Biotin or vitamin B7 is a B vitamin that promotes nerve, cardiovascular, and digestive functions.
What is biotin?
Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin also known as vitamin B7. This vitamin is critical for an organism's growth and development. It also serves as a coenzyme of carboxylase enzymes and is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fatty acids, and amino acids.
Biotin is required to help stabilize blood sugar levels, support neurological functions, and stabilize DNA. It also promotes healthy hair, skin, and nails. You can get biotin from your daily diet and intestinal bacteria because the body cannot synthesize it. The following foods are great sources of biotin:
- Egg yolk
- Animal liver
Biotin deficiency is rare, but a deficiency of this vitamin may cause any of the following symptoms:
- Dry, scaly skin
- Dry eyes
- Hair loss
- Cheilitis (cracking or crusting in the corners of the mouth)
- Glossitis (painful and swollen tongue)
- Loss of appetite
People who have difficulties absorbing nutrients due to certain conditions or factors, such as receiving parenteral nutrition, Crohn's disease, and chronic use of antibiotics or antiseizure medications are more prone to biotin deficiency. The risk for biotin deficiency also increases in people who smoke, consume excessive alcohol, pregnant, and those who have inflammatory bowel diseases.
Health Benefits of Biotin
1. Promotes healthy skin, hair, and nails
Biotin is needed to help keep your skin, hair, and nails healthy. Biotin deficiency can cause symptoms, such as dermatitis (dry, irritated skin), hair thinning or splitting, and brittle nails.
Face creams, beauty products, and other cosmetic products even contain biotin. However, biotin tends to be more effective when it is consumed rather than topically applied. Studies show that biotin can help treat brittle nails and hair. Other health benefits of biotin include protection against fungal infections, skin rash, acne, dry skin, and cracking.
2. Boosts metabolism
Biotin helps regulate gene expressions that are very important for metabolism (1). Vitamin B complex, including vitamin B7, is needed to produce energy from the food you eat. Vitamin B7 converts glucose into usable fuel or energy source that the body needs. It also boosts amino acid function and activates fatty acids.
A healthy metabolic activity takes place once the body uses macronutrients from the food consumed. It also improves glucose utilization and metabolism, which can greatly help people with type 2 diabetes. When vitamin B7 is low, the following symptoms may develop:
- A sluggish metabolism
- Digestive problems
- Low energy level or fatigue
- Low mood
- Weight gain
- Onset of diabetes
- Appetite changes
3. Helps regulate blood sugar levels
When biotin is combined with chromium, it can help lower the blood sugar level of people who have diabetes, particularly those who have poor diabetes control even with prescription medications.
Biotin facilitates insulin activity to help normalize blood sugar levels (2). When insulin response is improved, the risk of weight gain, prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic problems are reduced. It can also help minimize other symptoms of diabetes, such as nerve pain.
4. Promotes a healthy heart
The heart can be protected from atherosclerosis, stroke, heart attack, and inflammation by taking sufficient amounts of biotin. Levels of bad cholesterol can be lowered while good cholesterol can be increased by biotin. People with diabetes are also more susceptible to developing heart disease, making it more important to take enough biotin from the diet.
Triglyceride concentrations in the blood can also be reduced by taking pharmacological doses of biotin, especially in patients who have high triglyceride levels.
5. Boosts brain function and prevents cognitive decline
A deficiency in biotin can slow down myelination since biotin is needed for the formation of the myelin sheath, a layer that protects nerve cells (3).
Biotin may also be effective when it comes to the reversal of impairments caused by multiple sclerosis (4). Multiple sclerosis is a type of autoimmune disorder that is characterized by the loss and damage of the myelin sheath. Since biotin has a key role in the production of energy and fatty acid synthesis, it is also needed for axonal survival and myelin repair. According to some studies, the progression of multiple sclerosis can be reversed and improve MS symptoms by using high-dose biotin treatment (5, 6).
Other symptoms of biotin deficiency may include the following neurological symptoms:
Because of biotin's role in neurotransmitter activity and nerve signaling, it is beneficial for nervous system health. Other B vitamins together with biotin can help boost memory function and protect the brain against neurodegenerative disorders and age-related cognitive impairment, such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
6. Supports the adrenal-thyroid function
Many functions of the body, such as pain signals, mood, sleep, energy, and hunger are controlled by the adrenal and thyroid glands. All these activities may get disrupted if a person is deficient in B vitamins and may experience the following symptoms:
- Sleep problems
- Loss of weight
- Weight gain
7. Helps maintain a healthy immune system
The risk of infection and impaired immune function increases when there is a deficiency in biotin (7, 8). The production of Th1 cytokines (IFN-γ and IL-1β) is increased in biotin supplementation. These cytokines are essential to help the immune system fight infections (9).
Chronic vaginal candidiasis is associated with a deficiency in biotinidase, which is an enzyme for biotin recycling. Biotin supplementation may help treat this condition (10).
Foods Rich in Biotin
Rich amounts of biotin can be found in the following foods:
- Organ meats
- Egg yolk
- Nuts (peanuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds) and nut butters
- Beans and other legumes
- Whole grains and cereals
However, biotin becomes ineffective when food is cooked or highly processed. For this reason, try to consume raw or less-processed biotin-rich foods to get more active biotin.
People who are unable to get their biotin through natural sources may use supplements. However, supplements are not FDA-regulated and monitored for purity, safety, and quality, so make sure to research the most trusted brands before purchasing.
There are no reported side effects of biotin use when it is taken up to 10 mg per day. However, see your healthcare provider if you experience any unusual side effects after taking biotin.