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Vitamin :: Biotin


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Other Terms:

Vitamin H


Water soluble.  Any excess is excreted in urine.

On this Page: What is Biotin · Benefits · Deficiency Signs · Foods · Supplements · RDA · Toxicity | Overdose

What is Biotin ?
Biotin, sometimes called vitamin H, is one of the more recently discovered B-complex vitamins.

It is quite stable when exposed to light, heat, and air in normal cooking, but canning or curing, or strongly acidic conditions can cause a significant loss of biotin.

How Biotin Benefits Health
The term biotin is derived from the Greek word for life, bios.

Certain enzymes in our body need biotin to work properly, without which skin, nervous system, and intestinal tract disorders can occur.

It plays a major role in the metabolism of sugar and fat.  That makes biotin important for energy production.  A lack of biotin causes the body to be unable to efficiently convert sugar into fuel, and may result in cramps and pain during physical exertion.

Another major role of biotin is fat metabolism.  It is required for production of fat for healthy cell membranes.  This is especially vital for skin cells to function effectively as a protective barrier, as they have short life spans and must be replaced often.

Studies indicate that biotin may also be needed for cell genetic processes and DNA replication.

As many as 50% of pregnant women may be deficient in biotin. Preliminary research shows evidence of deficiency in the first trimester and especially in late pregnancy (third trimester). This is because biotin is needed for cell division and DNA replication during fetus development.  Defects can occur in the baby if there is not enough biotin.

The main ways that biotin benefits the body are summarized here.

:: Biotin Benefits & Functions
1. promotes healthy skin through proper fat production
2. needed for healthy hair and nails
3. helps treat seborrheic dermatitis (scaly skin patches caused by disorder of the sebaceous or oil-secreting glands) that occurs mostly in infants
4. prevents hair loss in some men, and is used to treat some forms of baldness
5. needed for cell division and growth and manufacture of genetic material
6. needed for healthy sweat glands, nerve tissue and bone marrow
7. needed for synthesis of fatty acids
8. important for metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for energy
9. research shows that biotin with chromium improves blood sugar control
10. preliminary studies indicate that biotin may reduce insulin resistance and improve glucose tolerance, which would help patients with Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes
11. decreases triglyceride levels
12. may lower LDL cholesterol level, and so cut the risk of atherosclerosis (clogged or hardened arteries) when used with chromium
13. helps prevent intestinal disorders like Crohn's disease, inflammatory or irritable bowel syndrome, chronic diarrhea, and ulcerative colitis
14. assists the utilization of the other B-complex vitamins


Biotin Deficiency Symptoms and Causes
A deficiency of biotin is rare because it can be produced in the intestines, and is found in many foods.  It is also recycled in the body many times.

One of the most well-known causes of biotin deficiency is consumption of raw egg whites.  Raw egg white contains avidin, a glycoprotein that binds to biotin and prevents its absorption by the body.

People who consume a lot of raw eggs, such as athletes and bodybuilders, have to be careful about the possibility of biotin deficiency, though this is somewhat balanced by egg yolk being one of the richest sources of biotin.

Insufficient intake of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) can also make it seem as if there is a biotin deficiency, as both are needed to work together in many metabolic processes.

Intestinal problems can also cause deficiency.  One reason is that it leads to poor absorption of nutrients from food.  Another is that, while under normal circumstances bacteria in the large intestine can produce biotin, intestinal problems can deprive the body of this source.  Supplementing with biotin, or raising its intake in the diet, would be useful in such cases.

Other reasons for needing higher biotin intake : prolonged consumption of antibiotics or sulfa drugs, anti-convulsant or anti-seizure medication, oral estrogen, alcohol, rancid fats and saccharin.  These may deplete biotin in the body by interfering with absorption or increasing its excretion in urine.

Long-term use of antibiotics can also kill off good bacteria in the intestine that help synthesize biotin.

One of the most common biotin deficiency symptoms is hair loss.  Others are nerve-related symptoms, as biotin helps provide energy to nerve cells.

Other classic biotin deficiency symptoms are skin-related problems linked to the role of biotin in fat metabolism.  Skin cells exhibit problems quickly when cells are not able to get the fat needed for healthy membranes due to biotin deficiency.  One of the most common signs of biotin deficiency is the skin condition called cradle crap in infants, characterized by crusty yellow or white patches around the scalp, behind the ears, or near the eyebrows.  This can also occur in adults in different locations on the skin, and is known as seborrheic dermatitis.

:: Biotin Deficiency Symptoms
1. brittle nails and hair
2. one of the most obvious signs of insufficient biotin is thinning of hair which may lead to total hair loss (alopecia)
3. dry scaly scalp or face, especially in infants (cradle crap), and in adults in various parts of the body (seborrheic dermatitis)
4. mental depression
5. insomnia
6. intestinal tract symptoms like loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting
7. fatigue or extreme exhaustion due to impaired energy production
8. muscle pain or cramps related to physical exertion
9. nervo-muscular symptoms like seizures, numbness and tingling of arms, legs, hands or feet, and hypotonia (lack of muscle tone) or ataxia (lack of muscle coordination)


Biotin Foods
Rich biotin food sources · organ meats such as liver · carrots · romaine lettuce · swiss chard · tomatoes.

Other biotin sources · almonds · raspberries and strawberries · cooked egg yolk · dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt) · oats · poultry · salt-water fish like halibut · soybeans · walnuts · vegetables like cabbage, cucumber, cauliflower, onions · whole grains · yeast.


Biotin Supplements
Taking vitamins and minerals in their correct balance is vital to the proper functioning of all vitamins.  They work synergistically, which means that the effectiveness of any one nutrient requires or is enhanced, sometimes dramatically, by the presence of certain other nutrients.

For this reason, if you are looking to take supplements for maintenance of optimal health, the recommended approach is to take a multi-vitamin that has the proper balance of all the necessary nutrients your body needs.

For a list of reputable top ranked vitamin and mineral supplements chosen in an independent supplement review, see Best Multivitamin Supplements. Many of these are manufactured to pharmaceutical or nutraceutical GMP compliance, which is the highest multivitamin standard possible.

Keep in mind, however, that while vitamin supplements are useful to plug nutritional gaps that are almost inevitable in modern diets, and to ensure we get optimal doses of nutrients, they are no substitute for a good diet. Instead, use them to complement a healthy diet and lifestyle.


Biotin RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance)
The Food & Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, in their 1997-2001 collaboration between the US and Canada, set the daily Adequate Intake (AI) of Biotin as follows.

Life Stage | Gender Biotin Dosage | Day
Infants 0-6 mths 5* µg
Infants 7-12 mths 6* µg
Children 1-3 yrs 8* µg
Children 4-8 yrs 12* µg
Girls 9-13 Yrs 20* µg
Boys 9-13 Yrs 20* µg
Females 14-18 Yrs 25* µg
Males 14-18 Yrs 25* µg
Females 19-50 Yrs 30* µg
Males 19-50 Yrs 30* µg
Females older than 50 Yrs 30* µg
Males older than 50 Yrs 30* µg
Pregnant Women 14-18 Yrs 30* µg
Pregnant Women 19-50 Yrs 30* µg
Lactating Mothers 14-18 Yrs 35* µg
Lactating Mothers 19-50 Yrs 35* µg

These dosages are the minimum required per day to ward off deficiency. In therapeutic use of this nutrient, dosage is increased as necessary for the ailment, keeping in mind Biotin toxicity levels.


1 µg = 1 mcg = 1 microgram = 1/1,000,000 of a gram
1 mg = 1 milligram = 1/1,000 of a gram

* Indicates AI figures based on Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) figures


Biotin Overdose Symptoms, Toxicity Level & Side Effects
There are no reports of significant biotin toxicity, even at doses as high as 100 milligrams.

The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, in its 1998 recommendations for B-complex vitamins, decided not to set a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for it due to the lack of data on biotin overdose.

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1. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary reference intakes for thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, and choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1998.

2. U.S. National Libary of Medicine [NLM] & National Institutes of Health [NIH]: MedlinePlus. NLM-NIH home page. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus>. Use the built-in search function to find specific data. Accessed 2009 March – June.

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5. Ulene A. Dr. Art Ulene's complete guide to vitamins, minerals and herbs. New York, NY: Avery Publishing; 2000.

6. The Editors Of Prevention Health Books. Prevention's healing with vitamins: The most effective vitamin and mineral treatments for everyday health problems and serious disease. Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Press; 1996.

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