” The symptoms of this side effect include warm, itchy and red skin. These symptoms are a result of a large release of histamine that dilates the blood vessels, very similar to an allergic reaction. While niacin flush is harmless, it can be quite aggravating. Pairing your niacin intake with inositol, and in particular inositol hexanicotinate (IHN), can prevent this side effect. IHN breaks down in the body after you take it, which releases niacin in your blood stream. This process prevents flush and also helps the niacin to have an “extended release effect.”
What Other Benefits does Inositol Provide?
Inositol has other biological functions that positively affect other parts of the body. These functions include:
Regulating insulin secretion
Maintaining cell membrane potential
Contributing to gene expression
Promoting fat breakdown
Conducting impulses in the nerves
Modulating serotonin activity
Inositol supplements can also help treat psychiatric disorders, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, agoraphobia, bulimia and panic disorder. It helps treat insulin resistance as well as polycystic ovarian syndrome. Inositol can even aid postmenopausal women, by lowering serum triglyceride levels and increasing “good” cholesterol, otherwise known as high-density lipoprotein.
The connection between Inositol and cholesterol has been studied for a significant amount of time. In fact, inositol has been known to help lower cholesterol levels since the 1940s. While its use is rather minimal, studies have proven that it has a positive effect on lowering cholesterol. With documented positive results, and no annoying side effects, inositol is a handy and natural way to help keep your body working properly and to take positive action toward continued long term health.