Biotin, or vitamin H is part of the complex B vitamins. Along with helping the body metabolize fats and carbohydrates, biotin has been linked to improved hair health and maintaining proper function of the nervous system. Though it’s uncommon to have a deficiency in biotin, chronic smokers, alcoholics, pregnant women, those with Crohn’s and/or liver disease and anyone eating a diet loaded with processed foods are most likely to have a deficiency. Symptoms often reveal themselves through dry eyes, cracking on the sides of the mouth, scaly skin, depression and hair loss.
I spoke with registered nutritionist and dietitian, Susan Fyshe for more on why you should ensure you’re getting enough of this essential vitamin, found in many nutrient-rich foods, including nuts, fruits, and vegetables.
1. Strengthen hair and nails
Though there’s minimal research to support the effects of biotin on hair growth, there’s strong evidence to support a deficiency will cause hair loss. Similarly, the vitamin also helps thicken nail cuticles and prevents breakage. A number of hair care companies are now including biotin directly in their products though Fyshe suggests taking biotin orally for optimal results. Thirty micrograms (mcg) a day is the adequate intake level listed for adults over the age of 19.
2. Improve the health of your skin
A biotin deficiency can lead to a variety of skin problems including rashes, acne, psoriasis, dermatitis and overall itchiness. “B vitamins play a key role in the function of the nervous system and do affect hormone function, which suggests why depleting biotin levels can in turn play a significant role in skin health,” says Fyshe. If skin isn’t nourished from the inside out, toxicities will form throughout the nervous system and manifest itself on the skin’s surface. This is one of the biggest signs that suggest a deficiency in biotin or vitamin B.
3. Aid in weight loss
Biotin plays a pivotal role in supporting metabolic function and works as a co-enzyme to help break down food, particularly carbohydrates. This reaction is further accelerated when biotin is paired with chromium. Your resting metabolic rate is elevated and food breaks down faster when consuming biotin, which is why there’s a link to biotin and accelerating weight loss. However, research is still preliminary and in no way does biotin act as a weight loss pill. It is still important to pair the supplement with a healthy diet and exercise regime to make sure you meet your slim-down goals. The good news: biotin is widely available and can be found in many foods such chicken, soy, walnuts, whole grains, beans and legumes.
4. Lower cholesterol
Biotin has shown to play a role in lowering cholesterol, which when too high, can lead to heart disease including heart attack and stroke. Preliminary research has shown biotin can help reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.
It’s important to note that raw eggs can inhibit the absorption of biotin so if you’re drinking a raw egg shake or eat raw eggs in food, beware that it can reduce the amount of biotin you’re metabolizing.
5. Regulate blood sugar
Biotin intake has been associated with helping to fight and preventing diabetes, particularly type 2. Pairing biotin with chromium has been show to have an even greater effect. A study conducted at the Alpha Therapy Center in Corpus Christi, Texas found that, “a chromium picolinate/biotin combination…can improve glycaemic control in overweight to obese individuals with type 2 diabetes; especially those patients with poor glycaemic control on oral therapy.” A 2005 study found that, “Biotin deficiency has been linked to impaired glucose tolerance and decreased utilization of glucose.”
Who should take it?
Anyone can take biotin as it is treated as a supplement and not a drug. “Since it’s found in most foods, most of us already meet our daily requirements simply by consuming a nutrient-rich diet,” notes Fyshe. Biotin is also safe for pregnant women, but it’s always best to check with your doctor to determine what dosage is right for you. It can be found in a multivitamin, B complex or in pure tablet form and is readily available over the counter.