Biotin is a water-soluble B-Complex vitamin which helps to form four different enzymes necessary for the metabolism of sugars, fats, and proteins. Since a Biotin deficiency brings about a deficiency of glucose for energy and protein for cell growth and replication, the body begins to fall apart...hair and nails become brittle and break, muscles don't work, skin begins to break down, and the nervous system becomes dysfunctional (1).
Biotin is synthesized in the intestinal tract. A vegetarian diet seems to encourage the kind of intestinal bacteria which promote the manufacture and absorption of biotin (2). Raw egg whites contain a protein called avidin which binds biotin in the intestine and prevents its absorption. However, avidin is inactivated by heat, so cooked eggs do not have this effect (3). Alcohol and antibiotics both can decrease biotin levels (4).
Diabetics may also benefit from biotin supplementation because biotin enhances insulin sensitivity and increases the activity of the enzyme glucokinase, the enzyme responsible for the first step in the utilization of glucose by the liver (5). In some studies, supplementation with 16 milligrams biotin per day resulted in significant lower of fasting blood sugar levels and improvement in blood glucose control in type I diabetics (6), and similar effects were noted in type II diabetics with supplementation of only 9 milligrams per day (7). High doses of biotin have also been helpful in treating severe diabetic neutropathy (8).
A deficiency of biotin may cause "muscular pain, poor appetite, dry skin, lack of energy, sleeplessness, a disturbed nervous system...dermatitis, grayish skin color, depression...lowered hemoglobin levels, raised cholesterol levels, and a decrease in biotin excretion" (3).
There is no known RDA for Biotin; however, it is extremely safe and there are no known toxic side effects even at large doses. An adequate amount should be somewhere between 30 and 100 micrograms. To improve hair and nails, an effective dosage would be 1000 to 3000 micrograms per day (4). It can also be used to treat seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap), and the dosage for infants should be 100 to 300 micrograms daily, along with bifidus bacteria and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) to establish healthy intestinal flora. Biotin works together with the other B Vitamins as well as coenzyme Q10 and carnitine.
Ailments which may benefit from Biotin supplementation:
Nutritional Sources of Biotin:
Nutritional yeast, liver, soybeans, soy flour, rice bran, rice germ, rice polishings, peanut butter, walnuts, roasted peanuts, pecans, barley, oatmeal, cooked egg yolks, saltwater fish, whole grains, blackeye peas, almonds, brown rice.
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(1) Personal Health Lifestyles, Inc. (2000). "Biotin." Healing With Nutrition. Available Online: [http://www.healingwithnutrition.com/vitamin.html#Biotin].
(2) Murray, Michael T. (1996). The Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, p. 111.
(3) Dunne, Lavon J. (1990). Nutrition Almanac. New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 37.
(4) Murray, as in (2) above, p. 114.
(5) Reddi, A., DeAngelis, B., Frank O., et al., Biotin supplementation improves glucose and insulin tolerances in genetically diabetic KK mice. Life Sciences 42, 1323-1330.
(6) Coggeshall, J.C., Heggers, J.P., Robson, M.C., and Baker, H. (1985). Biotin status and plasma glucose in diabetics. Annals NY Acad Sci 447, 389-392.
(7) Maebashi, M., Makino, Y., Furukawa, Y., et al. (1993). Therapeutic evaluation of the effect biotin on hypoglycemia in patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. J Clin Biochem Nutr 14, 211-218.
(8) Koutsikos, D., Agroyannis, B., and Tzanatos-Exarchou, H. (1990). Biotin for diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Biomed Pharmacother 44, 511-514.