WHAT IS BIOTIN?
Biotin, also called vitamin B7, is one of the B vitamins. It is involved in a wide range of metabolic processes, both in humans and in other organisms, primarily related to the utilization of fats, carbohydrates, and amino acids. The name biotin derives from the Greek word “bios” (to live) and the suffix “-in” (a general chemical suffix used in organic chemistry.
Also known as vitamin H, biotin is one of the B complex vitamins that help the body convert food into energy. The word “biotin” comes from the ancient Greek word “biotos,” which means “life” or “sustenance.” B vitamins, specifically biotin, help keep your skin, hair, eyes, liver, and nervous system healthy. Biotin is also a crucial nutrient during pregnancy, as it’s essential for embryonic growth.
BENEFITS & FUNCTION OF BIOTIN
Breaking down macronutrients
Biotin helps the body convert food into energy — it supports several enzymes involved in the breakdown of carbs, fats, and proteins. Biotin is involved in the following:
- Gluconeogenesis: This is the synthesis of glucose from sources other than carbs, such as amino acids and biotin-containing enzymes, which help initiate this process.
- Fatty acid synthesis: Biotin assists enzymes that activate important reactions for the production of fatty acids.
- Amino acid breakdown: Biotin-containing enzymes are involved in the metabolism of several essential amino acids, including leucine.
Supporting nail health
Brittle nails are fragile and quickly become split or cracked. A biotin deficiency can lead to brittle nails. For people with this deficiency, taking supplements that contain biotin could improve the strength of their nails.
Boosting hair health
The diet can play an essential role in the health of the skin and hair. For instance, some foods for healthy hair include eggs, Brazil nuts, and fatty fish. Many hair products that claim to encourage healthier, stronger hair contain biotin. Biotin deficiency can lead to hair loss, which indicates that the vitamin is involved in keeping the hair healthy.
Supporting pregnancy and breastfeeding
Biotin is very important for women who are pregnant or lactating. While symptomatic biotin deficiency is rare, low biotin levels are typical during pregnancy.
Reducing blood sugar in people with diabetes
Type two diabetes is a metabolic condition characterized by high blood sugar levels and impaired insulin function.
Boosting skin health
Scientists do not fully understand biotin’s role in maintaining healthy skin. However, people with biotin deficiencies may experience skin problems, including red, scaly rashes. Some people also believe that biotin may help improve psoriasis.
The vitamin’s influence on the skin may stem from its effect on fat metabolism. This process is vital for maintaining healthy skin, and it may be impaired in people with low levels of biotin.
Supporting MS treatment
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease. It damages the protective covering of nerve fibers in the brain, spinal cord, and eyes. This protective covering is called myelin, and biotin may play an important role in producing it. Studies have shown that people with MS respond positively to daily biotin doses of up to 300 milligrams (mg). This supplementation may reverse the progression of the disease and reduce chronic disability.
Deficiency in Biotin
A biotin deficiency may disrupt blood sugar or glucose regulation. Some evidence shows blood biotin levels may be lower in people with diabetes.
Biotin deficiency can be caused by inadequate dietary intake (rare) or inherited one or more inborn genetic disorders that affect biotin metabolism. The most common among these is biotinidase deficiency. Low activity of this enzyme causes a failure to recycle biotin from biocytin. Rarer are carboxylase and biotin transporter deficiencies. Subclinical deficiency can cause mild symptoms, such as hair thinning, brittle fingernails, or skin rash, typically on the face.
Sources of Biotin
Natural sources of biotin. Biotin can also be found in several foods, including egg yolk, organ meats (liver, kidney), nuts, almonds, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, nut butters, soybeans, etc. other legumes, whole grains and cereals, cauliflower, bananas, and mushrooms. Because food-processing techniques like cooking can render biotin ineffective, raw, or less-processed versions of these foods contain more active biotin.
PROPER DOSAGE FOR TAKING BIOTIN SUPPLEMENTS
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends the following biotin intake per day:
Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
Birth to 6 months 5 mcg 5 mcg
7–12 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