Biotin, also known as Vitamin B7, is a member of the B Vitamin family, which plays a role in how the body metabolises energy. It’s water soluble, which means it isn’t stored by the body, and excess amounts are lost through urination. Biotin can be found in a huge range of foods, and in most cases, a balanced diet should get you as much as you need.
So what effects does biotin have on health? Since biotin plays a role in such a wide variety of metabolic processes, it can provide a number of health benefits. These include:
Metabolism: Biotin plays a vital role in metabolic health. It does this as a component of enzymes called carboxylases, which are used in breaking down fats, carbohydrates, and amino acids, synthesizing proteins, and transferring carbon dioxide. Simply put, it helps your body convert food into energy.
Blood sugar: The effectiveness of biotin in lowering blood sugar levels has also been researched in people with type 2 diabetes. A 2006 study by Yale University School of Medicine found that biotin supplements combined with chromium picolinate in patients were very effective in managing glucose levels in the blood, as did a similar study by the Alpha Therapy Center in Texas.
Hair, skin, & nails: Since some of the major symptoms of biotin deficiency are thinning hair or hair loss, brittle nails, and dermatitis, it makes sense that healthy biotin intakes play a role in their growth. While more research is needed in this area to prove a definitive link, the positive effects of biotin on the body’s metabolism could prove to be very effective in strong hair and nail growth, and in helping the body maintain healthy skin.
The warning signs of biotin deficiency
Don’t panic, this is fairly uncommon! Biotin deficiency can be caused by a variety of conditions, but most are a result of the body not getting the nutrients it needs, such as through illness and malnutrition. Symptoms of biotin deficiency can include thinning hair or hair loss, brittle nails, skin conditions such as rashes, and sometimes neurological conditions like depression and low energy.
It’s well-known that pregnancy and breastfeeding will increase the demand for nutrients on the body, and this includes B-Vitamins like biotin. Biotin is broken down by the body more rapidly during pregnancy, and it has been estimated that around 50% of pregnant women will experience a mild biotin deficiency due to this increased demand. While this is usually mild enough to not produce any harsh side effects, it might be necessary to increase your body’s biotin intake (after consulting your doctor, of course!)
What are the best sources of biotin?
The best source of biotin is, of course, through a balanced diet, particularly one including leafy green vegetables such as spinach, organ meats such as liver, salmon, eggs, mushrooms, cheese, nuts, and legumes such as soybeans. Vegetarian and vegan supplements are a good option if you don’t eat animal products, and are good to ensure you’re getting an optimal amount if you’re not sure you’re getting enough through your diet. Pregnant or breastfeeding women might need more than usual, due to the biotin deficiencies commonly found during pregnancy. As always, experiment, and see what works best for your lifestyle!