You may have heard of biotin supplements for hair and nail growth. But does it work? And what is it anyway? This vitamin underdog is in fact a B vitamin – B7 – and is critical for other reasons lesser known but important to the body, hair growth aside. Why do we believe biotin creates silky locks? What else is it used for? Where do we find it? Read on to learn what you need to know about biotin.
Medicinally, biotin is used for:
· Treating biotin deficiency
· Brittle nails
· Peripheral neuropathy
Biochemically in the human body biotin is critical for metabolism and plays a major role in how we utilize amino acids. It also plays a role in gene expression so make sure and get the biotin you need from your diet. Interestingly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not established a recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for this vitamin. There are guidelines, however. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends a daily adequate intake (AI) of 30 micrograms (mcgs) in adults. Standardization in supplement form for biotin is lacking but it is readily available in tablet form in doses of 10mcg, 50mcg, and 100mcg. Many dietary supplements contain 300mcg of biotin. Keep in mind that people on renal dialysis and those who smoke both have increased needs for biotin. Discuss supplementing with your medical team to make sure that supplementing is safe – and to determine how much you may need.
The signs of overt biotin deficiency are hair loss and scaly skin so it makes sense that people supplement to try and protect these systems. There are some human trials on biotin as a treatment for brittle nails with some promise that it may be effective though studies aren’t generally well constructed and more research is needed. There are no published studies on humans at this time that shows that biotin is effective in preventing or treating hair loss in men or women. That being said, biotin is necessary for the body, so make sure to get enough from food. It just may not fix your hair troubles.
The good news is that you can get biotin very easily and naturally from your diet without supplements. Egg yolks, pork, salmon, avocado and yeast are particularly rich sources. Other dietary sources include cheddar cheese, raspberries, cauliflower, and whole wheat bread. There is a gut microbiome connection here as well. Bacteria in the colon release and absorb biotin in unknown levels and future research in this area in the future is promising.
Because biotin is a naturally occurring, water soluble B vitamin, known toxic side effects are few. Unlike so many other vitamins, minerals and supplements, there are few known medication interactions. When taking in conjunction with B5 (pantothenic acid) or alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) keep in mind that there is some competition for transporters in the body so absorption could be lower but in levels found in food, this shouldn’t be an issue. There are moderate interactions between biotin and anticonvulsant carbamazepine which depletes biotin in the body. There are also moderate interactions with medications phenobarbital, phenytoin, and primidone. There is one unique food interaction with biotin: raw egg whites because they bind with biotin in the digestive tract. Eating raw egg whites is a food safety issue anyhow.
How do you use biotin as a supplement? Let us know about your experience in the comments!
Natural Medicines Database. Biotin. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=714 Updated 3/17/2015. Accessed 10/13/17.
Linus Pauling Institute. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/biotin. Accessed 10/13/17.