In reality, most of us don’t eat what we should, thus making the consumption of supplemental vitamins a must for many people. Now, the first step should be: knowing your vitamins and what they do, so you can help stack the deck in your body’s favor. For instance, how many people know that biotin is a water-soluble vitamin, also known as vitamin B7 that helps your body convert food into energy? Have you also heard of how vital it is for women during pregnancy and breastfeeding? Well, that’s not even all it does—it helps to improve the health of your hair, skin and nails.
Beyond these benefits, biotin’s overall effect on enzymes has given rise to some studies that indicate that it could interact with the metabolism of glucose in the human body. In studying rodents, it was discovered that the higher the circulation of biotin levels in their blood, the higher the amount of insulin released. This, in itself, results in a decreased level of glucose after a period of time. Though there isn’t much evidence in the studies conducted in humans in regard to biotin, but it is largely regarded as a beneficial dietary supplement.
In this article, we would be explaining all there is to know about biotin, including 7 of its major health benefits in the human body.
Strengthens Brittle Nails
We all know how weak brittle nails are and how they can easily become chipped, fragile or cracked. If you suffer from this condition, there’s really nothing to be bothered about–an estimated 20% of the world’s population are going through the same problem.
But thankfully, biotin supplements can prove really beneficial in reducing nail splitting.
Possibly Reduces Blood Sugar Levels in Diabetics
A metabolic disease like Type 2 diabetes is often characterized by high blood sugar levels and compromised insulin function. Some research evidence have indicated that compared to healthy people, biotin supplements may positively affect blood sugar levels in diabetic people.
Also, some other studies have shown that when used with mineral chromium, biotin supplements could significantly reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Increases Hair Growth
Interestingly, there isn’t much evidence to support this, but biotin is usually linked with healthier and increased hair growth. In certian cases, biotin deficiency has been associated with hair loss, which indicates that this water-soluble vitamin is actually good for your hair.
Though, it is often sold as an alternative treatment for hair loss, only people with an actual biotin deficiency get the benefit that the supplements provide. It is still unclear if it really works for healthy people.
Biotin plays a vital role in energy production in the body, especially since several enzymes need it to function effectively. These enzymes are needed in the metabolism of carbohydrate, fat and protein. In fact, they are critical in the metabolic processes of these nutrients.
Biotin aids gluconeogenesis by facilitating glucose production from amino acids like leucine and other sources that are not carbohydrate. Biotin helps to make this happen.
Helps in the Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis
In an autoimmune disease like multiple sclerosis (MS), the protective covering of nerve fibers in the brain, spinal cord and eyes is usually damaged. With biotin playing a vital role in producing this protective covering known as myelin, it may prove a viable treatment option for this disease.
Some findings even indicate that more than 90% of people with progressive MS who took high doses of biotin showed some promising improvement.
Works for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women
Pregnancy and breastfeeding have been associated with an increased need for this vitamin. But unfortunately, according to a study, about 50% of pregnant women are likely to develop a mild biotin deficiency. Though this may affect their overall health slightly, it isn’t often serious enough to cause significant health issues.
A study on animals suggests that birth defects may occur due to biotin deficiencies. The deficiencies do happen mostly because biotin is broken down within the body during pregnancy.
However, it is best to always consult a qualified medical professional or dietitian before considering biotin supplements while pregnant and breastfeeding.
It is Beneficial to the Skin
The effect of biotin in improving skin health isn’t quite clear. However, a biotin deficiency has been known to cause red, scaly skin rashes and sometimes, a skin condition called cradle cap.
It is likely that biotin’s role in skin health has to do with its effect on fat metabolism. Yes, fat metabolism is vital for healthy skin and could be compromised if biotin is lacking in the body system.
Also, remember that there is no evidence to support the assertion that biotin works well on the skin of individuals who aren’t deficient in it.
Foods that Contain Biotin
Luckily, we can find biotin in a large variety of foods, making an actual deficiency quite rare. Foods that are notably good sources of the vitamin include liver meat, mushrooms, cheese, kidney meat, yeast, raw eggs, leafy greens, soybeans, peanuts, cauliflower, and nuts.
And in case you didn’t know, the good bacteria in your gut produce some amount of biotin too. The vitamin is also available as a supplement on its own as well as a component of combined vitamin supplements.
What are its Side Effects?
Biotin is largely considered tolerable. Even in cases of really high doses of up to 300 milligrams per day in treating multiple sclerosis, no adverse side effect has been recorded.
Okay, let’s put this in perspective—the usually recommended dose for adults is 30 milligrams. A 300 milligram dose is therefore 10 times higher than what should be consumed. Now, because it is a water-soluble vitamin, excess amounts of it are passed out in urine.
However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that biotin supplements can significantly change results of medical tests of medical conditions like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, anemia, and thyroid problems. Also, there have been some reports of thyroid issues as a result of a high-dose biotin intake. It’s best to consult with a doctor before using, especially if you are presently on medication for thyroid diseases.
The Bottom Line
Though most of the potential health benefits of biotin are backed up with evidences that aren’t strong enough, it is clear that this is a B-vitamin that plays a crucial role in the body. It facilitates the breakdown of carbs, fat and protein in the body. It may also be beneficial for your skin, hair and nail health. Further, it is a potential treatment for multiple sclerosis and ideal for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Since the marketing and consumption of supplements are not really regulated, the FDA does not consider biotin a drug. This is because the manufacturers of supplements are hardly required to prove their safety, making it somewhat difficult to determine just how much you should consume. Some evidences have even shown biotin’s interference with blood tests. Unfortunately, the labels do not indicate such warnings.
And so, because it is contained in a wide variety of foods, an actual deficiency is very rare. It is for this same reason that biotin supplements may have no significant benefits for healthy people. If you consistently eat a balanced diet, biotin supplementation may be well unnecessary.