Biotin, also called vitamin H, belongs to the vitamin B complex group and 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.
What are the benefits of taking biotin?
Biotin helps maintain several major systems of the body, promotes the use of enzymes, and carries nutrients throughout the body. Other benefits include the following:
- Blood sugar management
- Studies have reported that biotin may help regulate blood sugar levels in some people with diabetes.
- B vitamins promote healthy brain function and help manage neurological symptoms of diabetes, including neuropathy (nerve dysfunction).
- Promotes hair health
- Studies report that biotin improves hair health by improving shine and volume.
- Biotin also helps cover the scalp in women who experience thinning hair.
- Improves skin and fingernails
- Clinical studies report that biotin helps improve skin hydration and appearance.
- In addition, some studies suggest that biotin can strengthen fingernails and make them grow faster.
- Necessary for prenatal care
- Biotin is essential for normal embryonic growth, promoting a healthy pregnancy.
- Studies have reported that a biotin deficiency can lead to health issues in developing fetuses.
What are food sources of biotin?
A variety of foods contain biotin, including:
- Meat, fish, and organ meats (such as liver)
- Fish (salmon)
- Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Cooked whole eggs (raw egg prevents biotin absorption) particularly egg yolk
- Legumes (beans, peas)
- Nuts (almonds, peanuts, pecans, and walnuts)
- Whole grains
- Vegetables, including sweet potatoes, mushrooms, spinach, and broccoli
Biotin is available as a supplement and component in some multivitamin or multimineral and B-complex supplements
How much biotin should I take a day?
The amount of biotin needed each day depends on age, gender, and underlying medical conditions.
|Birth to 6 months||5 mcg|
|Infants (7 to 12 months)||6 mcg|
|Children (1 to 3 years)||8 mcg|
|Children (4 to 8 years)||12 mcg|
|Children (9 to 13 years)||20 mcg|
|Teens (14 to 18 years)||25 mcg|
|Adults (older than 19 years)||30 mcg|
|Pregnant people||30 mcg|
|Lactating people||35 mcg|
The recommended intake may vary depending on the presence of any risk factors for biotin deficiency.
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What is 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.
Who should take biotin?
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.
Is biotin safe to take?
Because biotin and other B vitamins are water-soluble, the excess is not stored by the body. Additionally, the body gets rid of the excess through urination, so an overdose of biotin is extremely rare.
Biotin supplements may interact with certain medications, however, including:
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Biotin – Vitamin B7. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/biotin-vitamin-b7/
Health Benefits of Biotin. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-biotin#1
Mount Sinai: "Vitamin H (Biotin)." https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/vitamin-h-biotin
National Institutes of Health: "Biotin." https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Biotin-Consumer/
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