A Complete Guide to Biotin – Sources, Uses and Health Benefits
What is Biotin?
Biotin is a vitamin belonging to the B-vitamin complex family. Our body depends on it for maintaining optimal metabolism. Without Biotin, we might not be able to process the nutrients properly from our diets.
Biotin (BYE-oh-tin) is also called Vitamin H and is a water-soluble vitamin by nature that is required to maintain the health of our hair, nails, and skin.
In extreme cases, lack of Biotin can lead to seizures, thinning of hair, brittle nails, skin rash, and severe fatigue. Children with biotin deficiency may experience a delay in development.
Biotin and Health
Biotin is a cofactor in breaking down carbohydrates, proteins and fats in the body. It is also known to enhance gene expression, nervous system function and endocrine activity in the pancreas, thyroid and adrenal glands.
Specifically, biotin is involved in:
- Gluconeogenesis: This is the process where glucose is synthesised from sources other than carbs, such as amino acids, and biotin-containing enzymes help initiate this process.
- Fatty acid synthesis: Biotin assists enzymes activate reactions that are important for the production of fatty acids.
- Amino acid breakdown: Biotin-containing enzymes help in the metabolism of several important amino acids, including leucine.
Biotin is widely regarded for its ability to enhance the health of our hair, nails and skin. As per the American Academy of Dermatology, adequate amounts of biotin from food or supplements has been seen to improve nail care and help to grow and thicken hair. A systematic review of the effects and benefits of Biotin on hair and nail growth has evidence for “clinically improving conditions in patients with underlying pathology for poor hair or nail growth.”
Recommended Intakes of Biotin
Human body can’t store biotin, so consuming biotin-rich foods daily is important for getting the adequate amounts needed for gene regulation and metabolism.
There is no recommended daily allowance, but an adequate amount of biotin for adolescents and adults is thought to be between 30 and 100 micrograms (mcg) of biotin per day.
The National Institutes of Health has not established how much is too much, but it doesn’t seem to be toxic even in oral doses as high as 200,000 mcg a day.
Adequate Intakes for Biotin
|Birth to 6 months||5 mcg||5 mcg|
|7 to 12 months||6 mcg||6 mcg|
|1–3 years||8 mcg||8 mcg|
|4–8 years||12 mcg||12 mcg|
|9–13 years||20 mcg||20 mcg|
|14–18 years||25 mcg||25 mcg||30 mcg||35 mcg|
|19+ years||30 mcg||30 mcg||30 mcg||35 mcg|
Natural Food Sources of Biotin
Food sources of biotin include organ meats (liver and kidney mostly), egg yolk, nuts – almonds, peanuts, pecans, and walnuts, nut butters, soybeans and other legumes, whole grains and cereals, cauliflower, bananas and mushrooms.
Animal-based protein sources are likely to have higher biotin content. Dairy products however, contain only small amounts of biotin. Biotin is also widely available in supplemental form.
|Food||Serving Size||mcg Biotin per Serving|
|Sunflower seeds, roasted||¼ cup||2.6|
|Sweet potato, cooked||½ cup||2.4|
|Almonds, roasted||¼ cup||1.5|
|Spinach, boiled||½ cup||0.5|
|Broccoli, raw||½ cup||0.4|
|Plain yogurt||1 cup||0.2|
Cooking usually renders biotin ineffective therefore, raw or less-processed versions of these foods contain more active biotin.
It’s always best to get nutrients from natural sources. However, if you’re unable to get enough biotin naturally, supplements can be your next best companion. You may consult your doctor before going ahead with supplementation.
Health Benefits of Biotin
Most people can easily get the biotin they need by eating a healthy diet, but many suggest that getting more biotin can help regulate your blood sugar, promote healthy hair, skin, and nails, and let pregnant moms have healthier babies.
1. Regulates diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition characterized by high blood sugar levels that leaves the insulin function impaired.
A biotin deficiency can disrupt blood sugar, or glucose regulation. Some evidence shows blood biotin levels may be lower in people with diabetes.
As per a study, biotin was found to lower blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus, a severe form of diabetes. The results were achieved by combining biotin with chromium picolinate, a supplement form of chromium.
In effect, biotin was shown to regulate blood sugar levels by preventing insulin resistance, which is a major step forward in controlling diabetes.
Overall, more high quality research is needed to fully understand the effects of biotin on diabetes and blood sugar control.
2. Promotes healthy hair and nails
Even though biotin deficiencies are rare; when surfaced, it can lead to symptoms of hair loss or a scaly red rash.
Biotin has been shown to regrow, repair and reduce hair fall significantly. It helps to make your hair look thick, lush, healthy and shiny. One of the main benefits of Biotin is that it promotes hair growth and healthy hair.
In a 2015 double-blind placebo study, researchers took a sample group of women who had visible hair loss. Half of them were made to take nutritional supplements of B7 (or Biotin) and another half took a placebo twice per day for 90 days.
Digital images of affected scalp area were compared from the beginning and end of the study. Their hair was also washed to see the amount of shredding. In conclusion, the women who took the B7 nutritional supplement experienced significant hair growth in affected areas and reduced hair fall.
Most of these women continued to take the nutritional supplement even after
180 days and the results supported further hair growth and improved quality of hair. No adverse effects were documented in any of the individuals participating in the study.
Biotin also helps improve the body’s keratine infrastructure. Keratine is the protein that makes up our hair, skin and nails.
3. Boosts skin health
Biotin can improve psoriasis, a chronic condition that majorly affects the skin, scalp and nails. Research indicates that biotin may help slow the progress of multiple sclerosis. It is an autoimmune disease that damages the protective nerve fibers of the brain, spinal cord and eyes.
Biotin (B-7) supports healthy cell growth and has also been shown to help smoothen and thicken brittle fingernails. One of the benefits of Biotin is that it helps improving skin and creates a youthful glow.
The major influence of biotin on the skin may stem from its effect on fat metabolism. This process is important for maintaining healthy skin, and it may be impaired in people with low levels of biotin.
There is no recommended daily intake of the vitamin, although 30 mcg per day is generally considered to be adequate for the average adult.
Further data from larger sample groups is expected to provide more conclusive evidence.
4. Fetal development
Biotin can be very important and benefits women who are pregnant or lactating.
While symptomatic biotin deficiency is rare, low biotin levels are quite common during pregnancy.
In fact, about 50% of pregnant women are likely to develop mild deficiency. This level of deficiency may affect a person’s health, but not as much to cause any noticeable symptoms.
Healthcare professionals say that this deficiency is common among pregnant women due to the body’s rapid breakdown of vitamins during pregnancy.
As a result, a pregnant woman may need more biotin either from the diet or from supplements than women who are not pregnant.
That said it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional before taking supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Biotin Deficiency Symptoms
Biotin deficiency is almost rare. However, certain sections of the population are more susceptible to deficiency, such as:
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. They have higher need for biotin and most prenatal vitamins don’t contain biotin.
- People diagnosed with Biotinidase deficiency (BTD), a rare genetic disorder in which the body is unable to process biotin. It is easily treated if recognized in the first few weeks of life. Approximately one in 60,000 new-born babies is affected by BTD.
- People with excessive alcohol dependency. Alcohol inhibits biotin absorption in the body.
Symptoms of biotin deficiency can start gradually and build up over time.
These can include thinning of hair, loss of hair across the body, scaly, red rashes around body openings, including the eyes, nose, mouth, and anus. Conjunctivitis may also develop.
In extreme cases, adults may experience
- skin infections
- brittle nails
- neurological problems, such as depression, lethargy and hallucinations
Are there any side-effects to biotin supplementation?
Biotin is water-soluble, which means extra biotin simply passes through your body when you urinate. There are no known toxicity symptoms associated with too much biotin. It is safe to consume 200 mg of biotin on a daily basis.
What taking too much biotin can do is get in the way of certain blood tests. For instance, it may alter your hormone levels and make it look like you have thyroid when you don’t. Therefore, it is advisable to mention this to your doctor prior to testing.
Biotin deficiency is a relatively rare but serious condition. Hair loss and brittle nails can be a sign of biotin deficiency in extreme cases. The ones particularly at risk are pregnant women, alcoholics, chronic smokers and people who consume raw egg whites.
Daily intake of a Biotin Supplement can help you address your skin problems on a cellular level, overcome hair dryness and dehydration along with other hair problems, improve fat metabolism in the body and also support healthy cognitive function in the brain.
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