Biotin, also known as Vitamin B7, is a water-soluble vitamin that is a part of the vitamin B family. The B vitamins are needed for many metabolic processes, they help support adrenal function and maintain a healthy nervous system.
Biotin plays the vital role in converting fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into usable energy. This water-soluble vitamin is also essential during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It also plays a critical part in maintaining our hair, nails, and skin.
Although this B vitamin is present in many foods like nuts, legumes, grains, cauliflowers, eggs, oysters and organ meats, people can develop biotin deficiency. Read on to learn everything you need to know about biotin and its health benefits.
What is biotin?
Biotin, one of the B complex vitamins, has many vital functions in the body. Also known as vitamin B7, it was once known as coenzyme R and vitamin H.
The H stands for ‘Haar und Haut’ which means hair and skin in German. The word ‘biotin’ comes from the Greek word ‘Biotos’ which means life and sustenance.
Biotin plays a vital role in several metabolic functions. Biotin helps control high blood pressure in people with type 2 diabetes, it helps maintain healthy hair and nails, can decrease insulin intolerance and can also prevent congenital disabilities.
Biotin has been used to treat hair loss, alopecia, seborrheic dermatitis, vaginal candidiasis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, Rett syndrome, and cancer.
Natural food sources of biotin
There are many rich food sources of biotin that you can add to your diet. These include –
1. Egg yolk
One whole cooked egg can provide up to 10 mcg of biotin. Always cook eggs before eating as raw eggs contain avidin, which binds to biotin and prevents it from being absorbed in the body.
2. Organ meat
A 3-ounce serving of cooked beef liver contains 30 mcg of biotin. Other organ meats like kidney also contain high levels of biotin.
3. Nuts and seeds
Almonds, pecans, walnuts, and peanuts are all good sources of biotin. A quarter cup of roasted almonds contains 1.5 mcg of biotin.
The biotin in mushrooms protects them from predators — both raw or cooked to add to the biotin content in your diet.
Salmon is a rich source of biotin, and one serving (3 ounces) can contain up to 5 mcg of biotin.
One cup of raw cauliflower can provide four mcg of biotin. Eat cauliflower raw to get the maximum biotin benefits.
7. Sweet potato
Sweet potato is amongst the richest vegetarian sources of biotin. A half-cup serving of cooked sweet potato contains 2.4 mcg of biotin.
Signs of biotin deficiency
Biotin deficiencies are rare. The daily requirement for this vitamin is relatively low, and there are plenty of food sources of biotin. However, intestinal malabsorption,
long-term use of certain anti-seizure medicines, overuse of antibiotics, intravenous feeding and eating raw egg whites can lead to biotin deficiency. Pregnant women can also experience biotin deficiency in mild forms.
The symptoms of biotin deficiency include –
- Dry and irritated skin
- Dry and brittle hair
- Hair loss
- Chronic fatigue
- Digestive issues
- Muscle pain
- Loss of appetite
- Menstrual cramps
- Tingling in limbs
- Cognitive impairments
Recommended adequate intake
There isn’t enough evidence to estimate the dietary requirement for biotin. So the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has set the recommendations for an adequate intake of biotin.
- Infants (0 to 6 months): 5 micrograms /day
- Infants (7 to 12 months): 6 micrograms /day
- Children (1 to 3 years): 8 micrograms /day
- Children (4 to 8 years): 12 micrograms /day
- Children (9 to 13 years): 20 micrograms /day
- Adolescents (14 to 18 years): 25 micrograms /day
- Adults (19 years and older): 30 micrograms /day
- Pregnancy: 30 micrograms /day
- Breastfeeding: 35 micrograms /day
Health benefits of biotin
1. Macronutrient metabolism
Without biotin as a co-factor, many enzymes do not work correctly. These enzymes are needed for crab, fat and protein metabolism (1).
Biotin converts glucose from carbs and sugar sources into energy. It also helps the body use amino acids from proteins to carry out multiple body functions. Biotin also assists enzymes that activate reactions necessary for the production of fatty acids.
If there isn’t enough biotin available in the body, it can lead to symptoms of sluggish metabolism like low energy levels, fatigue, digestive issues, weight gain, and mood changes.
2. Stabilizes blood sugar
Biotin can be particularly helpful for people with diabetes who struggle to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Biotin facilitates the activity of insulin, which is a crucial hormone to bring blood sugar levels back to a balanced state.
3. Helps strengthen nails
If you have weak nails that chip and crack easily, then biotin supplements may be the answer for you. Biotin is often touted as the natural remedy for brittle nails.
During one study, eight patients with brittle nails were given 2.5 mg of biotin per day
for six to 15 months. The results showed that the nail thickness improved by 25 percent in all the patients and nail splitting was also reduced (4).
During another study, 35 people with brittle nails were given 2.5 mg of biotin per day for 1.5 to 7 months. The study showed an improvement in the symptoms of 22 out of 35 patients (5).
4. Maintains healthy hair
Biotin helps to maintain healthy hair, and a deficiency in this vitamin can lead to dry and dull hair and hair loss. Though biotin is included in many hair masks and other hair care products, it is much more effective when it is eaten.
So, you can add more biotin foods to your diet or take a biotin supplement for improved hair health.
5. Improves skin health
According to studies impaired fatty acid metabolism caused by a deficiency in biotin is the reason behind the skin problems (8).
These conditions can be corrected with biotin supplements. While many topical creams and lotions include biotin, you can’t usually absorb B complex vitamins through the skin or hair cells. So you must ingest the vitamin to receive its benefits.
6. Protects brain function
Biotin, along with other B vitamins, helps keep the nervous system healthy by assisting with neurotransmitter activity and helping with nerve signals (9).
Biotin and other B vitamins improve memory and prevent age-related cognitive impairment and diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
7. Pregnancy and fetal development
The requirement for biotin increases during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Studies also show that mild biotin deficiencies frequently occur in the first trimester of pregnancy (10).
This may be because of renal wasting and accelerated breakdown of biotin (11). Some studies have also found that biotin deficiency during pregnancy can lead to congenital disabilities.
8. Multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease which causes the protective coverings of nerve fibers in the brain, spinal cord and eyes to be damaged or destroyed.
According to some studies, daily doses of biotin of up to 300 mg can improve MS-related disability as biotin is thought to be an essential factor in producing this protective layer called myelin (12).
During one study 23 patients with MS were treated with high doses of biotin for 2 to 36 months. Over 90 percent of the patients showed some degree of clinical improvement (13).
9. Supports thyroid function
B vitamins are essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid and adrenal glands. A deficiency in B vitamins can interfere with proper thyroid activity and lead to adrenal fatigue.
These glands are responsible for hunger, sleep, pain perception, mood, and energy. So a deficiency can lead to weight gain, difficulty in sleeping and fatigue.
10. Maintenance of muscles and tissues
Biotin plays a vital role in the growth and maintenance of bodily tissues and repair and muscle growth. When tissues and muscles are broken down biotin, and other B vitamins work to build back the strength of the muscle.
B vitamin supplements also help reduce inflammation the result in muscle and joint pain.
Side effects and precautions
Biotin is generally considered safe. Because it is a water-soluble vitamin, any excess dosage is excreted in the urine.
Your biotin levels may be affected if you are taking oral antibiotics or anti-seizure medications. Certain medicines like isotretinoin that are prescribed for acne may reduce the activity of biotin.
Digestive disorders that affect the intestinal bacterial levels can also lower biotin levels in the body.
Biotin, one of the B complex vitamins that plays the vital role in converting fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into usable energy.
It helps stabilize blood in people with type 2 diabetes, keeps skin, hair, and nails healthy, protects brain function and can also prevent congenital disabilities.
Many foods like eggs, nuts, seeds, organ meats, mushrooms, and cauliflowers contain biotin. You can also take biotin in supplement form.