Biotin


What do you think of when you hear the word biotin? Most people are going to go straight to the most popular use: beauty products.

However, biotin really does do so much more than that. It, like all other essential vitamins and nutrients, plays an integral part in keeping your body running like a well-oiled machine and helping to feel your best.

What Is It?

Biotin, also sometimes referred to as Vitamin B7, is one of the B-complex vitamins. Biotin is water-soluble, with a synthesized version that is less bioavailable than what is naturally present in certain foods.

What Is Its Biological Role?

Biotin is mostly known for its role in helping to maintain the strength and health of our hair, skin, and nails. Because of this, Biotin is frequently added to beauty products.

However, research has shown that in order to be effective Biotin must be ingested, and does very little good in topical applications. In addition to these aesthetic uses, Biotin also helps to regulate metabolic function, as well as the normal operation of our nerves, heart, and digestive system. Part of the digestive process also allows the body to produce part of the biotin it needs as a by-product of digestive other foods; this is useful because biotin occurs in such small amounts in foods that it can be difficult to get all that you need strictly from dietary sources.

How Does It Help Bodybuilders and People Who Work Out?

Like all other B-complex vitamins, one of biotin’s most noticeable jobs is related to giving you enough energy to do the things you want to do. It helps your metabolism function [1] properly, and makes it easier for your body to turn the food you eat into usable energy. These effects can be particularly useful to fitness enthusiasts, preventing you from feeling completely out of energy after a workout. Supplementing your biotin consumption could give you the extra edge you’ve been looking for in the gym.

What Foods Contain It?

Interestingly, biotin is unique in that it does not occur in consistent amounts in any given food. For instance, other vitamins can be pretty reliably recognized to have, say, 5mg in this food or 2mg in that food. Biotin doesn’t work that way. While there are some foods that researchers know contain biotin, it does not always exist in the same levels in each food. For this reason, it is frequently not listed on nutritional labels. Some foods that naturally contain biotin are: cauliflower, salmon, eggs, liver, cheese, and avocado.

How Much Of It Do You Need?

The recommended daily allowance for biotin [2] starts at 5mcg for infants, and raises gradually as you age. For adults aged 19 years and older, the recommended daily allowance is 30mcg. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, the daily recommendation raises slightly to 35mcg. This is common for nutrients that are important in the proper development of a child, as the excess you consume typically makes it to the developing embryo or into the breastmilk to help ensure a healthy baby.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Much Of It?

Most water-soluble vitamins pose very little risk of toxicity. This is because of the way your body regulates its levels of water-soluble vitamins. When you ingest something containing a water-soluble vitamin, the body uses what it needs and then will typically flush the remainder out of the body in your urine. This process makes it nearly impossible to reach levels that would be considered toxic. In the particular case of biotin, researchers have been unable to find any ill effects of biotin, even at extremely high levels. As such, this vitamin would be considered safe to use in higher doses without concern for negative side-effects. However, it is best to consult with your doctor before increasing dosage, especially if you have a medical condition.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Little Of It?

Low levels of biotin are typically only seen in areas where malnourishment is common. However, some behaviors can put you at a higher risk for developing a biotin deficiency. These include the long term use of antibiotics or medications [3] used to treat seizures; individuals who have certain diseases that have an effect on the digestive absorption of nutrients may also be at risk.  Symptoms of a biotin deficiency include weakness, fatigue, confusion or other cognitive difficulties, numbness or tingling throughout the body, muscle cramps, dry skin, and overly dry or brittle hair.

Final Take

While some people might benefit from making it a point to consume more biotin, remember that with this particular vitamin your body really does use it best in its natural state. If you can’t seem to eat your way to the amount of biotin you’re looking for, choosing a supplement that has other B-complex vitamins as well rather than a supplement that only supplies biotin will make it easier for your body to absorb and give you all those benefits you’re looking for.

References:

[1] Dr. Axe, Josh. Biotin Benefits: Thicken Hair, Nails, and Beautify Skin. draxe.com, 2016.

[2] WebMD. Biotin. Webmd.com, 2015.

[3] Linus Pauling Institute. Biotin. Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center, 2015