Biotin is a water soluble B vitamin that naturally occurs in foods and is typically part of many daily supplements. Biotin is necessary for many of our body’s functions including: cell growth, metabolism of fats and amino acids, and the maintenance of blood sugar levels. The average diet provides approximately 30 – 50 mcg of biotin a day which is considered adequate. However, biotin can have therapeutic effects at higher levels and is considered non-toxic. Therefore, for those considered with skin, hair, and nail health, a dosage of 300 micrograms daily may be recommended.
Further, although biotin is naturally occurs in food sources such as brown rice, lentils, oats, sunflower seeds, and walnuts, it is often found in very low amounts. Foods such as brewer’s and nutritional yeast are high in biotin and can easy be added to other foods. It is important to note that raw egg whites contain a protein (Avidin) that interferes with the body’s absorption of biotin. Further, long term usage of antibiotics may also lead to a decrease in the body’s biotin levels because they destroy bacteria in the gut that produces biotin.
Although deficiencies in biotin are considered rare, they do occur. The symptoms of a deficiency include a progressive hair loss, a lack of re-growth, and a loss of eyebrows and eyelashes. Additional symptoms include dry scaly skins, dry eyes, loss of appetite, and fatigue. Even if symptoms as severe as these do not occur, marginal deficiency may occur in those who are pregnant, have type 2 diabetes, or who suffer from alcoholism.
Biotin is so important to health hair growth that it is often referred to as Vitamin H. It plays a significant role in the overall health of nails, skin, and hair. For those experiencing scalp and hair issues, it is recommended that biotin supplements are taken because it can be extremely difficult to get the proper amounts from diet alone. In fact, for individuals with hair loss issues, up to 3 mg may be taken; this amount is significantly more than what the average individual ingests via diet alone.
Biotin has been shown to improve the thickness of nails in 90% of individuals who a daily dose of 2,500 micrograms. While it is essential for hair growth, biotin can also improve the elasticity of the hair decreasing the chance of breakage. Finally, biotin is thought to improve blood glucose control and fasting glucose levels for those with diabetes – especially type 2.
Biotin is commonly found in shampoos and conditioners. It is suggested that it can penetrate the hair shaft and make it appear fuller. However, biotin has not been found to be well absorbed through the skin so the benefits from biotin in this form are minimal.
Ultimately, a healthy diet and supplements as needed are the best manner in which to take this essential nutrient.