Biotin: What You Need To Know

Biotin is also known as vitamin H and is one of the vitamins of the B complex that helps the body turn food into energy.

"The word "biotin" comes from the ancient Greek word "biotos," meaning life." B vitamins, and specifically biotin, help maintain healthy skin, hair, eyes, liver, and nervous system." During pregnancy, biotin is also a vital nutrient, as it is essential for embryonic development.

Most individuals get the biotin they need from consuming a balanced diet, but there have been many suggestions that having more biotin will monitor your blood sugar, encourage healthy hair, skin, and nails, and help healthier babies for pregnant moms. How much biotin is sufficient, where do you get it and what can you really do with it?

What is Biotin?

Biotin is a B vitamin that helps turn food into energy for your body. It is also called vitamin H or vitamin B7 and is essential for the operation of the eye, hair, skin, and brain. It can help liver function as well.

Biotin is a vitamin that is water-soluble, meaning the body doesn't store it. As a consequence, to maintain sufficient amounts, you need to drink it regularly.

Although biotin is available as a supplement, by consuming a varied diet, most individuals can get everything they need.

Recommended daily allowance

For adolescents and adults, between 30 and 100 micrograms (mcg) per day of biotin is often recommended.

As it's water-soluble, when you urinate, extra biotin can simply pass through your body. While biotin supplements can be treated by most people, some people report mild side effects such as nausea and digestive problems. No known signs of toxicity associated with too much biotin are present.

Supplements and diabetes

Some research, including this animal study suggests that the use of biotin supplements to help control blood glucose levels may benefit people with type 2 diabetes. The analysis so far isn't definitive, though.

Biotin may help prevent kidney damage in people with insulin-dependent type 1 diabetes, according to another study carried out on animals. Again, to support this, further research is needed.

Healthy hair, skin, and nails?

Deficiencies with biotin are rare. But since people with a deficiency frequently display signs of hair loss or a scaly red rash, it is advised to increase the intake by certain physicians and vitamin companies.

The studies, however, indicate that insufficient evidence exists to support the suggested supplementation.

Fetal development

While uncommon, it is possible that pregnant women become biotin deficient. Take a prenatal vitamin that includes biotin and folic acid during pregnancy to help improve the health of infants. However, high doses of biotin may be harmful for the infant, so additional biotin supplementation is not recommended.

Natural sources of biotin

It is also possible to find biotin in a variety of foods, including:

  • bananas

  • cauliflower

  • egg yolk

  • mushrooms

  • nut butters

  • nuts, like almonds, peanuts, pecans, and walnuts

  • organ meats (liver, kidney)

  • soybeans and other legumes

  • whole grains and cereals

Because food-processing techniques such as cooking can make biotin ineffective, more active biotin is contained in raw or less-processed versions of these foods.

Having nutrients from natural sources is often best. If you're unable to get enough biotin naturally, your doctor can recommend a supplement. Note that supplements for protection, purity, dosage, or consistency are not regulated by the FDA, so study your brands before you purchase.

To Sum It Up

Although biotin is required for normal body function and supplements may help pregnant women and some people with diabetes, there is still insufficient evidence available to support supplementation or healthy hair, skin, or nail claims.

With that said, eating a balanced, nutritious diet of unprocessed or minimally processed foods for your optimum health is still a good idea.

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