Motuhifonua SK, Lin L, Alsweiler J, et al. Antenatal dietary supplementation with myo-inositol for preventing gestational diabetes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2023 Feb 15;2(2):CD011507. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD011507.pub3. (Systematic review)

BACKGROUND: Gestational diabetes with onset or first recognition during pregnancy is an increasing problem worldwide. Myo-inositol, an isomer of inositol, is a naturally occurring sugar commonly found in cereals, corn, legumes and meat. Myo-inositol is one of the intracellular mediators of the insulin signal and correlates with insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes. The potential beneficial effect of improving insulin sensitivity suggests that myo-inositol may be useful for women in preventing gestational diabetes. This is an update of a review first published in 2015.

OBJECTIVES: To assess if antenatal dietary supplementation with myo-inositol is safe and effective, for the mother and fetus, in preventing gestational diabetes.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth's Trials Register,, WHO ICTRP (17 March 2022) and the reference lists of retrieved studies.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We included published and unpublished randomised controlled trials (RCTs) including cluster-RCTs and conference abstracts, assessing the effects of myo-inositol for the prevention of gestational diabetes in pregnant women. We included studies that compared any dose of myo-inositol, alone or in a combination preparation, with no treatment, placebo or another intervention. Quasi-randomised and cross-over trials were not eligible. We excluded women with pre-existing type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently assessed studies for inclusion, assessed risk of bias and extracted the data. We checked the data for accuracy. We assessed the certainty of the evidence using the GRADE approach.

MAIN RESULTS: We included seven RCTs (one conducted in Ireland, six conducted in Italy) reporting on 1319 women who were 10 weeks to 24 weeks pregnant at the start of the studies. The studies had relatively small sample sizes and the overall risk of bias was low. For the primary maternal outcomes, meta-analysis showed that myo-inositol may reduce the incidence of gestational diabetes (risk ratio (RR) 0.53, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.31 to 0.90; 6 studies, 1140 women) and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (RR 0.34, 95% CI 0.19 to 0.61; 5 studies, 1052 women). However, the certainty of the evidence was low to very low. For the primary neonatal outcomes, only one study measured the risk of a large-for-gestational-age infant and found myo-inositol was associated with both appreciable benefit and harm (RR 1.40, 95% CI 0.65 to 3.02; 1 study, 234 infants; low-certainty evidence). None of the included studies reported on the other primary neonatal outcomes (perinatal mortality, mortality or morbidity composite). For the secondary maternal outcomes, we are unclear about the effect of myo-inositol on weight gain during pregnancy (mean difference (MD) -0.25 kilogram (kg), 95% CI -1.26 to 0.75 kg; 4 studies, 831 women) and perineal trauma (RR 4.0, 95% CI 0.45 to 35.25; 1 study, 234 women) because the evidence was assessed as being very low-certainty. Further, myo-inositol may result in little to no difference in caesarean section (RR 0.91, 95% CI 0.77 to 1.07; 4 studies, 829 women; low-certainty evidence). None of the included studies reported on the other secondary maternal outcomes (postnatal depression and the development of subsequent type 2 diabetes mellitus). For the secondary neonatal outcomes, meta-analysis showed no neonatal hypoglycaemia (RR 3.07, 95% CI 0.90 to 10.52; 4 studies; 671 infants; very low-certainty evidence). However, myo-inositol may be associated with a reduction in the incidence of preterm birth (RR 0.35, 95% CI 0.17 to 0.70; 4 studies; 829 infants). There were insufficient data for a number of maternal and neonatal secondary outcomes, and no data were reported for any of the long-term childhood or adulthood outcomes, or for health service utilisation outcomes.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Evidence from seven studies shows that antenatal dietary supplementation with myo-inositol during pregnancy may reduce the incidence of gestational diabetes, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and preterm birth. Limited data suggest that supplementation with myo-inositol may not reduce the risk of a large-for-gestational-age infant.  The current evidence is based on small studies that were not powered to detect differences in outcomes such as perinatal mortality and serious infant morbidity. Six of the included studies were conducted in Italy and one in Ireland, which raises concerns about the lack of generalisability to other settings. There is evidence of inconsistency among doses of myo-inositol, the timing of administration and study population. As a result, we downgraded the certainty of the evidence for many outcomes to low or very low certainty. Further studies for this promising antenatal intervention for preventing gestational diabetes are encouraged and should include pregnant women of different ethnicities and varying risk factors. Myo-inositol at different doses, frequency and timing of administration, should be compared with placebo, diet and exercise, and pharmacological interventions. Long-term follow-up should be considered and outcomes should include potential harms, including adverse effects.

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Comments from MORE raters

Physician rater

Supplements before and during pregnancy such as folic acid and iron have a key role. This Cochrane review shows that antenatal dietary supplementation with myo-inositol during pregnancy may reduce the incidence of gestational diabetes, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and preterm birth. These results are promising, but further evidence is mandatory. Some questions are still not answered, such as the optimal dose of myo-inositol, frequency and timing of administration, and which patients may benefit or benefit more from this supplementation.
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