Health Benefits From Biotin Vitamin B7
Biotin was not appreciated for many years in the field of health. However, many new and interesting discoveries about biotin are changing that. What is biotin, and what can it do for your health? Well, read on to find out!
What is biotin?
Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that has various names; vitamins B7 and vitamin H. H stands for Haar und Haut, which means hair and skin in German. It is part of the B complex of vitamins. Vitamin was first discovered in 1927. However, it took forty years before it was officially named a vitamin. Biotin is needed by every living creature, but can be made by various types of organisms including some types of bacteria and yeast. Because biotin is a water soluble vitamin, it cannot be stored in the body. As a result, biotin must be consumed from the diet on a frequent basis.
Biotin helps with the metabolism (breakdown) of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. Biotin helps turn various carbohydrates and proteins into glucose, which is fuel for the body. Biotin also helps break down branched chain amino acids and odd chain fatty acids. Without enough biotin, you get a change in your fatty acid profile, with an increase in odd-chain fatty acids. With an increase in certain odd-chain fatty acids, you may be at higher risk for metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
Supports hair, skin and nail health
Biotin is needed for the making of protein, particularly the protein keratin, which is needed for healthy nails and long hair. Biotin is also necessary for the proper functioning of carboxylase enzymes, which are enzymes that make fatty acids. Fatty acids are necessary for skin health. Biotin supplements are great for improving the strength of your hair and nails. Many hair, nail and shampoo products contain biotin because of its benefits for proper hair and nail growth. However, biotin is not easily absorbed through the hair or skin, so it will not improve your hair or skin if you use these products.
Biotin is used for the treatment of cradle cap. This is inflammation of the scalp that causes flaky and scaly skin in infants. Biotin is also used to treat early graying of hair in people with low biotin levels. Biotin, in combination with zinc and non-oral clobetasol propionate can treat bald spots in children and adults. Biotin is also used to treat uncombable hair syndrome in children and brittle nail syndrome. The dosage of biotin used to control uncombable hair and treat brittle finger nails is 5 milligrams per day.
Supports heart health
Biotin is important in maintaining normal functioning of the heart muscle. Biotin does this by helping in the breakdown of cholesterol. Biotin and chromium have been shown to improve heart health in type 2 diabetics by reducing the ratio of total cholesterol to good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) and decreasing the ratio of bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) to good cholesterol. Biotin may help with blood lipid control. Many studies have found an association between biotin and blood lipids. Pharmaceutical doses of biotin seem to decrease blood lipids and help with the metabolism of lipids. High doses of biotin have been found to reduce blood triglycerides in diabetic and nondiabetic patients with hypertriglyceridemia (high blood lipids).
Supports immune health
Biotin is important for immune system function. Children with inherited abnormalities of biotin metabolism(which cause a deficiency in biotin) get skin infections such as Candida dermatitis, have tests that show decreased immunity, insufficient antibodies to fight infection, and insufficient T lymphocytes (immune system blood cells) in the blood.
Supports nervous system health
Biotin is important in maintaining normal functioning of the brain. The brain is very sensitive to the delivery and break down of glucose, of which biotin plays a key role. Biotin deficiency leads to developmental delay of infants and children.
Biotin can treat peripheral neuropathy, which is nerve pain in the hands and legs due to kidney failure and diabetes.
Helps with blood glucose control
Biotin helps break down glucose and is important for glucose control. It specifically helps the liver take up glucose, and is important for the expression of the genes for insulin and its receptor, which are genes responsible for controlling blood glucose levels. Biotin also plays a main role in the functioning of the pancreatic beta cells, which are cells that make, store and release insulin, which helps control blood glucose levels.
Biotin stimulates the pancreatic and hepatic glucokinase genes. The simulation of hepatic glucokinase increases the use of glucose for the making of glycogen, the stored form of glucose. Pancreatic glucokinase causes the release of insulin, which lowers blood glucose levels. Biotin also decreases the genes for a key liver enzyme that is responsible for the liver’s production of glucose. Additionally, biotin increases the use of glucose for the making of fat.
Deficiency of biotin has been linked to the body being unable to use or handle glucose. In people with type 2 diabetes, there is less biotin circulating in the bloodstream than those with normal blood glucose. Biotin in combination with chromium may help decrease blood glucose in those with type 2 diabetes, whose diabetes is not well-controlled by prescription medications.
Treatment of biotin deficiency
Biotin deficiency is uncommon because bacteria in the intestines produce more biotin than we need each day. Also, many foods contain biotin. On average, adults in Western countries consume 35-70 micrograms of biotin per day, which is more than the adequate intake of biotin
Treatment of temporary hair loss
Biotin supplements have been shown to improve the growth of hair in women experiencing temporary hair loss. Women were treated for 180 days with biotin reported shinier hair. They reported that their scalp was covered with more hair, and also reported smoother skin and moister skin.
Supports cell health
Biotin is necessary for the genes to function properly. It is needed for DNA and RNA synthesis and for cells to grow and multiply. It is also needed for cell signalling (communication between cells). Errors in cell signalling are responsible for various diseases such as cancer, autoimmune disease, and diabetes.
In the body, biotin attaches to histones. This helps repress certain genes, help repair DNA, and represses transposons, which are substances that can change your genetic makeup. Thus, biotin is important for DNA stability as it prevents your DNA makeup from changing. Biotin is also responsible for the expression of genes. More than 2,000 biotin-dependent genes have been discovered in human liver and lymphoid cells. Lymphoid cells are mainly found in areas such as the lymph glands, tonsils and spleen. Biotin also prevents cellular stress.
Supports a healthy pregnancy
Biotin is necessary for health growth of the embryo. As a result, it is important during pregnancy.
Useful for treatment of biotin responsive basal ganglia disease
Biotin responsive basal ganglia disease is caused by mutations of a gene for the transport of thiamin (vitamin B1). Symptoms appear around the ages of three to four. Symptoms include confusion, drowsiness, seizures, lack of coordination of muscles, paralysis of the facial muscles, repetitive muscle contractions, and difficulty swallowing. It can result in coma and death if not treated. It is treated by giving 5-10mg/kg/day of biotin and 300-400mg/day of thiamin.
Biotin may be useful for the treatment of multiple sclerosis
Biotin may decrease or reverse disabilities in people with multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is damage to the myelin sheath, which is a fatty covering of the nerve fiber that protects the nerve fibers. Since biotin is needed to make fatty acids, which are needed to make the myelin sheath, researchers feel biotin would be beneficial in decreasing or reversing MS symptoms.
A small study found that 100% of patients given 100-600mg per day of biotin had improvements in their vision, while 89% of patient had decreased paralysis of their hands and legs. In a large, randomized 48 week study of 154 participants with multiple sclerosis, 13 out of 103 patients receiving 300mg daily of oral biotin had decreases in their disability scores, while 0 out of the 51 patients who were taking the placebo pill (non-biotin pill) had decreases in their disability scores.
Biotin may be useful in restoring the sense of taste
A study showed that supplementation with 10-20mg of biotin daily restored the sense of taste to those who had lost their sense of taste.
Biotin deficiency is rare and cannot be diagnosed by lab tests. It is only diagnosed by symptoms such as hair thinning with loss of hair colour, red, scaly rashes around the eyes, nose, and mouth, dry eyes, not feeling hungry, difficulty sleeping, cracked corners of the mouth, dry scaly skin, an enlarged painful tongue, conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eyes), and neurologic problems such as depression, tiredness, hallucination, and numbness and tingling of your hands and legs. Minor deficiencies tend to result in only nervous system disorders, while the remaining symptoms of deficiency tend to occur with severe deficiency.
Causes of biotin deficiency
There are some metabolic diseases and disorders that cause abnormal metabolism or uptake of biotin. Biotin deficiency can be as a result of rare inborn errors of metabolism (genetic diseases that cause problems in metabolism). This can be due to deficiencies in holocarboxylase synthetase, which is an enzyme needed for biotin metabolism, or deficiency in biotinidase, which is an enzyme which makes biotin available for use by the body.
Holocarboxylase synthetase deficiency
Holocarboxylase synthetase deficiency is a genetic disease in which the body has difficulty using biotin effectively. As a result, the body cannot break down proteins and carbohydrates. This leads to toxic accumulation of toxic substances and organic acids in the body. If detected early and treated, these serious outcomes can be avoided. Children with this deficiency must take biotin supplements for life.
Biotinidase deficiency is a genetic disease which results in decreased biotin absorption and recycling. This results in biotin deficiency. This deficiency tends to occur more in the Caucasian population. Biotinidase deficiency is screened for in newborns. Infants with biotinidase deficiency have build-up of lactic acid in the urine, generalized red, skin rash or eczema, seizures, weak muscles, developmental delays, and loss of hair. They may also suffer from hearing loss and damage to the optic nerve. Symptoms usually occur from 1 week of age to over 1 year of age. Children with this disease must be treated with 5 to 20 milligrams daily of biotin to make up for poor absorption of biotin from food and increased losses of biotin in the urine. If the deficiency is not diagnosed early enough, irreversible nervous system damage may occur resulting in developmental delays and autistic tendencies. This is because the brain is very susceptible to biotin deficiency. If treated early, patients do well; symptoms disappear quickly. However, they must take biotin supplements for life.
If you have an inborn error of biotin deficiency, you may have a weaker immune system including being more vulnerable to bacterial and fungal infections. Aside from genetics, those with chronic liver diseases such as cirrhosis may have poor serum biotinidase activity and increased requirements for biotin.
Inflammatory bowel disease
Those with inflammatory bowel disease such Crohn’s disease, which make it difficult to absorb nutrients including biotin, may be more susceptible to biotin deficiency. With inflammatory bowel disease, there is also an imbalance of good to bad bacteria. As a result, the body cannot make biotin on its own, leading to deficiency.
Use of broad spectrum antibiotics and long term use of antibiotics
With the use of broad spectrum antibiotics (antibiotics that kill a wide of bacteria without discrimination), the good bacteria in the gut that make biotin are decreased, leading to biotin deficiency.
With long-term use of antibiotics, the biotin-producing bacteria in the gut are destroyed, leading to biotin deficiency.
Eating raw egg whites
People who consume large amount of raw egg whites can develop biotin deficiency. Raw eggs whites contain a protein called avidin which sticks to biotin in the intestines and prevents it from being absorbed by the body. When you cook egg whites, avidin is broken down.
Alcoholism can cause low levels of biotin.
Smoking has been shown to increase the breakdown of biotin, particularly in women.
Patients on parenteral nutrition (nutrition give through the vein), have lower levels of biotin than the general population.
Lower levels of biotin also occur in those who have had a partial gastrectomy (partial removal of part of the stomach, which is responsible for secreting hydrochloric acid)
If you are on long-term anticonvulsant medication, you may have an increased need for biotin because anticonvulsants decrease the absorption of biotin by the intestines and the reabsorption of biotin by the kidneys. They may also increase the breakdown of biotin to inactive substances.
Certain acne medications
If you are taking isotretinoin for acne treatment, you may be biotin deficient.
Pregnant and lactating (nursing) women
There is an increased need for biotin in pregnancy and lactation. About 50% of pregnant women have a slight biotin deficiency. This is because during pregnancy, biotin breakdown increases. As well, pregnant women usually have biotin deficiency because the fetus needs large quantities of biotin for growth.
Animal studies have shown that biotin deficiency can cause malformations in the fetus. Biotin deficiency during pregnancy has been shown to cause cleft palate and small limbs in various animal species. In human embryonic cells, biotin deficiency has been shown to decrease the expression of important enzymes and decrease the growth of the cells. Biotin deficiency could also lead to an unstable genetic makeup of the fetus, leading to fetal malformations and abnormal chromosomes in the fetus. Hence, it stands to reason that it is important for pregnant women to maintain an adequate intake of biotin.
If you are pregnant, you should avoid raw egg whites, since they contain avidin which prevents biotin from being absorbed by the body. Frying the egg white destroys about 70% of the avidin. Boiling the egg white for two minutes destroys 60%, and poaching destroys 29%. You should eat the egg white with the yolk as a result to avoid deficiency in pregnancy. You can further increase your biotin content by putting pure egg yolks in your smoothies or ice cream. The adequate intake for pregnant women is 30 micrograms per day and is considered safe as there have not been any reports of toxicity at this level. Research is currently underway to see if biotin deficiency during pregnancy makes it more likely to have deformities in human fetuses.
Diabetes may result in biotin deficiency.
Rapid weight loss
If you have lost weight quickly, you may be at risk for biotin deficiency.
Other populations and medications
In addition to pregnant and nursing women, various population such as the elderly and athletes may also have biotin deficiency. Biotin deficiency also occurs in severely malnourished kids in developing countries. Lipoic acid, which is an antioxidant used to treat diabetes and HIV decreases uptake of biotin by the body. If you are on kidney dialysis, you may need extra botin. Also, those with malabsorption due to short bowel syndrome may also be deficient in biotin.
All are readily treated with biotin supplements.
Adequate intakes for biotin
There is a range of adequate intakes for humans. It starts at 5 micrograms for newborns and goes up to 35 micrograms per day for lactating women. Below are the requirement at different ages according to the National Academy of Sciences:
- 0 – 6 months: 5 micrograms
- 7 -12 months: 6 micrograms
- 1-3 years: 8 micrograms
- 4-8 years: 12 micrograms
- 9-13 years: 20 micrograms
- 14-18 years: 25micrograms
- 19 years and older: 30 micrograms
- Pregnant women: 30 micrograms
- Breastfeeding women: 35 micrograms
The performance daily intake, which is the intake for maximum physical performance, for athletes and physically active adults, is 500 – 1000 micrograms a day.
Intake and food sources
Biotin is widely available in several foods and is also produced by bacteria in the gut. The best sources of biotin are organ meats such as liver and kidney. Other good food sources include nuts and nut butters, brewer’s yeast, soybean, other legumes, sardines, cauliflower, bananas, mushrooms, unpolished rice, whole grains, milk, egg yolk, and various vegetables.
Food processing can get rid of biotin. Hence, less processed foods tend to have more biotin. For instance, polished rice contains 75% less biotin than unpolished rice.
Biotin deficiency is rare in Western countries because we get enough of our biotin from food. Most people in Western countries consume about 35 to 70 micrograms of biotin per day. Infants who drink about 2 ½ cups of mature breast milk get about 6 micrograms per day of biotin, which approximates the adequate intake for infants. It is still unknown if the biotin produced in our gut by bacteria contributes much to the amount of biotin absorbed by the body.
Toxicity of biotin
As mentioned previously, biotin is a water-soluble vitamin i.e. it is not stored in the body. Hence, if you take too much, the body will excrete it in your urine and feces. Taking high doses of biotin is safe. We know this because biotinidase deficiency patients who consume 300 times the normal intake of biotin for life do not show any toxic effects. Also, no toxic effects have been noted after short term oral and intravenous administration of 600 times the normal intake of biotin. Supplementation with biotin does affect the expression of several genes, but it is not known if this is bad for your health. If you eat a well-balanced diet, you can meet your requirements. If you are considering taking biotin supplements, biotin is available as a stand-alone supplement in many doses, as part of B-complexes and in multivitamins. The dosage of biotin in multivitamins is usually 30 micrograms, while the dosages in stand-alone supplements are usually in 10 microgram, 50 microgram and 100 microgram tablets.