Other common name(s): IP6, IP-6, InsP-6, inositol, phytic acid, phytate, myo-inositol hexaphosphate
Scientific/medical name(s): inositol-1,2,3,4,5,6-hexakisphosphate
Inositol hexaphosphate (IP6) is a chemical found in beans, brown rice, corn, sesame seeds, wheat bran, and other high-fiber foods. It is converted into compounds in the body that are used by cells to relay outside messages to the cell nucleus. IP6 also aids the body in its use, or metabolism, of calcium and other minerals.
IP6 is a very specific form of inositol, and there are several other forms of it found in the human body. It is different, for instance, from myo-inositol, which is another form being studied because of its possible role in illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
Animal and lab research has found that IP6 might be effective in preventing tumors from forming and slowing tumor growth. One small study done in humans found that IP6 might help ease the side effects of chemotherapy and improve quality of life in people with cancer. Still, more clinical trials are needed to confirm these results and to find out if it might work in preventing or treating cancer in humans.
How is it promoted for use?
Proponents call IP6 a “natural cancer fighter” and claim it slows or reverses the growth of various forms of cancer, including breast, colon, and prostate cancers. It is thought to be an antioxidant, a compound that blocks the action of free radicals, activated oxygen molecules that can damage cells. It may help to prevent the abnormal signals that tell a cancer cell to keep growing from reaching the cell’s nucleus. Some research shows IP6 slows abnormal cell division and may sometimes transform tumor cells into normal cells. Supporters also claim it effectively prevents kidney stones, high cholesterol, heart disease, and liver disease.
IP6 is one form of inositol. Inositol is a kind of sugar formed by 6 carbon atoms, 6 oxygen atoms, and 12 hydrogen atoms. This combination of atoms can also form glucose, but the atoms are arranged differently in these 2 sugars. There are actually several forms of inositol, each with subtle differences in the arrangement of atoms, with myo-inositol being the most common form. IP6 is related, yet chemically distinct, from myo-inositol, which is being studied for its possible role in illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
What does it involve?
Many high-fiber food sources contain IP6, and it is also available in pill form as a dietary supplement combining inositol and IP6. Scientists do not know enough about the chemical to recommend a standard supplement dose. It is not known whether taking a supplement provides the same effect as getting IP6 from food sources.
What is the history behind it?
The existence of IP6 has been known for several decades. Interest in its potential anti-cancer properties emerged in the mid-1980s when Abulkalam Shamsuddin, MD, PhD, a pathologist at the University of Maryland, began to conduct research studies on inositol in the lab. He published a book on the subject in 1998. He and other researchers continue to study the effects of IP6.
What is the evidence?
All of the evidence regarding the anti-cancer effects of IP6 has come from laboratory cell cultures and animal studies. Laboratory studies of cell cultures have shown that IP6 may help put cancer cells on a path toward normal cell death and may help keep them from spreading to other parts of the body. It may also affect the growth of blood vessels that supply the tumor and the immune system in general. These studies have shown IP6 may have activity against cancer of the pancreas, breast, prostate, colon, and other types of cancer. Results of some studies in cells have also suggested that IP6 may help certain chemotherapy or hormone therapy drugs work better.
Studies in animals have found that supplementing the animals’ diets with IP6 may help prevent tumors from forming in the prostate, lung, colon, skin, and other areas. While animal and laboratory studies may show a certain compound holds promise as a helpful treatment, further studies are needed to find out if the results apply to humans. One preliminary human study suggested that IP6 may cause regression of precancerous lung changes in smokers. IP6 has not yet been studied in humans as a treatment for cancer.
One small study done in Croatia found that IP6 helped ease treatment side effects for women getting chemotherapy for breast cancer. The women getting IP6 also scored higher on quality-of-life assessments than women not getting IP6. But only 14 women were included in this study (7 of whom got IP6), so more studies of this possible role for IP6 are needed.
Inositol hexaphosphate and similar chemicals have also been studied for treating polycystic ovary syndrome, panic disorders, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorders, Alzheimer disease, post-traumatic stress disorders, and depression. Researchers have reached no firm conclusions about its impact on these conditions.
Are there any possible problems or complications?
This product is sold as a dietary supplement in the United States. Unlike drugs (which must be tested before being allowed to be sold), the companies that make supplements are not required to prove to the Food and Drug Administration that their supplements are safe or effective, as long as they don’t claim the supplements can prevent, treat, or cure any specific disease.
Some such products may not contain the amount of the herb or substance that is written on the label, and some may include other substances (contaminants). Actual amounts per dose may vary between brands or even between different batches of the same brand.
Most such supplements have not been tested to find out if they interact with medicines, foods, or other herbs and supplements. Even though some reports of interactions and harmful effects may be published, full studies of interactions and effects are not often available. Because of these limitations, any information on ill effects and interactions below should be considered incomplete.
When taken in moderate amounts, IP6 appears to be safe. However, no studies have been done to determine its safety. Some experts advise those who wish to increase their intake of IP6 to add beans, whole grains, and other foods rich in IP6 to their diets before resorting to supplements.
Inositol hexaphosphate may reduce the body’s ability to absorb some minerals such as zinc, calcium, and iron. This concern has been raised mainly in regard to infants. IP6 can also reduce the amounts absorbed from mineral supplements. No studies have tested the safety of IP6 in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Relying on this treatment alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences.
More information from your American Cancer Society
The following information on complementary and alternative therapies may also be helpful to you. These materials may be found on our website (www.cancer.org) or ordered from our toll-free number (1-800-227-2345).
The ACS Operational Statement on Complementary and Alternative Methods of Cancer Management
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Singh RP, Sharma G, Mallikarjuna GU, Dhanalakshmi S, Agarwal C, Agarwal R. In vivo suppression of hormone-refractory prostate cancer growth by inositol hexaphosphate: induction of insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3 and inhibition of vascular endothelial growth factor. Clin Cancer Res. 2004 ;10:244-250.
Somasundar P, Riggs DR, Jackson BJ, Cunningham C, Vona-Davis L, McFadden DW. Inositol hexaphosphate (IP6): A novel treatment for pancreatic cancer. J Surg Res. 2005;126:199-203.
Tantivejkul K, Vucenik I, Eiseman J, Shamsuddin AM. Inositol hexaphosphate (IP6) enhances the anti-proliferative effects of adriamycin and tamoxifen in breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2003;79:301-312.
Vucenik I, Shamsuddin AM. Cancer inhibition by inositol hexaphosphate (IP6) and inositol: From laboratory to clinic. J Nutr. 2003;133:3778S-3784S.
Note: This information may not cover all possible claims, uses, actions, precautions, side effects or interactions. It is not intended as medical advice, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultation with your doctor, who is familiar with your medical situation.
Last Revised: 08/05/2013