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Biotin, also called vitamin H, is a type of vitamin belonging to the vitamin B complex group. It helps the body use carbohydrates, fats and protein to release energy. This vitamin is essential for healthy hair, skin, nails, eyes and liver. Biotin is also necessary for the optimal functioning of the nervous system. The food people eat contains complex nutrients in the form of carbohydrates, protein and fats. Biotin helps metabolize these nutrients to meet the demands of the body.
Biotin is vital for the growth of the developing baby in the uterus; hence, pregnant women are encouraged to consume optimal amounts of this vitamin. Certain studies have indicated that supplements containing biotin along with chromium (a type of mineral element) may help improve blood sugar in some people with diabetes. There is, however, a lack of enough evidence to support the role of biotin in causing this effect. Some studies suggest that biotin may provide relief in peripheral neuropathy (a condition characterized by nerve damage in the feet, legs, arms or hands). Peripheral neuropathy causes symptoms, such as tingling, numbness, pain, muscle weakness, burning or strange sensations and trouble walking. However, sufficient scientific evidence is lacking for the role of biotin in the treatment of peripheral neuropathy.
Biotin is present in several food items, such as
- Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and cheese
- Cooked whole eggs (raw egg prevents biotin absorption) particularly egg yolk
- Meat, fish and organ meats (such as liver)
- Nuts and seeds
- Certain vegetables (such as beans, peas, spinach, sweet potatoes and broccoli)
Since biotin is present in various foods, most people get adequate amounts of the vitamin from their diet. Being a water-soluble vitamin, it is not stored in the body. It can, however, be made by the “good bacteria” residing in the gut. Some people could be at a higher risk of biotin deficiency. These include the people who
- Have alcohol dependence (alcohol interferes with the absorption of biotin from the gut)
- Have an inherited disorder called “biotinidase deficiency” (a rare genetic disorder in which the body is unable to recycle biotin)
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Consume certain medications, such as antibiotics and antiseizure drugs
- Have chronic gut disorders, such as Crohn’s disease
- Consume raw eggs regularly
- Have been on parenteral nutrition (nutrition given through an intravenous line) for a long period.
Table. The daily recommended intakes for biotin in different age groups
|Age group||Recommended intake (in micrograms, mcg)|
|Birth to six months||5|
|7 to 12 months||6|
|One to three years||8|
|Four to eight years||12|
|9 to 13 years||20|
|14 to 18 years||25|
|19 years and older||30|
The recommended intake may vary depending on the presence of any risk factors for biotin deficiency.
Biotin deficiency may present as
- Thin hair or hair loss
- Weak, splitting or brittle nails in the fingers and toes
- Rashes around the eyes
- Dry eyes
- Rash or cracks around the mouth (cheilitis)
- Swollen, painful tongue that appears dark or magenta-colored (glossitis)
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of sleep (insomnia)
- Dry, itchy or scaly skin
- Low mood or depression
- Digestive issues, such as loose stools
- Aches and pains
If you are diagnosed with biotin deficiency or your doctor thinks you may not be getting enough biotin in your diet, they may prescribe you biotin supplements. Always take these supplements as prescribed by your doctor.
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Mount Sinai: "Vitamin H (Biotin)." https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/vitamin-h-biotin
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