Previous studies have shown that inositol supplements may help restore fertility in polycystic ovary syndrome, but this is the first evidence that the supplement called myo-inositol may reduce the number of cases of gestational diabetes.
Women who are overweight or obese or have a family history of diabetes are at risk for gestational diabetes, which affects up to 10 percent of pregnancies in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mothers with the condition have trouble dealing with carbohydrates leading to high blood sugar.
Lead author, Dr. Rosario D'Anna, of the Department of Obstetrics at University Hospital in Messina, Italy, added that, "Undiagnosed and untreated gestational diabetes can cause large-for-gestational-stage babies, which may lead to delivery complications."
The researchers selected 220 pregnant women with a family history of type 2 diabetes. Half the women were given two grams of myo-inositol supplements twice a day along with the recommended amount of folic acid, a supplement recommended for all pregnant women. The other women were given only folic acid, from the end of the first trimester throughout pregnancy.
A bottle of 60 650-milligram myo-inositol supplements, available in the U.S. without a prescription, costs about $10. The compound is also found in fruits, nuts, grains, and meats, but not at very high levels.
Of the women who took myo-inositol, six percent developed gestational diabetes, compared to 15 percent of the women who only took folic acid, according to the study
None of the babies in the myo-inositol group met criteria for being overweight, but seven babies in the non-supplement group did, weighing more than eight pounds, 13 ounces.
Dr. Donald Coustan of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island in Providence, who was not part of the study, added that, despite these positive findings, researchers don't know how the supplement works or if it is safe. "The results are promising, but we would need a larger trial and a broader group of women before recommending this supplement."
Diabetes Care, March 21, 2013