Biotin is an essential vitamin that is generally recognized for its ability to thicken nails, prevent splitting and cracking. Biotin, a member of the B-complex vitamins, is also known as vitamin B7, is an enzymatic cofactor. It further plays a critical role in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and protein.
Although biotin deficiency is relatively uncommon, it has been observed and investigated in the clinical literature. People with a rare genetic biotin-responsive disorder called biotinidase deficiency are at particular risk for developing the condition (1).
Pregnant women are also at a higher risk of developing a mild biotin deficiency.
In fact, a biotin deficiency is frequently not detected in a laboratory setting. Frequently, symptoms, such as hair thinning, skin rashes, depression, fatigue, hallucinations, and tingling of the extremities, characterize a biotin deficiency.
Biotinidase is an enzyme responsible for recycling biotin and for making it bioavailable from dietary sources. (2).
People with biotinidase deficiency will require lifelong supplementation with biotin to avoid adverse neurologic consequences (3).
The lack of biotin present in the breastmilk of some nursing mothers can also lead to the development of biotin deficiency in breastfed infants, which frequently leads to seborrheic dermatitis (4).
Biotin supplementation is an effective strategy to treat the condition.
1Biotin helps with hair loss. Biotin deficiency has many possible symptoms, one of which is hair loss. The ability of biotin to stop hair loss has been evaluated in several clinical studies. While biotin deficiency can be linked to various underlying causes, supplementation with biotin appears to be effective in restoring biotin deficiency-related hair loss (5).
The antiepileptic drug, valproic acid, has been linked to causing biotin deficiency in some trials by reducing serum biotinidase activity (6).
Scientific evidence remains to be inconclusive, with some studies reinforcing, others contradicting these findings.
In one study, treatment with valproic acid was linked to dose-related adverse events, namely skin issues and hair loss. Patients and the control group underwent clinical and laboratory evaluations to determine whether biotinidase deficiency brought on these symptoms. Valproic acid was found to indirectly cause reduced biotinidase enzyme activity and or biotin deficiency (7).
Another study contradicts the above findings. The results of the trial showed that valproic acid treatment did not impact biotinidase activity. Of the 57 children treated with valproic acid, 3 of them experienced hair loss which was ultimately resolved after a 3-month supplementation with 10 mg of biotin daily. Serum levels of biotin and biotinidase activity remained normal in these patients for the entire duration of the trial (8).
2Biotin may improve cardiovascular health. Biotin helps to reduce serum triglyceride levels. In an animal study, biotin supplementation reduced serum triglycerides by 35% (9).
This is an important finding as high triglyceride levels in the blood increase the risk for heart disease (10).
In 1980 a double-blind clinical study was conducted to look at the effects of biotin supplementation on plasma lipid levels. The trial included 40 men and women aged 30 to 60, randomly allocated into 2 groups. One group received 0.9 mg of biotin daily, and the other group received placebo, both for a duration of 71 days.
In the biotin-treated group, statistically significant positive changes were seen in total lipid, total phospholipid, and in other plasma constituents when compared to the placebo group. There was an adverse relationship between biotin levels and total plasma lipids (11).
3Biotin makes your nails stronger. In a clinical study, published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology in 1990, biotin was shown to increase nail thickness by 25% over a six months period in a group of women with brittle nails (12).
Several other studies since then have shown similar results. A 2017 review of articles concluded that biotin had been used with promising results in the treatment of various nail conditions. Due to the shortage of well-controlled clinical trials, there is a need for larger scale studies to determine the optimum dose and to confirm its efficacy (13).
4Biotin can help with type 2 diabetes. Glucokinase (GK) is an enzyme that plays an important role in glucose metabolism. Biotin stimulates glucokinase activity which controls insulin secretion (14).
In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 8-week supplementation with biotin increased insulin secretion, improved glucose tolerance with no impact on fasting glucose levels or insulin tolerance. These findings led the authors to conclude that biotin may have a positive effect on beta-cell function and with that on diabetes treatment and prevention (15).
One of the many complications of diabetes is peripheral neuropathy, a form of nerve damage causing loss of sensation, numbness and sometimes pain in the feet, legs, and hands (16).
In a study published in 1990, the effect of high dose biotin on severe diabetic peripheral neuropathy was assessed. The 3 diabetic patients in the trial were given high dose biotin for 1-2 years. Both clinical and laboratory findings showed marked improvement in all 3 patients (1).
5Biotin plays a role in skin health. Biotin deficiency frequently manifests itself in skin issues. Some people may develop a skin condition called exfoliative or erythematous dermatitis as a result (17).
Exfoliative dermatitis is characterized by red, scaly patches on the skin.
While biotin is generally taken orally, a study tested its ability to get absorbed through the skin when applied percutaneously in the form of an ointment. In the trial, twenty patients with atopic dermatitis (eczema) and eleven healthy volunteers were included. Percutaneous application of biotin-containing ointment significantly raised serum biotin levels. The study authors concluded that biotin appears to be readily absorbed through human skin (18).
Biotin has a positive effect in treating chemotherapy-induced skin rash. In a small study involving 4 patients undergoing treatment for skin cancer with two different types of chemotherapy agents, biotin decreased skin rash brought on by the drugs (19).
6Biotin may prevent congenital disabilities. Several studies have shown that biotin deficiency is relatively common in pregnant women (20).
The rate of women during pregnancy impacted by the condition may be as high as 50% (21).
Marginal biotin deficiency tends to be the highest during the first trimester, raising serious concern about the possible development of birth defects (22).
Biotin deficiency appears to be at least partially responsible for cleft palate formation (23).
Besides cleft palate, animal studies have demonstrated that a lack of maternal biotin can produce various different abnormalities, such as micromelia and micrognathia (24).
7Biotin plays a role in immune function. Cytokines are small secreted proteins that act as chemical messengers, facilitating communications between the various cells in the body (25).
They interact with the immune cells, regulating the body’s response to fight infections caused by bacteria and viruses. Biotin supplementation increases the production of cytokines by affecting gene expression in human immune cells (26).
8Biotin may have the potential to treat Multiple Sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease categorized by the degradation of the myelin sheath in nerve cells. Consequently, these nerve cells become damaged causing an array of issues (27).
Yet, many studies indicate the potential use of biotin in improving health problems in MS patients. A 2015 study explored the effects of high doses of biotin on 23 MS patients. 4 patients with visual impairments associated with the optic nerve reported improvements. 16 patients with spinal cord issues also had notable improvements.
The study concluded that biotin in such high doses may help stall the progression of the disease and reduce disability associated with it (28).
Another review and study in 2016 suggested similar. Researchers hypothesized that high doses of biotin promote remyelination through myelin production and energy production. Other preliminary studies also reported the same. Yet, further research will help solidify these results (29, 30, 31).
9Biotin is important for the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Numerous studies indicate the importance of biotin’s role in the metabolism of these macronutrients. Certain enzymes involved in these processes require biotin to function properly. In other words, it plays a critical role in the body’s energy production (32, 33).
1Biotin can skew blood tests. High-dose biotin supplementation may skew thyroid test results and mimic the laboratory pattern of Grave’s disease (34).
2Biotin can cause IBS like symptoms. While most people can handle biotin supplements, some people report mild side effects like nausea and digestive issues. There are no known toxicity symptoms associated with too much biotin.
Between 30 and 100 micrograms (mcg) per day of biotin is often recommended for adolescents and adults.
Biotin supplementation is frequently recommended to those with deficiencies or to pregnant women. A biotin deficiency may cause hair loss, high acidity levels in the blood or urine, skin rashes or infections, brittle nails, neurodegenerative disorders, and even seizures. Thus, it is essential to avoid biotin levels from falling too low.
Overdose or toxicity with biotin is very unlikely because biotin is a water-soluble vitamin, and any excess amount will be excreted in the urine (37).
Is Biotin good for weight loss? Some supplement manufacturers also claim that biotin supplements can speed up metabolism and in turn promote weight loss.
Can biotin stop multiple sclerosis from developing? Studies indicate that MS symptoms may be minimized by high doses of biotin. However, more studies are needed to clarify and support this claim. For now, it is not used as a treatment for MS patients nor is it necessarily recommended.
How does biotin help the skin? If you don’t have enough biotin in your diet, it can lead to hair loss, brittle nails, or itchy skin.
How much biotin can you take in a day? It can also be taken as a supplement if needed. The recommended daily amount is 30 micrograms. However, taking biotin supplements is not recommended unless suggested by your doctor.
How long will it take for biotin to work? It takes at least three months to see the results of biotin.
Does biotin help hair growth? Biotin is one of several vitamins that play a role in the growth of healthier, thicker hair. It’s also one of the only natural hair loss treatments backed up by science, with study data showing that use of biotin produces a significant increase in hair growth in people with a deficiency.
Does biotin make your body hair grow? Yes, biotin will help all body and head hair grow better no matter the location.
Can you overdose on biotin? Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin, so any extra biotin in your body will flush out through your urine. This makes a potential overdose unlikely.
Does biotin cause acne? It’s not that biotin causes acne, but a deficiency in vitamin B5 will.
What are good natural sources of biotin? The best natural sources of biotin include organ meats, whole grains and cereals, almonds, cauliflower, egg yolk, peanuts, nut butters, bananas, mushrooms, pecans, soybeans, and walnuts.
Raw or minimally-processed versions of these foods contain more active biotin since cooking, and other food processing techniques tend to make biotin inactive.
Can you overdose on biotin? It is very difficult to overdose on biotin since it is a water-soluble vitamin. Water-soluble vitamins are carried to the body’s tissues but are not stored in the body. This means that when there is too much of it in the system, your body naturally gets rid of it via the urinary system.
Does biotin give you energy? Biotin helps your body produce energy in your cells and like most B vitamins he helps takes the foods you eat (fat, carbohydrates, and proteins) and converts them into energy. Taking biotin or other B vitamins by itself does not give you energy, it only helps create energy when combined with other nutrients and foods.
Vitamin B7, more commonly known as biotin, is a B vitamin. Like all B vitamins, biotin aids the body in breaking down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for energy production. It also has roles in maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nervous system function and may help pregnant women and some people with diabetes.
It has very minimal side effects and almost no toxicity since it’s a water-soluble vitamin – meaning it is excreted via urine. However, even with minimal side effects, it is important to check with your family doctor before consuming any new supplements.
With that said, there still isn’t enough data available to support 100% of the benefits conclusively and as such it’s always a good idea to eat a balanced, healthy diet of non-processed or minimally processed foods for your optimal health instead of relying on supplements.