Maybe it’s stress making your hair a little wispy, or hard-to-remove gel manicures shredding your nails. Or perhaps you are working too many late nights that you’re not eating your best. Whatever the reason, you have probably been advised to take Biotin if your nails are weak and peely and your hair is looking like the before picture in a conditioner ad.
But, what is Biotin anyway? What are its health benefits and how can you get more it? Read on to know more.
What is Biotin?
Also known as vitamin H, biotin is one of the B complex vitamins that help the body convert food into energy.
The word “biotin” comes from the ancient Greek word “biotos,” which means “life” or “sustenance.” B vitamins, and specifically biotin, help keep your skin, hair, eyes, liver, and nervous system healthy. Biotin is also a crucial nutrient during pregnancy, as it’s important for embryonic growth (1).
Most people get the biotin they need from eating a healthy diet, but there have been many claims that getting more biotin can promote healthy hair, skin, and nails, and help pregnant moms have healthier babies.
Biotin is also necessary for the function of several enzymes known as carboxylases. These are part of important metabolic processes, such as the production of glucose and fatty acids.
How Much Biotin is Recommended?
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommend the following biotin intake per day (2):
- 30 micrograms (mcg) for adults, including during pregnancy
- 35 mcg when lactating
Because it’s water-soluble, extra biotin will simply pass through your body when you urinate. While most people can handle biotin supplements, some people report mild side effects like nausea and digestive issues. There are no known toxicity symptoms associated with too much biotin.
While biotin is available as a supplement, most people can get all they need by eating a varied diet.
Function and Benefits of Biotin
Biotin plays a number of important roles in the body, including:
Breaking Down Macronutrients
Biotin helps the body convert food into energy — it supports a number of enzymes involved in the breakdown of carbs, fats, and proteins.
Specifically, biotin is involved in:
- Gluconeogenesis: This is the synthesis of glucose from sources other than carbs, such as amino acids, and biotin-containing enzymes help initiate this process.
- Fatty acid synthesis: Biotin assists enzymes that activate reactions that are important for the production of fatty acids.
- Amino acid breakdown: Biotin-containing enzymes are involved in the metabolism of several important amino acids, including leucine.
One of the biggest benefits of biotin is that it helps stimulate hair growth, causing hair to thicken and appear more lustrous. Biotin can also help hair look healthier while growing more quickly and sustainably. This is good news for healthy people who want their hair to look its best, as well as those with health issues that lead to lackluster hair.
While people with healthy digestive systems can absorb some biotin simply by eating a healthy diet every day, those who suffer from digestive disorders struggle to absorb adequate vitamins and nutrients. Those diagnosed with malabsorption problems like leaky gut syndrome, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease often require elevated nutrient levels in order to receive the vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy. Along with giving healthy people an extra boost, biotin supplements can help people who struggle with nutrient deficiencies to improve their unhealthy hair loss and dry, brittle hair.
Improving Skin Health
For many people, a Vitamin H deficiency can also lead to significant problems with their skin’s inner health and outer appearance. Dry, itchy skin is one of the most common issues, although more serious conditions like acne and psoriasis can also arise. Keep in mind that if you don’t nourish your skin from the inside out, resulting hormonal issues can result in serious skin problems.
In most cases, a biotin supplement can correct the issue, improving skin and helping to create a youthful glow. To address biotin deficiencies, it’s important to access the vitamin in the most effective way. While many topical skin and hair products include added biotin, you can’t usually absorb this B complex vitamin through skin or hair cells. Instead, you must ingest a biotin supplement to receive all of the vitamin’s benefits.
Along with improving hair and skin, biotin is known for its ability to strengthen nails. In fact, higher doses of biotin have resulted in significant nail health improvement. Studies have shown that those who take a biotin supplement can thicken their nails by up to 25 percent and decrease the amount of nail splitting and breakage they endure. Trial studies also have shown that an impressive 91 percent of participants experience improved nail strength when taking a biotin supplement.
Neither muscle nor tissue lasts forever, and your body relies on B vitamins to help rebuild after tissues break down or muscles sustain damage. Biotin is one of the components necessary for rebuilding muscle strength and helping tissues grow. This vitamin also has a key role in alleviating muscle and joint inflammation, aches, and pains. If you continually experience joint pain or struggle with muscle strength, a biotin supplement might be just what you need to help your tissues rebuild.
Assisting Cell Growth
In addition to making you look great, biotin also helps with some of your body’s most essential functions. This also helps regulate the formation of DNA. This ensures that the genetic information in each cell works properly and replicates correctly. Though strong cell development is always important, it’s especially critical when your cells are dividing rapidly, such as during pregnancy.
Keep in mind that biotin supplements provide you with an ample supply of this water-soluble vitamin. Once it travels through your bloodstream, however, your body eliminates any excess biotin. That means your body never builds up a toxic reserve of this vitamin, and overconsuming it is nearly impossible.
Promoting Fetal and Child Development
Biotin is very important for women who are pregnant or lactating.
While symptomatic biotin deficiency is rare, low biotin levels are common during pregnancy.
In fact, about 50% of pregnant women in the United States may have at least a mild deficiency (3). This level of deficiency may affect a person’s health, but not enough to cause noticeable symptoms.
Healthcare professionals believe that this deficiency is common among pregnant women because the body breaks down the vitamin faster during pregnancy.
As a result, a pregnant woman may need more biotin from the diet or from supplements than a woman who is not pregnant.
That said, it is important to consult a healthcare professional before taking supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Stabilizing Blood Sugar Level
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic condition characterized by high blood sugar levels and impaired insulin function.
A biotin deficiency may disrupt blood sugar, or glucose, regulation. Some evidence shows blood biotin levels may be lower in people with diabetes (4).
Studies in animals have suggested that supplements containing biotin and chromium picolinate could prevent insulin resistance (5).
Researchers have also studied how biotin supplements affect blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes (4). The results have been mixed, but some studies have shown that taking both biotin and chromium picolinate could help treat type 2 diabetes.
Overall, fully understanding the effects of biotin on diabetes and blood sugar control will require more high quality research.
Lowering Cholesterol Level
High cholesterol is much more than just a large number on a chart. High levels of low-density lipoprotein, better known as the bad cholesterol, can actually lead to heart disease. This in turn can increase your chances of having a stroke or a heart attack. If you struggle to maintain healthy LDL levels, biotin may be able to help get them within a reasonable range.
This vitamin can help lower LDL levels while increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein, otherwise known as the good cholesterol. Since B complex vitamins are also important in reducing inflammation and plaque buildup in arteries, biotin can also help lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Diabetics and others who are particularly susceptible to heart disease will find this benefit particularly helpful.
Supporting MS treatment
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease. It damages the protective covering of nerve fibers in the brain, spinal cord, and eyes.
This protective covering is called myelin, and biotin may play an important role in producing it (6).
Studies have shown that people with MS respond positively to daily biotin doses of up to 300 milligrams. This supplementation may reverse the progression of the disease and reduce chronic disability (7).
Protecting the Brain
Along with the other B complex vitamins, biotin keeps your nervous system in working order by assisting with neurotransmitter activity and helping with nerve signals. Together, B vitamins also protect your brain, improve your memory, and help form a defense against cognitive issues and neurodegenerative disorders. Along with preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, biotin and the other B vitamins can help you better your concentration and keep a positive outlook.
Boosting Energy and Mood
One of biotin’s primary functions is its ability to metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. This vitamin also functions as a coenzyme and aids in synthesizing fatty acids and certain amino acids. Without the B complex vitamins, your body can’t use the energy that your body consumes.
Since biotin and the other B vitamins play a big part in converting nutrients into fuel that your body can access, a lack of biotin can cause you to feel a serious slump in energy. In fact, it can also lead to feelings of fatigue, mood swings, and even digestive issues. If you don’t receive a steady supply of biotin from your daily diet, a supplement can help you harness the energy you’re missing and help you get your mood back on a positive track.
Supporting Thyroid Function
In addition to your nervous system, your body relies on key glands to normalize functions and keep you going. Biotin is necessary for maintaining appropriate thyroid activity and regulating sleep, hunger, energy, and even pain. If your body has trouble controlling these basic functions or if you experience weight gain, trouble sleeping, or constant fatigue, additional biotin can help with thyroid regulation.
Aiding Weight Loss
Along with boosting metabolism, biotin can also aid in weight loss. Essentially, consuming or ingesting biotin elevates your resting rate of metabolism. As this vitamin increases your metabolism, it can help accelerate weight loss, especially when paired with chromium.
If you’re considering taking a biotin supplement to help with weight loss, keep in mind that this B complex vitamin doesn’t act as a diet pill. Instead, it helps your body speed up the weight loss process as you consume a healthy diet and get regular exercise.
Top 10 Biotin-Rich Foods
1. Egg Yolks
Eggs are full of B vitamins, protein, iron, and phosphorus. The yolk is an especially rich source of biotin (8).
A whole, cooked egg, approximately 50 grams, provides approximately 10 mcg of biotin, or approximately 33% of the DV (9).
You should always cook eggs fully, both to reduce your risk of Salmonella poisoning and improve biotin absorption. Egg whites contain a protein called avidin, which can interfere with biotin absorption if eaten raw (10).
Eggs can be hard-boiled, scrambled, or used to make baked goods like muffins or waffles.
2. Liver and Other Meats
Including liver in the diet can boost a person’s biotin intake.
A 3-ounce serving of cooked beef liver contains about 31 micrograms of biotin (11).
Other organ meats, such as kidney, are also good sources.
Different types of meat contain less biotin, but they are still relatively good sources. For example, a 3-ounce pork chop provides nearly 4 mcg, as does a cooked hamburger patty.
A 3-ounce serving of meat is approximately the size of a deck of cards.
Liver is also a good source of iron.
Legumes like peas, beans, and lentils are high in protein, fiber, and numerous micronutrients. Some of the richest sources of biotin in this category are peanuts and soybeans (12).
A 28-gram serving of roasted peanuts contains just under 5 mcg of biotin, or 17% of the DV (13).
One study on the biotin content of popular Japanese foods found 19.3 mcg of biotin, 64% of the DV, in a 100-gram serving of whole soybeans (14).
Legumes are typically boiled and used as a base for entrées and salads or incorporated into stir-fries or baked dishes.
Canned, pink salmon in water contains 5 mcg of biotin per three-ounce serving. Canned tuna is another decent source of biotin that provides 0.6 mcg per three-ounce serving. Be careful with canned fish as they tend to be high in sodium.
When looking for a good brand of canned salmon, try one that’s wild-caught and doesn’t contain any additives. These are lower in chemicals than farm-raised fish (15). You’ll also want to keep an eye on the sodium content.
Salmon is also rich in omega 3, which is one of the best omega 3 rich foods you should eat often.
5. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a good source of fiber, unsaturated fat, and protein. Most also provide biotin, but the amount tends to vary by type (16).
A 20-gram serving of roasted sunflower seeds offers 2.6 mcg of biotin, or 10% of the DV, while 30 grams of roasted almonds contains 1.5 mcg, or 5% of the DV (13).
Nuts and seeds can be enjoyed raw, tossed into salads, mixed into pasta dishes and stir-fries, or blended into homemade nuts and seed butters.
6. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and carotenoid antioxidants. They’re also one of the best vegetable sources of biotin (17).
A 125-gram serving of cooked sweet potatoes contains 2.4 mcg of biotin, or 8% of the DV (9).
Sweet potatoes can be baked or microwaved until soft. You can also peel, boil, and mash them or add them to homemade veggie burger patties.
7. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are high in fat, and they are definitely tasty, but keep in mind that nuts and seeds are also high in carbs. So you’ll want to eat these in moderation on the keto diet.
A one-quarter cup serving of sunflower seeds provides you with 2.6 mcg of biotin. Try sprinkling some on salads or eating them raw as a snack.
Avocado is virtually the perfect keto food because it contains mostly fat and hardly any carbs at all. You can add it to smoothies or top your eggs and meat-based dishes with it. It’s also tasty when eaten alone.
One whole avocado contains anywhere from 2 to 6 mcg of biotin.
Bananas are one of the most popular fruits worldwide. They’re packed with fiber, carbs, and micronutrients like B vitamins, copper, and potassium (18).
One small banana, approximately 105 grams, also provides approximately 0.2 mcg of biotin, or 1% of the DV.
They’re most often eaten on their own, but you can also add them to smoothies, spread nut butter on them, or freeze them to make non dairy ice cream.
Broccoli is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables, as it’s full of fiber, calcium, and vitamins A and C (19).
It’s also a good source of biotin. Just 45 gram of raw, chopped broccoli contains 0.4 mcg, or 1% of the DV.
You can enjoy it raw with hummus or dip, steamed, roasted with olive oil and seasoning, blended into soups, or sautéed and added to pastas and casseroles.
From healthy hair, skin, and nails to assistance with cognitive function, weight loss, and energy levels, biotin is a major contributor to a healthy lifestyle.
Eating more biotin-rich foods and adding a supplement to a healthy diet can allow you to take full advantage of all the benefits that this B complex vitamin has to offer.