B-vitamin biotin, also known as vitamin H, B7 and coenzyme R, together with other vitamins in the same group, is involved in several processes in the body including converting food into energy. 

Biotin may play an important role in the health of the hair, nails, nerves and psychological functions, as it is one of the most important vitamins in ensuring cellular energy metabolism.

It is found in many common foods, however, in rare cases some of us still develop the deficiency.

Biotin Deficiency Symptoms

That is to say, that biotin deficiency is usually extremely uncommon. However, when it occurs, it typically reveals itself gradually and may include:

  • Thinning of the hair with progression to premature loss of all hair on the body
  • Red, scaly rash surrounding eyes, nose, mouth, or perineum
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Lactic acidosis and acidemia
  • Skin infection
  • Seizures
  • Brittle nails
  • Tingling in the arms and legs
  • In adults – neurological issues such as lethargy, lack of interest, hallucinations, depression and paresthesias of the extremities
  • In infants – hypotonia, lethargy, and developmental delay
  • Uncommon distribution of facial fat, which is also known as “biotin deficiency facies” (1, 4).

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Biotin Deficiency Causes and Groups at Risk of Biotin Inadequacy

1. Biotinidase deficiency (BTD) is an extremely rare disorder that prevents the body from releasing free biotin, leading to biotin deficiency despite normal intake. As a result, without treatment, biotinidase deficiency may lead to coma or death. For instance, profound or partial biotinidase deficiency occurs approximately 1 in 60,000 newborns.

Therefore, the treatment with oral biotin starting at birth (or before symptoms develop), and continuing for the rest of the person’s life can prevent the symptoms (1, 2, 3, 6).

2. Being on long-term parenteral nutrition (long-term tube feeding), which means being fed intravenously, for long periods (2 4, 6).

3. Individuals who are malnourished, and malnourished children in developing countries (and for instance through the intake of modified milk without biotin supplementation) (4, 6).

4. Individuals who have undergone rapid weight loss (4).

5. Patients who take anti-seizure medication such as carbamazepine, Phenytoin, and Phenobarbital over a long period, which can lower the body’s biotin levels (2, 6).

6. Patients on isotretinoin for acne treatment (6).

7. Elderly individuals (6).

8. Consuming large amounts of raw egg whites can lead to biotin deficiency, as raw egg contains the glycoprotein avidin. Avidin however, binds to biotin and prevents biotin absorption. As a result, this health condition is also called “egg white injury” (6).

9. Taking antibiotics over a long period, as these can destroy the biotin-producing good bacteria in the gut (2, 6).

10. Gastrointestinal tract bacterial imbalances, for example, due to the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics or inflammatory bowel disease (6).

11. Crohn’s disease, which makes it hard for the gut to absorb nutrients (2).

12. Chronic alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol may inhibit the absorption of biotin. As a result, plasma biotin concentrations are low in 15% of people with chronic alcoholism (1, 2, 6).

13. Pregnant and breastfeeding women. About half of pregnant women might have mild biotin deficiency even if their diet contains sufficient amounts of nutrients. However, additional research is needed to understand the clinical significance of these findings (1, 4, 6).

14. In addition, cigarette smoking may also cause low blood levels of biotin (2, 4, 6).

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Biotin Health Benefits

Biotin may likely be effective for the treatment of biotin deficiency. It is also suggested that biotin may aid in case of the listed conditions below. However, more studies and evidence are needed to determine the benefits of this vitamin for these uses (1, 4).

1. Biotin deficiency (4, 6).

2. Hair loss. Firstly, taking biotin together with zinc orally, and additionally using a steroid cream might aid reduce hair loss (1, 4. 5).

3. Brittle nails. Secondly, taking biotin orally for up to a one year might strengthen your nails (1, 4, 5).

4. Breaking down macronutrients. Thirdly, this vitamin helps your body turn food (fats, carbs and proteins) into energy, supports the work of the enzymes, and aids several chemical processes in the cell, including gluconeogenesis, amino acid metabolism, and fatty acid synthesis (5, 6).

5. Cellular energy metabolism. This vitamin also has a key role in cellular energy metabolism including ATP production and regulation of oxidative stress (6).

6. Gene expression and chromatin structure. Moreover, about 2000 genes have been identified so far that are biotin-dependent. Therefore, evidence shows that biotin might have a vital role in gene expression and chromatin structure (6).

7. Pregnancy and breastfeeding. Most importantly, about half of pregnant women in the US may have at least a mild biotin deficiency. It is believed that the body breaks down the vitamin faster during pregnancy. Therefore, expecting women may need more of this vitamin. However, it is vital to consult your physician before taking any supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding (5, 6).

8. Blood sugar. In addition, according to some early research – taking biotin together with chromium might lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. However, taking biotin alone doesn’t seem to have any impact on blood sugar levels in people with diabetes (4, 5).

9. Nerve pain in individuals with diabetes (diabetic neuropathy). According to early research – taking biotin orally or receiving it as a shot might lessen nerve pain in the legs of individuals with diabetes (4).

10. Immunological and inflammatory functions. Biotin plays a vital part in the work of natural killer (NK) lymphocytes and the production of cytotoxic T lymphocytes. As a result, it shows a role in the maturation and responsiveness of immune cells. (6).

11. Multiple sclerosis (MS). Some research demonstrates that taking high-dose biotin might better vision, improve disability and alleviate paralysis in some individuals with MS. However, other research has found no signs of improvement (4, 5).

12. Energy production. This vitamin may also increase energy production (6).

13. Muscle cramps. For instance, individuals who receive dialysis often have muscle cramps. However, according to early research – taking biotin orally might reduce muscle cramps among these individuals (4). 

14. Skin health. People with biotin deficiencies often have skin problems, therefore, some believe, that this vitamin may also help improve skin health and even psoriasis. However, there is not enough evidence yet to back that belief 100% (1, 5, 7).

15. In conclusion, biotin-thiamine-responsive basal ganglia disease. According to early research – taking biotin together with thiamine does not stop the episodes (episodes of altered mental state and muscle problems) of this inherited condition (which affects the brain and other parts of the nervous system) better than taking thiamine alone. But, the combination might shorten how long the episodes last when they do occur (4, 6).

Most importantly, as there is not enough evidence to support the facts that this vitamin may help in all these conditions, do not start to self medicate and first consult your doctor before taking any supplements or practicing self care practices.

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Suggested Daily Doses

There is no recommended dietary allowance (RDA) established for biotin for adults and children, but the adequate intakes (AI) are (1, 4):

  • 0-6 months infants : 5 mcg a day
  • 7-12 months infants : 6 mcg a day
  • 1-3 years children: 8 mcg a day
  • 4-8 years children: 12 mcg a day
  • 9-13 years children: 20 mcg a day
  • Adolescents 14-18 years: 25 mcg a day
  • Adults over 18 years: 30 mcg a day
  • Pregnant women over 18 years: 30 mcg a day
  • Breast-feeding women: 35 mcg a day
  • In case biotin deficiency for adults and infants: Up to 10 mg a day (1, 4)

In addition, please note that this vitamin may interact with certain medications, and some medicines may have an adverse effect on biotin levels. Therefore, if you take any medications, consult your healthcare professional before taking any dietary supplements (1).

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Biotin Content in Common Foods and 24 Biotin Rich Foods

According to scientists, the best sources of this vitamin are liver, eggs and peanuts, however, most foods contain extremely low levels of biotin (1, 8). For example:

  1. Chicken liver, cooked: 74 g/138 mcg
  2. Beef liver, cooked: 74 g/30.8 mcg
  3. Egg, whole, cooked: 47 g/10.0 mcg
  4. Peanuts, roasted, salted: 28 g/4.91 mcg
  5. Egg, yolk, cooked: 15 g/ 4.08 mcg
  6. Salmon, pink, canned in water: 63 g/3.69 mcg
  7. Pork chop, cooked: 80 g/3.57 mcg
  8. Mushrooms, canned: 120 g/2.59 mcg
  9. Sunflower seeds, roasted, salted: 31 g/2.42 mcg
  10. Egg, white, cooked: 35 g/2.02 mcg
  11. Strawberries, fresh: 111 g/1.67 mcg
  12. Almonds, roasted, salted: 30 g/1.32 mcg
  13. Sweet potato, cooked: 80 g/1.16 mcg
  14. Broccoli, fresh: 113 g/1.07 mcg
  15. Grilled toast: 84 g/1.03 mcg
  16. Chicken nuggets, breaded, fried: 75 g/1.00 mcg
  17. Walnuts, fresh: 30 g/0.78 mcg
  18. Pecans, fresh: 30 g/0.60 mcg
  19. Spinach, frozen: 83 g/0.58 mcg
  20. Avocado, fresh: 37 g/0.36 mcg
  21. Oatmeal: 190 g/0.36 mcg
  22. Tomatoes, fresh: 43 g/0.30 mcg
  23. 2% milk: 236 g/0.27 mcg
  24. Raspberries, fresh: 140 g/0.25 mcg (1, 8).

While some other foods contain very small amounts of this vitamin, for example:

  • Carrots, canned: 29 g/0.18 mcg
  • Raisins: 43 g/0.17 mcg
  • Plain yogurt: 170 g/0.14 mcg
  • Banana, fresh: 103 g/0.14 mcg
  • Orange, fresh: 258 g/0.13 mcg
  • Cauliflower, fresh: 32 g/0.05 mcg
  • Apple, fresh: 185 g/0.04 mcg
  • Provolone cheese: 24 g/0.03 mcg
  • In addition, canned green beans: 120 g/0.01 mcg (1, 8).

NB! The information provided here is for informational purposes only, so do not consider it as health care or medical diagnosis and treatment. Do not consider this information as a guarantee of the results you want to achieve. In addition, this information here is not intended to replace the advice of your physician or other healthcare professional.

Even more, you should not use it to diagnose or treat a health problem. Before changing or discontinuing your existing medication, treatment, or care, or taking any dietary supplements, be sure to consult with your healthcare professional or doctor before starting any diet or program, or if you suspect you may have a medical condition. 

Compiled by Maria-Helena Loik

Pictures: Pexels.com, Pixabay.com, Shutterstock.com

Sources:

  1. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Biotin-HealthProfessional/#:~:text=The%20signs%20and%20symptoms%20of,when%20lactate%20production%20exceeds%20lactate
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320462#risk-factors
  3. https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/biotinidase-deficiency/#frequency
  4. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-313/biotin
  5. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318724#benefits
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547751/
  7. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324206
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1450323/

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