What is Biotin?
Biotin, also called Vitamin B7, is one of the B vitamins that are important to our overall health. Interestingly, biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin and is critical to skin, hair, and nail health. It’s also a coenzyme, which is a non-protein compound that functionally assists other compounds in your body. There are several different forms, but (D-biotin) plays an active role in the human body. Biotin attaches to specific proteins in a process called biotinylation, and is an important part of enzymes in the body that break down substances like fats, carbohydrates, and others.
Your body needs Biotin to carry out a variety of biochemical functions like:
- Converting amino acids into other compounds
- Creating fatty acids
- Producing glucose from non-carbohydrates to supply fuel to the brain and red blood cells
The human body does not produce biotin on its own, so we must get it from our diet. Biotin can be found in foods like eggs (particularly the egg yolks), milk, avocados, cauliflower, leafy greens, liver, mushrooms, and wild caught fish.
Benefits of Biotin
The main benefits for biotin, particularly when taken as a supplement on its own, tend to be with hair, skin and nails.
Hair follicle cells have a high turn over rate. This means that they quickly form and die, then repeat. Metabolism of these cells depends highly on the supply of nutrients and energy from the diet. Problems can result if you’re not getting the essential nutrients needed for these processes to happen. Some of the most important nutrients for healthy hair include: proteins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and vitamins (biotin being one of the key contributors).
Similar to hair, skin cells turn over quickly, and can be similarly impacted by the diet. When there aren’t sufficient nutrients present, all of the layers of the skin can be affected. Generally, most damage will appear in the upper layer of your skin (the epidermis). New skin cells form at the bottom of this layer and then move their way to the top where they flake off. This whole process takes about a month.
Nails are made up of mostly keratin. On average, your nails grow about 2 – 3mm per month. Your entire fingernail is replaced every 6 – 9 months. On average, nail disorders make up about 10% of dermatologic issues. As noted with hair and skin, nutritional deficiencies can have an effect on nail growth. One of the most common is brittle nails, which can often be helped with sufficient nutrients, such as biotin.
As you can see, biotin is a very important vitamin for healthy skin, hair, and nails. Biotin deficiency generally isn’t common, but can present itself in a variety of ways, including the following:
- Thinning hair
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Skin rash, particularly around the eyes, nose and mouth
- Low muscle tone
- Vision and hearing issues
Who should use Biotin?
For most healthy individuals biotin is considered to be a safe nutrient to supplement with, when dosed appropriately. Issues might arise if one overdoses on biotin. In that case, the person might experience stomach aches, skin rashes and fluctuating glucose levels in the bloodstream. These issues are generally avoidable if one follows the doctor’s prescription or the recommended intake. The current range that is considered to be within tolerable limits is between 5000-10000 mcg per day. If you are supplementing with higher doses of biotin and you are doing blood work, it is generally a good idea to stop a few days prior to testing. There are some indications that excess consumption of biotin can impact test results, particularly thyroid testing.