Nutrition Market

Biotin

What is Biotin?

Biotin is a B-group vitamin that is important for energy production and metabolism. It is also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H. Biotin acts as a coenzyme for several carboxylase enzymes that are involved in fatty acid synthesis, gluconeogenesis, and amino acid catabolism.

In supplement form, biotin is commonly used to support healthy hair, skin, and nails. However, biotin supplements are popularly taken to improve metabolism as well.

Biotin’s Role in The Body

Biotin plays a vital role in metabolising fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in the body. Here are some of the key functions of this B-group vitamin:

  • It metabolises fatty acids and amino acids, which helps the body extract energy from food. Biotin assists carboxylase enzymes that initiate fatty acid synthesis and gluconeogenesis.
  • It contributes to normal macronutrient metabolism. Carboxylases need biotin to function properly and metabolise macronutrients efficiently.
  • It aids in the normal function of the nervous system by assisting in fatty acid synthesis needed to maintain nerve health.
  • It supports normal psychological function as biotin-dependent carboxylases assist in manufacturing mood-influencing neurotransmitters.
  • It helps maintain normal hair and skin. Biotin contributes to skin health and hair strength as it reaches hair follicles and skin through a person’s circulation.

Clearly, biotin plays an important role in energy production, metabolism, nervous system health, and beauty enhancement. Even mild biotin deficiency can impact the body’s ability to fully metabolise key macronutrients.

Biotin Deficiency

Many people get sufficient biotin from their regular diet. However, some individuals can experience mild to severe biotin deficiency.

Risk factors for biotin deficiency include:

  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding - Biotin requirements go up during this time.
  • Certain genetic disorders - Defects in biotin metabolism or recycling can reduce available biotin.
  • Gastrointestinal conditions and surgeries - Reduced absorption from the gut increases demand for supplementation.
  • Certain medications - Some anti-seizure medications accelerate biotin catabolism causing relative insufficiency over time.
  • Inadequate dietary intake - Low biotin foods over a long period leads to deficiency.
  • High consumption of raw egg whites - They contain a protein called avidin which binds to biotin, preventing absorption.

Signs that may indicate biotin deficiency include:

  • Dermatitis and skin rashes
  • Hair loss and brittle hair
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Depression and lethargy
  • Muscle pain and cramps
  • Anaemia
  • High cholesterol

However, many symptoms of biotin deficiency overlap with other vitamin deficiencies. It’s best to have your doctor check your biotin levels to properly ascertain if you have a deficiency.

Benefits of Biotin Supplements

May Support Hair, Skin and Nail Health

Biotin supplements are commonly promoted to improve hair, skin and nail condition. How does it provide these beauty benefits?

It’s well established that biotin contributes to skin health and hair strength. And two review studies analysing data from over 700 women found that high-dose biotin supplements may:

  • Increase hair elasticity and thickness after 90 to 180 days use
  • Reduce brittle nail occurrence after 1.5 to 15 months
  • Improve skin hydration and smoothness after 12 weeks

So while more research is still needed, current evidence suggests oral biotin supplements may translate to meaningful beauty improvements over time.

Can Boost Energy Levels

As mentioned, biotin assists in generating energy from dietary fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Multiple studies note biotin’s role in macronutrient metabolism and normal psychological function.

So in cases of mild deficiency, evidence suggests biotin supplementation can provide an energy and mood boost. Even for those without clear insufficiency, some users report feeling more energetic after supplementing with biotin.

May Support Heart Health

Some research indicates that biotin supplementation may support cardiovascular health. Several studies note that sufficient biotin intake can contribute to normal blood lipid and cholesterol levels.

Other studies show biotin’s role regulating gene expression of enzymes involved in lipid and fatty acid metabolism. So for those focusing on heart health, sufficient biotin status is important.

Can Assist Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers have an increased daily biotin requirement. Supplementation is often recommended to reduce the risk of deficiency which can impact fetal development.

In one study of over 150 women, biotin supplementation begun from early-stage pregnancy was linked with improved clinical signs of biotin status. It also reduced the risk of developing symptoms of deficiency.

So expectant and breastfeeding mothers should consider biotin supplementation alongside folic acid and iron. Checking biotin levels if deficiency is suspected is also a good idea.

Dosage Information

The recommended adequate intake (AI) levels for biotin daily are:

  • Infants 0–6 months - 5 micrograms/day
  • Infants 7–12 months – 6 micrograms/day
  • Children and teens – 20-25 micrograms/day
  • Adults over 18 years – 30 micrograms/day
  • Breastfeeding women – 35 micrograms/day
  • Pregnant women – 30 micrograms/day

However, biotin supplements often provide much higher doses than the AI guidelines:

  • Deficiency treatment – Up to 10 milligrams per day
  • Hair, skin and nail support – 2,500-5,000 micrograms per day
  • General wellness – 100-300 micrograms per capsule

Biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin, so any excess is generally excreted in urine. Toxicity and overdose are very rare. However, stick to the recommended use guidelines unless advised otherwise by your healthcare provider.

Also note that high biotin intake can interfere with some lab tests. Inform your doctor about any supplements to ensure accurate test results.

Is Biotin Right For You?

Biotin supplements can benefit those with a confirmed deficiency, or those with an increased risk of insufficiency such as pregnant or breastfeeding women.

If your diet is fairly balanced, then general supplementation is unlikely to provide additional benefits. However, those following restrictive diets or with reduced absorption may still require biotin supplements.

For beauty purposes, try a biotin supplement for at least 3 months alongside a healthy lifestyle to see any noticeable nail, hair and skin improvements. The effects are gradual but can make meaningful differences over time.

And as always, check with your doctor first about any interactions or considerations given your own health status and circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any side effects from taking biotin supplements?

As mentioned above, biotin toxicity and serious adverse events are very rare given its water solubility. However, some mild digestive upset can occasionally occur.

There is also the chance of inaccurate lab results as high doses can interfere with some biotin-sensitive tests. Inform your doctor about any supplements you are taking to ensure accurate testing if needed.

Can I take biotin with other supplements or medications?

There are no known major interactions between biotin and other common supplements. However, do let your doctor know about any supplements, over-the-counter or prescription medications you are taking.

Of note, seizure medications, some antibiotics and a few other drugs can accelerate biotin catabolism over time. So your needs may change, and dose adjustments made if required.

How long until I see the benefits for my hair and nails?

You need to be patient with biotin for beauty purposes! It can take 3 to 6 months of daily use to notice significant improvements in brittle nails, hair fall reduction and faster regrowth. Give an adequate supplement trial of at least 90 days before judging the results.

Is biotin beneficial for weight loss?

While no direct benefit for weight loss, biotin does contribute to normal macronutrient metabolism. So it supports optimal breakdown and utilisation of carbs, fats and proteins which indirectly aids general health.

But on its own, it’s unlikely to produce any significant weight or fat reduction without also implementing a calorie-controlled, balanced diet alongside regular activity. Manage your expectations if using biotin for metabolism and weight management.

Can men benefit from taking biotin too?

Yes! While beauty supplements are stereotypically targeted more towards women, biotin is important for everyone. Male hair loss and nail brittleness can also be supported through adequate biotin intake via food sources or supplements if required.

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