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Biotin – Evidence-based Information on What Works (Sources, Benefits and Important Facts)

Biotin – Evidence-based Information on What Works (Sources, Benefits and Important Facts)

Biotin, also called vitamin H or vitamin B7, is a water-soluble B vitamin. Learn how much you need, sources, safety, and health benefits here!

biotin

Biotin (Vitamin B7) helps turn food into energy. Find out more about what biotin does and where to get it. Image via Shutterstock

What is Biotin?

Biotin is a B-vitamin that your body is dependent on for maintaining a functioning metabolism. Without Biotin, we are not able to use the essential nutrients we gain from our diets.

A lack of Biotin may lead to seizures, thinning of hair, brittle nails, skin rash, and severe fatigue. A child with a biotin deficiency may experience a delay in development.

How Much Biotin Do You Need?

The recommended amount of Biotin you should consume each day depends on your gender and age:

Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
0-6 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

Sources of Biotin

Biotin is stored in the liver. Therefore the most abundant food source is animal liver. Other organ meats and dairy products are also significant sources of Biotin. Salmon, tuna, and eggs are examples of good sources.

Plant-based options also provide adequate levels of Biotin in the diet. Almonds, Sunflower seeds, oatmeal, avocados, spinach, and broccoli are accessible sources of Biotin.

Biotin is stable when heated, meaning it does not leak out of food during the cooking process, making biotin deficiency in the healthy person a rare condition.

Beef Liver 3 oz. 30 .8 mcg
Whole Egg 10 mcg
Salmon 3 oz. 5 mcg
Sunflower Seeds ¼ cup 2.6 mcg
Almonds ¼ cup 1.5 mcg
Tuna 3 oz. 0.6 mcg
Spinach ½ cup cooked 0.5 mcg
Broccoli ½ cup fresh 0.4 mcg
Oatmeal 1 cup 0.2 mcg

Health Benefits of Biotin

Biotin is often marketed as a must-have for healthy, shiny hair and nails. Current research shows that although a deficiency of Biotin can lead to hair loss and brittle nails, biotin supplementation does not lead to stronger hair and nails in healthy individuals.

Adequate levels of biotin present as functioning bodily processes, while a deficiency leads to a breakdown of multiple functions.

One study showed that women who are losing their hair would have better results in supplementing Vitamin D before Biotin. This is due to alopecia being caused by an immune response, and vitamin D plays a more critical role in the immune system than Biotin.

Another benefit of Biotin could be an increase in blood glucose control with those who suffer from non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition found that people who had diabetes had significantly lower serum biotin levels than their healthy counterparts. Once the biotin levels were corrected the patient’s blood sugar levels lowered.

NOTE: More research is needed before Biotin can officially be considered a treatment for increased blood sugars.

When You Should Supplement Biotin?

People who are at risk for deficiency should make a substantial effort to eat foods that are rich in Biotin to prevent deficiency. There are four groups of people who need to be acutely aware of their biotin intake, and if they cannot reach their needs with food, they will need to take a supplement.

  • Pregnancy and lactation
  • While a woman is pregnant, she may still be at risk for deficiency even if she consumes an adequate amount of Biotin. Metabolism is altered and intensified during pregnancy and lactation, which leads to an increased need for more Biotin to meet the demand.

    The current recommendation for pregnant women is to obtain 30 mcg of Biotin per day. The recommendations for lactating women is up to 35 mcg.

  • Alcohol Abuse or Liver Disease
  • Because Biotin is stored in the liver, a person with the compromised liver function will have an increased need for Biotin. Alcohol abuse limits the absorption of many nutrients, and Biotin is one of them. People who chronically abuse alcohol will need to have their biotin levels checked annually to ensure they are consuming enough.

  • Biotinidase Deficiency Disorder
  • Biotinidase deficiency is a rare genetic disorder that prevents dietary Biotin from being used correctly in the metabolism. Due to the complications of this disorder, all newborns in the united states are checked before sent home. Treatment for biotinidase deficiency is continued oral supplementation of free Biotin.

  • Anticonvulsant Medications
  • Medications that treat seizures have been shown to cause biotin deficiency by increasing the breakdown of Biotin in addition to limiting the absorption of replacement biotin. A biotin supplement may be necessary while taking anticonvulsant medications.

    Consult your medical doctor before starting any supplements in addition to taking your medications.

    Biotin Supplementation Safety

    Consuming more Biotin than your body needs has not been shown to cause directly harmful effects. However, it may cause your doctor some confusion.

    An overabundance of Biotin can falsely alter your hormone levels in blood work, your doctor may believe you have thyroid disease when you don’t. Before getting blood work done, tell your doctor and lab technician that you are taking a biotin supplement.

    Summary

    • Biotin is a B-vitamin that your body is dependent on for maintaining a functioning metabolism.
    • A healthy person without deficiency or risk of deficiency can quickly obtain all the Biotin their body requires through food sources.
    • The most abundant sources of Biotin are beef liver and eggs, however many plant-based foods also contain Biotin, such as oatmeal, spinach, and almonds.
    • There is inadequate research to show that biotin supplementation will have positive effects on hair and nails on healthy individuals.
    • Biotin supplementation is vital for pregnant and lactating women.
    • Other populations who need to supplement Biotin are people with chronic alcohol abuse, people with Biotinidase deficiency disorder, and people who take anticonvulsant medications.
    • There are minimal health risks associated with taking too much Biotin, however, an overabundance may alter thyroid hormone blood tests.
    Feedback:

    References

    [1] Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1998.
    [2] Staggs CG, Sealey WM, McCabe BJ, Teague AM, Mock DM. Determination of the biotin content of select foods using accurate and sensitive HPLC/avidin binding. Journal of food composition and analysis: an official publication of the United Nations University, International Network of Food Data Systems 2004;17:767-76. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1450323/
    [3] Patel DP, Swink SM, Castelo-Soccio L. A Review of the Use of Biotin for Hair Loss. Skin Appendage Disord. 2017;3(3):166–169. doi:10.1159/000462981 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28879195
    [4] Almohanna HM, Ahmed AA, Tsatalis JP, Tosti A. The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2019;9(1):51–70. doi:10.1007/s13555-018-0278-6 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30547302
    [5] Perry CA, West AA, Gayle A, Lucas LK, Yan J, Jiang X, et al. Pregnancy and lactation alter biomarkers of biotin metabolism in women consuming a controlled diet. J Nutr 2014;144:1977-84. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4230210/
    [6] Srinivasan P, Kapadia R, Biswas A, Said HM. Chronic alcohol exposure inhibits biotin uptake by pancreatic acinar cells: possible involvement of epigenetic mechanisms. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol 2014;307:G941-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4250263/
    [7] Biotinidase Deficiency. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/biotinidase-deficiency/.
    [8] Krause KH, Berlit P, Bonjour JP. Impaired biotin status in anticonvulsant therapy. Ann Neurol 1982;12:485-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7181453
    [9] Mock DM, Dyken ME. Biotin catabolism is accelerated in adults receiving long-term therapy with anticonvulsants. Neurology 1997;49:1444-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9371938
    Author
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    Cristen Lindsay RD, CNSC

    Cristen Lindsay is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Support Clinician. She has a demonstrated background in ...

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