Benefits, Function & Best Sources
Biotin is a B-complex vitamin required by every cell in the body. B vitamins are a class of chemically distinct vitamins that help your body process food into energy. Also known as vitamin H, coenzyme R, and vitamin B7, biotin helps the body metabolize fats, protein and carbohydrates. The human body needs biotin for normal growth and development, and the vitamin is especially critical for healthy embryonic growth. Biotin can also help maintain healthy hair, skin, and nails.
Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin, as opposed to fat-soluble. Unused water-soluble vitamins (C and B complex) pass quickly through the body and are excreted in urine. The body does not store them and supplies must be regularly replenished. And, because the body flushes excess amounts, water-soluble vitamins do not generally accumulate to toxic levels.
Biotin is crucial for good health and there are two sources from which the human body obtains it. The first is diet; the second is bacteria. Biotin can actually be synthesized by the microbiota – the beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Biotin Health Benefits
1. Biotin Assists Metabolic Processes
Biotin is a cofactor required by several carboxylase enzymes for carbon dioxide transfer. In more simple terms, biotin helps your cells metabolize fatty acids and amino acids, and further assists in the chemical formation of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources. This means that biotin is crucial for maintaining a normal, balanced metabolism.
2. Biotin Supports Healthy Hair, Skin, and Nails
Biotin is an important nutrient for health hair, nails, and skin. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of women with thinning hair found that biotin may be a capable supplement for encouraging healthy looking hair. The study found that women who took biotin supplements increased their hair count, volume, coverage, and thickness significantly compared to the control group. A separate study found that biotin can help thicken and strengthen brittle fingernails.
Biotin deficiency can lead to rashes and skin lesions. Studies have found that supplementation can help remedy skin problems caused by biotin deficiency. In one notable instance, dogs with fur and skin conditions were given an oral biotin supplement. Sixty percent of the subjects showed complete recovery after treatment, with a further 31% reporting improvement. Only 9% showed no effect.
3. Biotin May Improve Glucose Levels
Biotin plays an important role in carbohydrate metabolism. Multiple studies suggest that biotin by itself or in combination with chromium encourages normal blood sugar. Imbalanced blood sugar frequently accompanies low biotin levels; both animal and human studies have found that adequate biotin supplementation may support healthy blood sugar levels. Further research is necessary to explore this effect before drawing conclusions.
4. Biotin and Pregnancy
Obtaining sufficient biotin is a concern for pregnant women. Animal tests have found that biotin deficiency can cause birth defects. Because biotin doesn’t pass easily to the foetus, a biotin deficiency can be magnified between mother and child. Even a mild or borderline biotin deficiency in the mother can result in a severe deficiency for the fetus. This can cause foetal development problems, especially malformations of the skeletal system. According to one study, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may require more biotin in their diet than reported by current estimates.
Biotin deficiency is a rare but serious condition. Symptoms include dry skin, dry eyes, hair loss, cracking in the corners of the mouth, inflammation of the tongue, loss of appetite, fatigue, insomnia, and depression.
The most common causes of biotin deficiency are certain medications and conditions that reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Biotinidase deficiency is a genetic disorder which prevents the body from properly recycling biotin. Extreme cases can cause seizures, reduced muscle tone, breathing problems, balance problems, deafness, blindness, and candida. It can also cause developmental problems in children. Biotin deficiency can also affect alcoholics and people with inflammatory bowel disease.
Those suffering from biotin deficiency should avoid egg whites. Eggs whites contain avidin, a protein that binds to biotin and reduces its ability to be absorbed by the body. Biotin deficiency caused by a diet high in egg whites actually has a name—egg white injury, and eczema is a common symptom. Ironically, egg yolks are an excellent source of biotin.
Fortunately, the symptoms of biotin deficiency are easily remedied. It should come as no surprise that the solution to a biotin deficiency is more biotin.
Vegan Foods Rich in Biotin
The very best way to supply your body with the right amount of biotin is to eat plenty of biotin-rich foods. Foods rich in biotin are the same foods that are generally good sources of B vitamins. Animal sources like pork, organ meat, egg yolk, and milk are biotin-rich, but not only unappealing to those of us on a plant-based diet, but animal products are excluded from all DBM programs. Vegan sources include yeast, legumes, avocados, nuts. Take a look at the charts alongside: Natural Sources - Vitamin B7 - Table 1 - pages 1 and 2 and Top Vitamin B7 Foods - Vegan Sources.
Daily Intake Recommendation
Because biotin has gone relatively understudied compared to other vitamins, no official Recommended Dietary Allowance has been set. A wide range of recommended intakes have been proposed, but a consensus remains elusive. There are even disagreements between branches of the same agencies. The U.S. National Library of Medicine recommends a daily biotin intake of around 30 micrograms (mcg) for adults, while the National Institutes of Health posits an intake closer to 300 mcg.
Biotin Side Effects and Considerations
Biotin is non-toxic, but may interact with certain medications metabolized by the liver. Always consult a healthcare professional before you start any new supplement. Always take supplements as directed.
We do NOT as a rule recommend supplementation. It has to be determined that there is a deficiency before we sugget anything other than a clean, whole-food-plant-based diet as a source of all nutrients.
While food is always the best way to provide your body with the nutrients it needs, supplementation may be necessary if your diet doesn’t provide consistent, complete nutrition, and ESPECIALLY if you are pregnant.
Adapted from Article: globalhealingcentre