Biotin (C10H16N2O3S) is a water-soluble vitamin that is a member of the b-class family of vitamins. It is produced naturally in small amounts by the intestines - but it is not known if this small amount plays any role in immune function. Biotin used to be known as Vitamin H.
Biotin is found in many foods, including oatmeal, vegetables, peanuts, mushrooms, egg yolks, rice, nuts, spinach, potatoes and poultry and beef.
What does it do and what scientific studies give evidence to support this?
Biotin is a member of the b-class vitamin family, and, like other members of this family, biotin plays a key role in the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. In this way biotin plays a role in the Krebs energy cycle, and may aid in weight loss. But, biotin does much more than regulating the synthesis of macronutrients.
Biotin plays a key role in the growth and maintenance of hair, nails and bone. Hair loss and brittle nails have been correlated with biotin deficiency, and these symptoms are often alleviated when optimal biotin levels are achieved.
Biotin also helps to regulate blood sugar. Many diabetics notice an increased response to insulin treatments when biotin levels are increase. This offers the benefit of having to use less insulin to achieve normalized blood-glucose levels.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that biotin plays a role in the regulation of the skin conditions eczema and dermatitis, and also plays a role in focus and attention span. Research is continuing to investigate these claims.
Who needs it and what are some symptoms of deficiency?
Everyone can benefit from supplementing with biotin.
Biotin helps the body better use food for energy. This means that biotin may increase energy levels and, by making the digestive process more efficient, biotin may help people lose weight. This makes biotin an ideal supplement if you are looking to have more energy and lose weight.
Balding or thinning hair is a medical concern to men and women. Biotin may slow or stop hair loss, offering a natural and cheaper alternative to prescription hair loss drugs.
If you have diabetes and use insulin, biotin may help to improve your insulin response. An improved insulin response may reduce your dependency on insulin and improve your overall health.
An impressive body of anecdotal evidence exists to suggest that biotin can dramatically improve skin health. If you have dermatitis or eczema, biotin may be an appropriate adjunct to your current skin treatment program.
Finally, controversial but interesting anecdote has shown that persons with ADD / ADHD may benefit from b-vitamin supplementation because of their role in improving attention span. Anecdotal evidence indicates that the effect of b-vitamins on attention span is effective but short-lived.
Symptoms of biotin deficiency may include hair loss1, dry skin, fatigue, short attention span, mental depression, birth defects2 and nausea.
How much should be taken? Are there any side effects?
Strictly adhere to label recommendations.
No side effects of biotin use are known.
- Mock DM. Skin manifestations of biotin deficiency. Semin Dermatol 1991;10:296-302.
- Zempleni J, Mock DM. Marginal biotin deficiency is teratogenic. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 2000;223:14-21 [review].