Inositol is present in all animal tissues, with the highest levels in the heart and brain. It is part of the membranes (outer linings) of all cells, and plays a role in helping the liver process fats as well as contributing to the function of muscles and nerves.
This vitamin, unofficially referred to as “vitamin B8,” promotes the growth of hair, reduces cholesterol levels, contributes to the function of muscles and nerves, and has a calming effect. As with Choline, inositol is needed for lecithin formation and in the metabolism of fat and cholesterol. Inositol, a naturally occurring isomer of glucose, is also useful for removing fats from the liver and should be used in pets with fatty liver disease.
THERAPEUTIC USES FOR PETS
While there is no scientific proof for this use, holistic doctors have reported regrowth of hair in pets with skin disorders who take inositol.
IP-6 (inositol hexaphosphate) has been recommended for use in people and pets with cancerous tumors. The proposed action is to control cell division, increase the toxicity of natural killer cells, and as an antioxidant. More research is needed to determine if IP-6 is useful as part of the therapy for carcinomatous tumors. Inositol is also recommended for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and attention deficit disorder. Inositol appears to have therapeutic effects in various mood disorders similar to those seen with serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), without the side effects. For these reasons, supplementation with inositol may be indicated for dogs and cats with cognitive disorder (as well as other behavioral problems), although no studies have proven its use for this common problem.
Inositol may also be involved in depression in people. Studies have shown that people who are depressed have much lowerthan- normal levels of inositol in their spinal fluid. In addition, inositol participates in the action of serotonin, a neurotransmitter known to be a factor in depression. For this reason, inositol has been proposed as a treatment for depression, and preliminary evidence suggests it may be helpful.
In people, inositol is also sometimes proposed as a treatment for complications of diabetes (specifically diabetic neuropathy), but there have been no double-blind placebo-controlled studies, and two controlled studies had mixed results.
There do not seem to be any adverse effects at the recommended human and animal dosage of 25 to 100 mg/kg per day.
SOURCES OF INOSITOL Brewer’s yeast, lecithin, meats, milk, vegetables, and grains supply inositol. Nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, cantaloupe, and citrus fruits supply a substance called phytic acid, which releases inositol when acted on by bacteria in the digestive tract. There are no specific indications for inositol supplementation in dogs and cats.
SAFETY ISSUES FOR PETS
No serious ill effects have been reported for inositol. However, no long-term safety studies have been performed. Safety has not been established in young children, women who are pregnant or nursing, and those with severe liver and kidney disease; similar precautions are probably warranted in pets.
As with all supplements used in multi-gram doses, it is important to purchase a reputable product, because a contaminant present, even in small percentages, could pose real problems for pets.