Your body can only function as well as you feed it, which is why it’s so important to give your system what it needs each day. Biotin (vitamin B7) might not be a compound you consider often, but this nutrient plays a crucial role in your overall health. But what is biotin exactly, and how can you tell if you’re deficient in it? Let’s look at the details.
What is Biotin?
Sometimes known as vitamin H, biotin is one of many B complex vitamins, which are all the known water-soluble essential vitamins except vitamin C. Other B-complex vitamins include thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), folic acid and the cobalamins (vitamin B12).
While B complex vitamins have wide-ranging roles within your body, they are all involved with the digestive process and help your system convert food into fuel. Biotin itself is involved with breaking down fatty acids and amino acids for better metabolism, as well as promoting health factors like DNA stability, healthy blood sugar levels, and the promotion of skin, hair, and nail health.
Unlike many other vitamins, you can’t naturally produce biotin. And, as a water-soluble vitamin, biotin isn’t stored in your body tissues. This means that you need to take it in regularly through food to keep your levels high.
14 Health Benefits of Biotin
What does taking vitamin B7 provide for your body? Let’s look closer at the most impressive health benefits of biotin.
1. Reduces Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a nerve condition that occurs when your immune system attacks the protective covering of your neural pathways, leading to problems with the communication between your brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord. Evidence shows that high doses of biotin can increase cellular activity in ways that protect the central nervous system against nerve damage, making the vitamin an effective strategy for fighting MS.
2. Better Skin
Too little biotin in your body can lead to seborrheic dermatitis, a condition more commonly known as cradle cap. You might need to increase your intake if your skin and scalp have scaly, red rashes. Adequate levels of biotin should clear up the condition quickly and give you gorgeous, healthy skin.
3. Reduces Risk of Diabetes
Diabetes is caused by your body’s inability to process insulin- and biotin shows evidence of improving this process. Animal studies show that supplemental biotin can stimulate insulin secretions, which consequently lowers blood sugar levels that are indicative of diabetes. Likewise, biotin encourages normal blood sugar levels, and low biotin levels are often paired with elevated blood sugar.
So, if you have high blood sugar levels and are at risk for developing diabetes, taking more biotin might be the solution.
4. Stronger Hair, Less Hair Loss
While hair loss, also called alopecia, can have many triggers, your vitamin levels should not be discounted. Researchers have noticed a connection between low biotin levels and thinning, easily breakable hair. Likewise, supplementing your biotin levels can promote hair growth, especially if you take it with zinc to enhance the benefits.
5. Strengthens Fingernails
Taking biotin can improve the strength and thickness of your nails, according to small-scale studies. Weak, brittle nails are a sign that your levels are low, so supplementing your diet with more biotin can lead to less breakage.
6. Healthier Pregnancies/ Lower Risk of Birth Defects
Biotin deficiencies are bad news during pregnancies, and they can lead to long-term consequences for the developing baby. Research shows that too little biotin can lead to congenital disabilities, limb abnormalities, and cleft palates.
Part of the problem is that biotin breaks down faster in women’s bodies during pregnancy, so they need to take more than usual to keep their levels high. The good news? Prenatal vitamins contain high levels of folic acid, biotin and other critical compounds to keep your baby safe during pregnancy.
7. Promotes Brain Function
It turns out that high biotin levels are essential for brain health. Without adequate amounts, you reduce the formation of fatty myelin sheaths around your nerves, which are vital to facilitating and conducting nerve impulses.
If your biotin levels get low, it can compromise the functioning of these sheaths and trigger neurological problems like seizures, less muscle coordination, depression, lethargy, learning disabilities, and even hallucinations.
Likewise, keeping your levels where they should be staves off the development of cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. While the vitamin won’t act like a cure-all or prevent you from developing the conditions entirely, it can significantly slow down their progression.
If degenerative cognitive disorders run in your family, paying extra attention to your biotin levels is a smart strategy.
8. Reduces Inflammation
The research is clear; a deficiency in biotin can trigger inflammation. This is because it increases the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines that can aggravate allergies and other inflammatory conditions within your body. Consequently, ensuring that your levels are adequate can improve allergic inflammation responses, providing evidence that it might work as a therapy against inflammatory diseases.
9. Improves the Immune System
Low biotin levels can lead to a compromised immune system, putting you at a higher risk of contracting diseases. Taking biotin, in contrast, increases your body’s production of antibodies and Th1 cytokines, which are compounds that trigger your natural immune response to fight viral or bacterial infections.
Biotin also improves white blood cell counts, which helps reduce the risk of both viral and bacterial infections.
10. Jumpstart Metabolism
Biotin is a necessary ingredient for enzymes to complete the metabolic processes that turn dietary fats, protein, and carbohydrates into fuel. In other words, vitamin B7 helps your body convert food into usable energy. This is accomplished by turning your food into glucose that cells burn to power themselves. It can also activate fatty acids and break down amino acids from food to make them accessible for your body. Without adequate levels, your metabolism won’t function like it’s supposed to and you might experience symptoms like fatigue, low energy, weight gain, digestive problems, and potentially diabetes.
11. Rebuilds Muscle and Tissues
Biotin might be beneficial for brain health, but this versatile vitamin also helps you build up muscle mass. This compound can repair, grow, and maintain muscle tissues, meaning that its an essential nutrient for athletes and exercise enthusiasts alike. The vitamin will help reduce inflammation in your joints, which is a primary cause of muscle pain and difficulty with movement. Keeping your levels high maintains muscle strength and reduces your risk of damage.
12. Lower Risk of Heart Disease
Because biotin helps regulate your fat metabolism, the compound is also critical for healthy heart functioning. This is because fat metabolism plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy blood vessels and overall heart health. Along with chromium, biotin increases your levels of HDL (good) cholesterol while reducing the LDL (bad) to keep your levels under control.
13. Helps with Thyroid Issues
The family of B vitamins is useful for protecting your system from gland problems, especially in regards to the thyroid. This means that experiencing symptoms such as trouble sleeping, inexplicable weight gain or loss and fatigue are all signs that your levels aren’t where they should be.
14. Protects Against Cancer Development
Maintaining healthy biotin levels may help reduce your risk of cancer. This is because the compound plays a critical role in the development of DNA-binding proteins called histones. If your levels drop, you increase your risk of abnormal gene expression that may lead to cancer over time.
However, going too far in the other direction might not do you any favors. Research shows that excessive biotin levels might increase your risk of genetic damage and potential trigger cancer development.
Signs of Biotin Deficiency
Are your biotin levels where they should be? As biotin is found in a variety of foods, it’s rare to develop a genuine deficiency in the vitamin. However, signs that your levels are lower than they should be include the following:
- Hair loss/thinning
- Skin rashes and inflammation, especially around the mouth
- Lack of energy
- High cholesterol
- Ataxia (loss of control over muscle movements)
- Hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease)
Who is at Risk of a Biotin Deficiency?
Though a deficiency is rare, some populations are more at risk for developing the condition, including:
- Nursing infants with mothers with minimal biotin levels in breast milk.
- Infants fed formula without supplemental biotin levels.
- People with gastrointestinal disorders like inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) that decrease mineral absorption levels.
- Anyone who consumes raw eggs for extended periods. This can increase your intake of avidin, a protein found in eggs that binds to biotin and reduces its bioavailability for your body.
- Some people have biotinidase deficiency, a rare hereditary disorder defined by an impairment of the body’s ability to metabolize biotin.
- Taking anticonvulsant medication can drop biotin levels for reasons not yet understood.
- Regular smoking prevents your system from absorbing biotin.
If you recognize any of these symptoms or risk factors in yourself, it’s paramount that you talk with your doctor right away to get to the bottom of your biotin deficiency.
Biotin Rich Food Sources
Biotin deficiency might pose a real problem for your health, but thankfully, you likely won’t ever experience it. This vitamin is prevalent in a wide variety of foods, from most vegetables to mushrooms, tree nuts and peanuts, nonfat dairy products, organ meats, salmon, soy protein, egg yolks, and certain fruits such as bananas, grapefruit, strawberries, and watermelon. The vitamin in foods like these are classified as d-biotin, and consuming them is considered the most effective way to maintain high biotin levels.
It’s important to note that biotin is a relatively stable compound, but it can be destroyed under high heat conditions, meaning that cooking with biotin-rich foods will reduce their output of the vitamin.
Beyond food, you can also boost your biotin levels through supplements. This ensures your levels are where they need to be without stress on your part. This High Potency Biotin enhanced with coconut oil for better absorption is the most popular biotin supplement.
How Much Biotin Do You Need?
Your daily biotin requirement depends on your age. Children under five years old need 5-10 mg/day (micrograms per day), while those from five to 18 need approximately 12-25 mg/day. Adults should aim for 30 mg/day, and breastfeeding women do best with 35 mg/day.
Take Biotin for Better Health
So long as you’re eating a healthy, well-rounded diet, your biotin levels are likely where they should be. However, consider boosting your intake if you start noticing some of the symptoms in this article. Letting yourself become biotin deficient is terrible for your body, so learn the risk signs today so that you can stay on top of your health.