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The generic name for hexahydroxycyclohexanes, which are classified as carbohydrates. The inositols have exceptional chemical stability and are easily crystallized. Of the forms common in nature, the most ubiquitous and biologically important is myoinositol, a water-soluble crystalline compound. Many biological functions require myoinositol, and thus it is identified as an essential metabolite. Although originally classified as a vitamin, myoinositol is now known to be a cellular precursor of phospholipids that serve as a source of metabolic regulators and as membrane anchors for certain proteins. Some microorganisms require exogenous myoinositol for growth. See Carbohydrate, Lipid
(hexahydroxycyclohexane), a cyclic hexatomic alcohol. It exists in nine possible stereoisomeric forms, of which only myoinositol (meso-inositol) exhibits vitamin properties.
Inositol is a sweet-tasting solid substance with a melting point of 225°–227°C and a molecular weight of 180.2. Readily soluble in water and insoluble in organic solvents, it is widely distributed in plants, generally in the form of phytic acid and its calcium-magnesium salt (Phytin). Inositol is an essential growth factor for certain microorganisms. The human daily requirement of inositol is approximately 1–1.5 g. Like choline, inositol exhibits lipotropic properties; in particular, it prevents adiposis of the liver when there is a protein deficiency in the diet.