Proven Health benefits of biotin
Vitamins and supplements
What are the health benefits of biotin? When you visit any health and beauty aisle in a grocery shop, chances are that you will be faced with a massive list of vitamins and supplements with all sorts of claims. Some of these claims may be valid, others may not. You then ask yourself, “Which of these do I need” or “should I be taking any of these at all”? It is understandable for anyone, particularly, first-time supplement buyers, to be confused and unsure about the efficacy of these vitamins.
So, one may ask, what are vitamins? In simple terms, vitamins are organic substances that are necessary for life. Organic substances are compounds containing the chemical element carbon and they only come from living materials, plants or animals, or from substances that were once living materials. They are required for the normal functioning of the body and except for a few, they cannot be manufactured or synthesized internally. As a result, vitamins must be obtained from natural foods or dietary supplements. It is important to highlight that vitamins are not replacements for food as some people may think. They cannot be assimilated without ingesting food as vitamins on their own have no caloric or energy value. You cannot take dietary supplements or vitamins, stop eating balanced diets and expect to be healthy.
Vitamins or supplements are not replacements for healthy diets
Vitamins work in the body by energizing and regulating the metabolism that keeps us going. Vitamins are known to perform various functions in the body, and individual vitamins have special functions. Unlike other nutrients like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, vitamins are required in very small quantities but a deficiency in any one of them can put us at a high risk of contracting a disease.
Types of Vitamins
There are 13 known vitamins and these can be classed as either fat-soluble or water-soluble vitamins. Four of the 13 vitamins are fat-soluble and these are Vitamins A, D, E, and K. The rest, which is water-soluble are the B vitamins and vitamin C.
Fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in fat and are can be stored in the body for longer than water-soluble vitamins. As a result, these fat-soluble vitamins can build up to unhealthy levels in the body and it is important to know this especially if you are taking supplements of these vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins on the other hand are known to dissolve in water and cannot be stored in the body for very long.
Summary of Vitamins and their Functions
|Vitamin A||Visual pigments||Fat Soluble|
|Vitamin D||Calcium homeostasis, bone metabolism||Fat Soluble|
|Vitamin E||Membrane antioxidant||Fat Soluble|
|Vitamin K||Blood clotting, calcium metabolism||Fat Soluble|
|Vitamin C||Reductant in hydroxylations in the formation of collagen and carnitine,|
and in the metabolism of drugs and steroids
|Vitamin B1||Coenzyme for decarboxylations of 2-keto acids (e.g., pyruvate) and|
|Vitamin B2||Coenzyme in redox reactions of fatty acids and the tricarboxylic acid|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||Coenzyme for several dehydrogenases||Water Soluble|
|Vitamin B6||Coenzyme in amino acid metabolism||Water Soluble|
|Folic acid||Coenzyme in single-carbon metabolism||Water Soluble|
|Biotin||Coenzyme for carboxylations||Water Soluble|
|Pantothenic acid||Coenzyme in fatty acid metabolism||Water Soluble|
|Vitamin B12||Coenzyme in the metabolism of propionate, amino acids, and singlecarbon|
What vitamins are good for
The B Vitamins
Biotin forms part of the B vitamins family that is primarily known for catalysing energy production in the body. They play an important role in metabolism which involves the breaking down of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, often to produce energy.
Generally, the B vitamins are needed for healthy nerve conduction and thus muscle action. They are required for the synthesis of many important neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. Other functions of the B vitamins are
- Energy production from carbohydrates, fats, and protein
- Conversion of amino acids
- Synthesis of fatty acids and hormones
- Providing antioxidant protection
Health Benefits of Biotin
Biotin comes from the Greek word “bios”, which means life. Originally, this vitamin was referred to as vitamin H until research confirmed it as a B vitamin because its deficiency is so rare. It can only be synthesized by bacteria, algae, yeast, molds, and a few plant species. The health benefits of biotin in the body are summarised in the points below;
Diabetes – One of the numerous health benefits of biotin is the role it plays in managing diabetes. Biotin is known to be involved in several stages of glucose metabolism in organs such as the liver, pancreas, and muscles. As a result, biotin deficiency could be expected to worsen diabetes. Scientific research has revealed some correlation between biotin and blood sugar. At high doses, biotin can increase the activity of an intermediate that helps control sensitivity to insulin as well as the glucose output from the liver. It has been suggested that these properties mean that biotin could aid in the treatment of diabetes. Another research1 concluded that the administration of biotin is effective for the treatment of patients with diabetes and that had no undesirable side effects or symptoms. A lab study2 suggested that biotin can increase the activity of glucokinase from the pancreas, as well as increase insulin secretion. Biotin’s actions in glucose metabolism may be due to its activity as a coenzyme or as a gene modifier.
Energy Catalyst – Another benefit of biotin is how it is used in some important enzymes that are required for the synthesis of fatty acids. It is required to make energy in the mitochondria of cells and may also play an important role in the transcription and replication of DNA.
Biotin for Hair health – Another of the key benefits of biotin is that it is known to contribute to the maintenance of normal hair. Severe biotin deficiency has been linked to hair loss; however, there is not a lot of strong evidence that supports the claim that biotin is very effective in preventing or treating hair loss in men or women. In one study3 that looked at uncombable hair syndrome, it reported that one out of the 3 patients after taking 0.3mg three times a day for 4 months had seen significant improvement. There are many hair products on the market including shampoos that claim that biotin contributes to healthier and stronger hair.
Healthy Nails – There are reported studies that suggest that the supplementation of biotin can help in the strengthening of brittle nails in humans. One study4 that involved 71 patients who were treated with a daily oral dose of biotin of 2.5mg concluded that biotin in most cases provides an effective therapy for humans with brittle nails. In the study, out of the 45 cases which finally could be evaluated, 41 (91%) showed definite improvement with firmer and harder fingernails after an average treatment of 5.5 +/- 2.3 months. In 4 of the 45 patients (9%), the improvement was questionable. Another research5 that looked at the treatment of brittle fingernails and onychoschizia with biotin: scanning electron microscopy, reported that the group that had patients with brittle nails and had received biotin treatment reported a 25% increase in the nail thickness.
Benefits of biotin – Food Sources
Biotin is widely available in lots of foods but mostly in very small amounts. Just a handful of foods are known to have foods (royal jelly and brewers’ yeast) in large amounts. Other good food sources include milk, liver, and egg (egg yolk).
|Food||Biotin Content (μg/100 g)|
Dosage and side effects for biotin
Typically, 30 – 100 mcg per day of biotin is adequate for healthy adults. Anticonvulsant medications are may lower biotin levels in the body. Also, taking antibiotics may lower the production and absorption of biotin as some antibiotics are known to kill bacteria in the colon. The use of biotin has also not been reported to be unsafe or toxic at recommended levels.
Severe biotin deficiency is known to be uncommon. Some symptoms of biotin deficiency are hair loss, dry scaly skin, cracking in the corners of the mouth (cheilitis), insomnia, and dry eyes. Categories of people that are at a higher risk of being deficient include;
- Pregnant women
- People with poor nutrition or bad eating habits
- People who have experienced rapid weight loss
- People on long-term anti-seizure medications or antibiotics
- People with gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease
Factors to consider when buying Biotin supplements
Price – It is important to factor in the price of the product when making a purchase, however, that should not be the deciding factor. Chances are that if you buy the cheapest product or brand, you will only be paying for very cheap ingredients and in some cases buying a fake product. On the other hand, the most expensive biotin product or brand does not equal the best quality.
Brand – Finding a trusted and reputable brand is important when deciding to buy biotin supplements or any vitamin supplement for that matter. Brands or companies that use standard processes in their manufacturing offer quality products compared to those that don’t. It is also worth considering where these brands or companies are located as some countries have well-established regulations whereas others do not and may focus on profits over quality.
Product labelling – Ideally, products must have the supplement facts clearly printed on their packages and must disclose all the ingredients in the products with its amounts in milligrams (mg), micrograms (mcg), or international units (IU). The product should also state the number of tablets or capsules in the pack, the dosage, and the expiry. If you are buying any biotin supplement that does not have any of these, it may be worth getting a second opinion.
Form – Biotin supplements can come as tablets, gummies (chewable), or capsules. Tablets are usually more common on the market and tend to have the longest shelf life. They are also slightly less expensive to produce as compared to capsules and gummies. It is believed that capsules are easier to absorb and digest into the bloodstream than tablets. Gummies are generally tasty but often contain high sugar, food colouring, binders, and fillers.
Benefits of biotin – Fact versus fiction
Like most vitamins (or nutrients), biotin is very important to support the normal function of the human body. It is not very likely that one will become biotin deficient or suffer from severe biotin deficiency and people who are diagnosed to be deficient need to be treated. Deficiency can be avoided by ensuring that you consume whole foods that contain biotin and where that is not completely possible, take biotin supplements to fill any gaps you may have. Some good food sources of biotin are yeast, egg yolk, and soybeans.
Biotin is required in fat metabolism and in the synthesis of fatty acids in the body. It also contributes to the maintenance of normal hair and may be useful in the management of diabetes.
References – Benefits of biotin
Blake, S., 2011. Vitamins & Minerals Demystified. New York: McGraw Hill Professional.
Caballero, B., 2009. Guide To Nutritional Supplements. London: Academic.
Coates, P., 2005. Encyclopedia Of Dietary Supplements. New York: Marcel Dekker.
Combs, G., 2012. The Vitamins. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Academic Press.
Goldstein, M., n.d. Vitamins And Minerals.
Higdon, J. and Drake, V., n.d. An Evidence-Based Approach To Vitamins And Minerals.
Hobbs, C. and Haas, E., 2000. Vitamins For Dummies. Foster City, Calif.: IDG.
Kroner, Z., 2011. Vitamins And Minerals. Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood.
Mindell, E., 2002. Earl Mindell’s Vitamin Bible For The 21St Century. New York: Ereads.com.
Moyer, E., 1993. Vitamins And Minerals. Allentown, Pa.: People’s Medical Society.