You have likely heard about inositol for PCOS and folic acid supplements advised for those planning to have a baby and during pregnancy. However, have you heard of inofolic for PCOS?
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome, more commonly known as PCOS, is an endocrine or hormone disorder with metabolic and reproductive consequences. It can display as a collection of symptoms including; acne, oily skin, lack of or irregular periods, lack of ovulation, excess hair growth, insulin resistance, increased testosterone levels and fertility issues.
One symptom and driver of PCOS is insulin resistance. Up to 95% of people with PCOS have insulin resistance, no matter their body weight or shape. Insulin resistance is the term used to describe your body unable to utilise insulin (a hormone) properly to allow your cells to use glucose (sugar molecules) from the blood. Consequently, your body tries to overcome this by producing more insulin than it should.
What is inositol?
Inositol is a type of sugar alcohol needed by almost every tissue in the body which acts as a vitamin-like substance involved in many cellular pathways. One of the key pathways is as a messenger involved in insulin signalling.
You can find inositol naturally in common foods such as nuts, beans and wholegrains. There has been growing evidence supporting the supplementation of inositol in improving insulin resistance and sex hormone ratios for people with PCOS, that in turn provide a positive effect on fertility and ovulation. In one study in 98 pregnancies with PCOS suggesting myo-inositol as a primary prevention treatment of gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
What is folic acid?
Folic acid, the synthetic version of Vitamin B9 or Folate, is a water-soluble vitamin vital for DNA formation, involved in protein metabolism and during periods of rapid growth. Therefore it is crucial to be consumed and also supplement during preconception and early pregnancy. Common folate-rich foods include wholegrain carbohydrates, beans, dark green vegetables, fruit and peanuts. Folate is commonly known to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida by enabling an embryo’s brain, skull, and spinal cord to develop properly.
If you are planning to conceive, aim to build up stores with 400mcg dose daily 3 months prior to conceiving and continue until week 12 of pregnancy.
What does folic acid do for PCOS?
Independently of its role in preventing neural tube defects in people trying to conceive, folic acid may have benefits for people with PCOS too.
Several studies have found that folic acid can improve glucose metabolism and improve cholesterol values in people with PCOS.
Should inositol and folic acid be taken together?
During pregnancy, some complications that manifest could be due to insulin resistance such as gestational diabetes and neural tube defects. There is evidence to suggest some neural tube defects (NTDs) are not responsive to folic acid and subsequently are defined as folate (or folic acid) resistant. A pilot study by Great Ormond Street Hospital found that inositol taken alongside folic acid before and during pregnancy could be more effective at preventing NTDs than folic acid alone. Particularly recommended for individuals who may have experienced pregnancies with NTDs before.
Furthermore, in a study of 29 people with PCOS, it was found that myo-inositol and folic acid combined have been found effective in improving ovulation rate, and embryo quality, particularly in IVF treatment.
What are the side effects of taking inositol and folic acid?
It is important to note that the research studies mentioned involve a small sample of people and further much larger scale studies are needed.
Inositol combined with folic acid or Inofolic is considered a safe treatment with little to no side effects in comparison to other medications, such as metformin. You may have heard of the medication, metformin recommended for PCOS as it primarily works by improving the way your body handles insulin, thus improving insulin resistance. However, it is associated with common side effects such as nausea and diarrhoea, affecting 1 in 100 people.
Where can I buy inositol and folic acid (inofolic) in the UK?
As you can imagine, if you google inofolic supplements quite a few options pop up. Instead of purchasing two separate supplements to take daily, we have found the below options which are available as capsules or in powder form.
Time Health – Inositol Complex | Myo & D Chiro Inositol with Folate & Chromium
A capsule version of inositol that contains:
- 2000mg Myo-inositol
- 50mg D-chiro-inositol
- 400mcg Folate (Quatrefolic®)
- 100mcg Chromium Picolinate
Find out more about Time Health Inostiol Complex here.
Advised as 1 to 2 sachets daily supplement designed for individuals with PCOS. 1 sachet contains: 2000 mg Myo-inositol, 50 mg Alpha-lactalbumin (whey milk protein), 200 mcg Folic acid. Alpha-lactalbumin is aimed at rebalancing the gut microbiome and reducing chronic inflammation, which can both be affecting a person with PCOS. This optimises the absorption of myo-inositol and folic acid.
Find out more about Inofolic Alpha here.
As mentioned, symptoms of PCOS can vary between individuals, and therefore what works for one person may not work for another. There is no one-size-fits-all. Working with a health professional can be helpful to find the approach that works for you.