A very important vitamin, biotin is a member of the vitamin B complex group. It is a water soluble vitamin that was formerly known as vitamin H or coenzyme R. Biotin is ubiquitous in our diet and is majorly obtained from yeast, chicken and beef liver, kidney, cooked egg yolk, soya beans and peanuts. Other good sources of biotin include chocolate, cauliflower, mushroom, wholegrain cereals, whole meal bread, meat, milk and cheese. Green vegetables are poor sources of biotin. Biotin is also produced by intestinal bacteria but such microbial biotin contribution however remains unknown.
Function of biotin is that it acts as an integral part of enzymes responsible for the transportation of carboxyl groups and fixes carbon-dioxide. Biotin enzymes also play a role in the metabolism of carbohydrate and lipids. They are responsible in gluconeogenesis, fatty acid synthesis, propionate metabolism and catabolism of amino acids.
Biotin gets rapidly absorbed in the body through the gastrointestinal tract, especially in the small intestine region (jejunum and ileum) and negligibly from the large intestine (colon). After getting absorbed, it gets distributed properly and gets bound to the plasma proteins. Finally, it gets majorly excreted in unchanged from through urine. It also appears in breast milk. It also is excreted through bile excretion. Biotin deficiency may arise in patients on prolonged parenteral nutrition and also during pregnancy. Symptoms of biotin deficiency includes anorexia, nausea, vomiting, loss of taste, dry scaly dermatitis, panic and an increased level of serum cholesterol and bile pigments.
Biotin deficiency may also arise on prolonged consumption of raw egg white because that contains a substance avidin, which is a biotin binding protein. Biotin deficiency leads to thinning of hair progressively leading to falling of hair including eyebrows and lashes. Person also develops a red, scaly rash on the skin layer. Lethargy, depression, hallucinations, paraesthesia of extremities also seems prominent in adults. Infants also show lethargy and development delay.
Health Benefits of Biotin
As energy producer – Biotin assists in energy production in the body. It synthesizes saturated fatty acids from carbohydrate. It also synthesizes blood sugar from non-carbohydrate precursor like lactic acid and pyruvic acid during starvation and fasting. The oxidation of propionic acid as well as the breakdown of essential amino acid, leucine is done by biotin.
Biotin along with other vitamins helps us turn our food into energy and produce a large number of chemical substances that our body needs to work properly. They also help our cells to grow and divide properly.
So, biotin is required in our body and our body does also produce it. Also supplementation is available and large doses do not give toxic results.
Biotin for your hair and nails – We see a lot of shampoos and conditioners in the market today claiming that it contains biotin that helps restore back the hair loss and damage seen. It claims that this biotin can help us in preventing the balding and graying of hair. But this is not true. Biotin deficiency does cause hair loss and brittle nails but hair loss problem can only be fixed once you fix the actual problem. You must remember that natural balding procedure is not treated by biotin.
Miscellaneous uses of biotin
- Hooves of horse are made harder by the use of biotin by the horse breeders.
- Biotin is also sometimes suggested for infants having a cradle cap, an inflammation of skin on the scalp. But you must talk to your pediatrician before giving biotin supplementation to your infant.
- Biotin may also make fingernails stronger if taken in a very large dose but this is not a promising cure for brittle nails.
Probable uses of biotin
- There are claims that biotin has a possibility of treating brittle finger nails, acne, seborrhoeic dermatitis, hair fragility and alopecia. But such claims need more clinical trials and research.
- Some studies have also showed that reduced biotin levels are a cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But this statement does not support any strong proof and can be circumstantial. Also parents must not get misunderstood that infants should be given biotin supplementation to stay protected from SIDS.
- It is also seen that biotin might also have a role in gene expression and that it might have a potential role in DNA transcription and regulation. But this is concluded from trials on diabetic humans and rats and the effect seen under normal biotin level is yet under research.
Side effects and drug interactions
Adverse effects – No adverse effects have been observed. No toxicity problems have been reported by taking large dose of biotin supplementation.
Precautions – No contraindications have been reported on biotin consumption. Biotin does not harm pregnant or breast feeding women.
Interactions – The amount of biotin is required to be increased if given along with anticonvulsants like carbamazepine, phenobarbitone, phenytoin etc.
Dose – Biotin is available mainly in multivitamin preparations. It is obtained in the form of tablets or capsules. Dose is not established and the dietary supplementation provides 100-300 microgram daily.
Biotin has very potential role in our body as discussed above in the energy related processes. It must not be mistaken that biotin will solve your hair problem but yes biotin diet can make your nails and hair healthy.