Biotin is a B-vitamin, and is also known by the name of vitamin B7. It was once known as coenzyme R, or vitamin H. The H stood for Haar und Haut, the German words for Hair and Skin. Biotin is water soluble, which means that it dissolves in water, and has many important functions in the body.
Biotin is necessary for the functions of several enzymes that are known as carboxylases, which are biotin-containing enzymes that participate in important metabolic functions, like the production of glucose and fatty acids. Commonly recommended, the intake is about five micrograms per day in infants and thirty micrograms in adults. This can be increased to thirty five micrograms per day in breastfeeding women.
Deficiency for biotin is fairly rare, but some groups of people are more likely to experience it in mild forms, such as pregnant women. Other factors, such as consuming raw eggs, can cause a deficiency. But to do something like that, you'd have to dine on raw eggs for quite a long amount of time. Raw egg whites contain a protein called avidin, which binds to biotin and prevents it from being absorbed by the body. Thankfully, it's rendered inactive during cooking.
Biotin is a key vitamin for energy production, and several enzymes require it to properly function. These enzymes are specifically involved in fat, protein, and carb metabolizm, and initiate crucial parts of the metabolic processes of these nutrients. Biotin plays a role in fatty acid synthesis by assisting enzymes that activate reactions important to breaking down fatty acids. It's also important in gluconeogenisis, which is the metabolic pathway that results in the generation of glucose from certain non-carbohydrate carbon substrates. Gluconeogenesis is one of the several main mechanisms used by humans and many animals to maintain blood glucose levels, avoiding hypoglycemia. It's also important in the breakdown of amino acids, as biotin-containing enzymes are involved in the metabolism of several important kinds, such as leucine.
Biotin is important for more cosmetic purposes as well, such as brittle nails for one. Brittle nails are nails that are weak can become easily chipped, cracked, or split. It's very common to have brittle nails, unfortunately, as an estimated twenty percent of people around the globe are effected. But, in one study, eight people with brittle nails were given 2.5mg of biotin, per day, for a minimum of six up to fifteen months. Thickness in the nails improved by twenty five percent in all eight participants, and nail splitting was also reduced. In yet another study, thirty five people with brittle nails found that 2.5mg of biotin a day for one and a half to seven months improved symptoms in sixty seven percent of participants. These studies were rather small, however, and more research is certainly needed.
In a similar cosmetic vain, biotin is also often associated with an increase of hair growth, and not just any kind, but healthier, and stronger hair. And while more research is certainly needed to back this claim, a deficiency in biotin may lead to hair loss, which indicated and importance in the vitamin when it comes to maintaining a lush mane of hair. Whether or not it improves hair growth in healthy people, the jury's still out on that, but people with even a slight deficiency should certainly see results from added supplementation.
Biotin may even help controlling the blood sugar levels of those who have diabetes. Type two diabetes is a metabolic disease, and is characterized by high blood sugar levels and impaired insulin function. Recently, researches have studied how biotin supplements affect blood sugar levels in type two diabetics, and some evidence shows that biotin concentrations in blood may be lower in people with diabetes, compared to healthier individuals. Studies in diabetics given biotin alone have, as of it, provided mixed results. On the other hand, several controlled studies have shown that biotin supplements, combined with the mineral chromium, may lower blood sugar levels in some people with type two diabetes.
When it comes to skin, Biotin's role in skin healthy isn't fully understood, but it is known that you may get red, scaly skin rashes if you have a biotin deficiency. Other studies have also suggested that biotin deficiency may sometimes cause a skin disorder known as seborrheic dermatits, or cradle cap, as it's more commonly known. Biotin's role in skin healthy could possibly be related to it's effect on fat metabolism, which is important for the skin and may be impaired when dealing with a deficiency.
Biotin is important when it comes to pregnancy and breastfeeding, and require an increased requirement for the vitamin. It's actually been estimated that about half of all women who get pregnant may develop a mild deficiency in the vitamin. This means that it may start to affect their well being, but not enough to cause noticeable symptoms. Deficiencies are thought to occur in pregnant women thanks to faster breakdown during pregnancy. Additional, a major cause for concern in these women is that animals studies have found that a biotin deficiency has shown to be alongside many birth defects, and may be a contributing factor. Nevertheless, remember to always consult your doctor or dietitian/nutritionist before taking supplements during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Biotin also may affect multiple sclerosis, which is an autoimmune disease. In MS, the protective covering of nerve fibers in the brain, spinal cord, and eyes is damaged or destroyed. This protective covering is called myelin, and biotin is known to be an important factor in producing it. In fact, a pilot study in twenty three people with progressive Multiple Sclerosis tested the use of high doses of biotin, and over ninty percent of participants had some degree of improvement. And of course, this finding needs much more study, at least two randomized controlled trials have been carried out in people with progressive MS. The final results have not been published, but the preliminary results are promising.
Biotin is found in a rather wide variety of foods, which means that deficiency while not impossible, is rare. Such foods include Wheat germ, whole-grain cereals, whole wheat bread, eggs, dairy products, peanuts, soya nuts, Swiss chard, salmon, and chicken are all sources of biotin, alongside organ meats, such as liver and kidney and mushrooms. A bit of it is even produced by the bacteria in your stomach, on it's own or as a component of mixed vitamin supplements.
To top all of these benefits off, biotin is considered extremely safe. Even massive doses of up to three hundred milligrams a day, which is what was used to test multiple sclerosis and it's effects, have not led to any adverse side effects. And because it's a water-soluble vitamin, excess of it is lead out of the body in urine. However, there have been some reports of high-dose biotin causing strange results on thyroid tests, so check with a doctor before using if you are currently taking thyroid medication.