Inositol is sometimes called vitamin B8, but it isn't actually a vitamin. But the renewed research interest in this unique type of sugar is due to its role as a crucial building block of phosphatidylinositol.
Phosphatidylinositol is a molecule in the brain with a central role in the functioning of receptors that bind with several neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, and serotonin, among others.
The results of other studies suggest that when taken in doses of up to 20 grams (g) per day, inositol can help reduce the severity and frequency of panic attacks by inhibiting a molecule called m-CPP. This finding is important because many people with panic disorder can reap the potential benefits of inositol.
When a person has a panic disorder, they may go through recurring and unexpected panic attacks. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) defines panic attacks as "abrupt surges of intense fear or discomfort that peak within minutes." Individuals who have the disorder are in constant fear of having a panic attack. These episodes are associated with sudden, overwhelming terror without an obvious cause. The physical symptoms of a panic attack may include breathing difficulties, a racing heart, and sweating.
To date, currently available prescription medications are only effective in two-thirds of patients who report panic attacks. These medications are also associated with side effects and some drugs, like benzodiazepines, can even result in dependence.
For the one-month double-blind placebo-controlled study, researchers observed 20 patients with panic disorder. According to the results of the study, inositol (up to 18g/day) and fluvoxamine (up to 150 milligrams (mg) per day) were equally effective in reducing the frequency of panic attacks.
The researchers noted that the average number of weekly panic attacks in the group taking inositol decreased by four. On the other hand, the average only decreased by two in the group taking fluvoxamine.
The results of some small double-blind placebo-controlled studies imply that large doses of inositol can help address different anxiety conditions that respond to serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as agoraphobia, panic attacks, and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Researchers hope that in time, inositol can be used as an effective remedy for these conditions, especially since people who take inositol only report mild and temporary side effects. Additionally, there are no reports of serious adverse effects among individuals who take doses of inositol that are effective against panic attacks.
While several studies have determined that inositol has beneficial effects on panic disorder and other anxiety disorders, the significance of findings is restricted by the small number of studies completed and the small size of these studies. Experts believe that conducting large prospective placebo-controlled studies can help verify the above findings. Larger studies can also help determine the most effective and appropriate dosing strategies of inositol for conditions such as agoraphobia, OCD, and panic disorder.
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