Also known as vitamin H or B7, biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that enables the body to metabolize fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Since water soluble vitamins are not stored in the body, it enhances the importance of daily intake. It is interesting to note that vitamin B7 cannot be synthesized by human cells, but it is produced by bacteria in the body, and is also present in numerous foods. Besides metabolizing fats, carbohydrates, and protein, biotin also serves a number of other important functions-
- Maintaining a healthy pregnancy – During pregnancy, a mild biotin deficiency is quite common. It can, however, lead to abnormal development in the foetus. Hence, folic acid supplementation is recommended both the year before and during pregnancy. It is advisable to go for a multivitamin that provides at least 30mcg of biotin per day, besides folic acid, to bring down the risk of deficiencies.
- Nails, hair, and skin – Evidences suggest that biotin may have a role to play in improving the strength and durability of fingernails as well as enhance hair and skin health.
- Lowering blood glucose – Several studies have tested the ability of biotin to reduce blood glucose levels in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The results have been on the positive side. That being said, we need more studies to confirm the effects of biotin on blood sugar.
- Controlling neuropathy – Biotin also helps in reducing nerve damage in diabetic people or who are undergoing dialysis for kidney disease. Biotin is necessary for the activity of pyruvate carboxylase, without which, high levels of pyruvate and aspartate may arise, which in turn, can have an adverse effect on the nerves.
- Biotin responsive basal ganglia disease – A rare and inherited disorder, this affects a part of the nervous system that controls movement. It can lead to involuntary tensing of muscles, muscle rigidity, muscle weakness, and other issues. Apparently, the condition responds to treatment with thiamin and biotin.
- Treating multiple sclerosis – According to studies, high dose biotin therapy might improve symptoms in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease that affects the nervous system, leading to muscle weakness, besides a host of other problems. Results published in 2016 suggested that biotin was a safe therapy. In some participants, a high dose, taken thrice daily, reduced symptoms after 9 months of use.
Foods that are rich in biotin include, baker’s yeast, wheat bran, organ meats, cooked, whole eggs, oysters, etc. Biotin tablets are available alone, combined in a supplement with B vitamins, or included in a multivitamin. Biotin tablets are usually taken to prevent/treat hair loss, brittle nails, seborrheic dermatitis, diabetes, mild depression, etc. However, biotin deficiency is rare in humans, since biotin is widely available in foods, and it is always the ideal option to get nutrients for dietary sources primarily. In case you are considering biotin supplements or simply going to buy multivitamins online, make sure you first check with a medical practitioner.