Most of us are familiar with the numbered B-vitamins like vitamin B1, B2, B6 and B12. And many of us have probably heard of biotin. But did you know that biotin is technically a member of the large B-vitamin family, and its other name is vitamin B7? I’m not sure why this particular nutrient has dropped its numerical name for the other but maybe it wanted to set itself apart from its relatives. At any rate, like its B-vitamin cousins, biotin is water soluble and must be consumed on a regular basis through the diet or supplements like a multivitamin or B-complex tablet.
Biotin has many roles in the body. For example, it helps in the production of fatty acids and like most other B-vitamins, it assists with the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It also helps the other B-vitamins do their jobs properly and ensures they are utilizes by our systems.
Biotin is probably best known for its role in promoting healthy hair, skin and nails. Some men have found that taking 100 mg a day of biotin may prevent hair loss. Conversely, being deficient in biotin may cause your hair to thin. Some studies have found promising evidence that taking biotin in a combo with the mineral zinc and a topical medication called Olux or Temovate may help children who have lost their hair through an auto-immune condition called alopecia areata, but researchers admit more study is needed.
And because it helps keep our sweat glands working properly and encourages proper fat production, it has been linked to healthy skin. Infants who are deficient in biotin may develop seborrheic dermatitis, or cradle cap, a condition that causes the scalp to become dry and scaly.
Low amounts of biotin may also cause our fingernails to become weak and break really easily. And, just like the case above, supplementing with biotin may help make our nails stronger. A review of vitamins and minerals that may help with fingernail health and diseases found that 2,500 micrograms of biotin a day may improve brittle nail syndrome. And another small study of 35 patients with brittle nails showed improved nail thickness in 63 percent of the patients after taking a daily biotin supplement.
The benefits of biotin are not necessarily limited to the hair, skin and nails. Other research has found that diabetes may lead to low levels of the nutrient, and that supplementing with biotin may help lower blood sugar levels. This effect is seen in both diabetics and non-diabetics, but it appears to be especially impressive in people with diabetes. Biotin may also help with peripheral neuropathy, a common condition associated with diabetes.
Antibiotics, sulfa drugs, and saccharin can cause our biotin levels to drop down really low, and raw egg whites contain a protein called avidin that combines with biotin in the intestines and removes it from our bodies. If you like cooked egg yolks, milk, poultry, whole grains, saltwater fish and soybeans, you’ll probably get a good amount of biotin naturally from your foods. And as an added nutritional health insurance policy, you may wish to supplement with biotin as well.
Balch and Balch, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, page 18