Biotin, known as vitamin B7, coenzyme R, or vitamin H, is a water-soluble B vitamin which is present in the skin, hair, nails, nerves and bone marrow. Like other B vitamins, biotin is needed for healthy metabolic, nerve, digestive and cardiovascular functions. Biotin enzymes also bind to histones that are an important part of DNA synthesis. This means that biotin plays a role in DNA replication and transcription.
Biotin thickens hair, increases its elasticity and prevents dryness and breakage. It also helps make keratin, a primary component of healthy hair. Research reported that biotin deficiency leads to thinning of the hair, hair discolouration, hair loss and red rashes around the eyes, nose and mouth. A study conducted at Harvard University proved that biotin should be regarded as one of “the most important nutrients for preserving hair strength, texture and function, minimizing hair fall and averting grey hair”. According to a 2009 study, biotin supplementation was even able to reverse hair loss as a side effect of using drug valproic acidin. Biotin is regarded by many as the most important among all vitamins to prevent hair loss and maintain normal hair thickness and colour. Our hair is made of protein called keratin which consists of amino acids that are formed as a result of the reaction of biotin and various cell enzymes. It means that biotin participates in the synthesis of the protein keratin by reacting with cell enzymes to produce amino acids. In addition, biotin also helps carry oxygen to the cells in the follicles, making them energised and healthy. This is one of the reasons why biotin has been proven to be very beneficial in preventing hair from becoming brittle and dull.
Researchers suggest that taking high doses of biotin help maintain the look and health of nails. Biotin is also known to prevent brittle nails. This benefit of biotin was first discovered when horses were successfully treated with this vitamin to eliminate problems with their hoofs becoming cracked and brittle.
Biotin supports healthy skin growth, especially around eyes, nose, and mouth. Research also shows that biotin can be helpful in protecting skin from dryness, acne, fungal infections, cracking, and rashes.
BRAIN AND NERVOUS SYSTEM
Like other B vitamins, biotin benefits the health of the nervous system, cognitive functions and mood, due to its role as a neurotransmitter. According to a French study high doses of biotin may help people with progressive form of multiple sclerosis (MS). One of the theories suggests this type of MS may be the result of a phenomenon called virtual hypoxia caused by a mismatch between increased energy demand by the damaged nerves and decreased energy production because of damage to the mitochondria (cell’s power stations). The mitochondria’s job is to generate energy for the nerve cells to function normally and biotin plays important role in this process. According to the results of the study over 90 % of patients given high doses of biotin experienced improvement. In another study high-dose biotin supplementation was effective in helping improve, and even stop progress of disability in patients with progressive and relapsing Multiple Sclerosis.
Biotin helps our body convert proteins, fats and carbohydrates into energy, thus promoting metabolism, normal body weight and higher energy levels.
BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS
Biotin metabolizes carbohydrates more effectively, thus helping body to manage normal blood glucose levels. It benefits blood sugar levels because it facilitates the activity of insulin and reduces its resistance. Biotin also helps decrease the production of glucose by the liver, thus reducing the amount of sugar released into the bloodstream. In addition, biotin, especially when combined with alpha lipoic acid and sublingual methylcobalamin, can be very helpful in preventing and reducing nerve damage and pain associated with high blood glucose levels.
According to 1988 study and some newer trials, biotin is beneficial in increasing good HDL cholesterol levels, while helping to reduce bad LDL cholesterol.
THYROID AND ADRENAL FUNCTION
Biotin was shown to supports thyroid and adrenal function thus helping maintain normal mood, metabolism and body weight, energy levels, appetite, sleep, and pain perception.
Biotin is also known to help repair and build muscle tissue.
A deficiency of this vitamin can result in improper foetal development.
Brewer’s yeast, avocado, cauliflower, pulses (legumes), leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach and Swiss chard, mushrooms, berries, fish, egg yolk (egg white has opposite effect leading to deficiency of biotin).
Biotin deficiency may lead to skin and nail problems and even more to brittle weak hair and hair loss. It may also result in tiredness, weakness, low mood and mood changes, nerve damage, depression, irritation, cognitive impairments, hallucinations, skin rashes, dry and irritated skin, loss of appetite, digestive and intestinal tract issues, muscle cramps and pains, numbness, and tingling in the limbs.
Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin, which means any excess quantities present in the body are eliminated through urine. Since, the body doesn’t store or build up reserves of biotin it is actually very difficult to ingest too much of it and cause toxicity.
It is rare that people have a life-threatening experience while taking high doses of biotin. There is only one recorded case where a woman that suffered from heart and lung condition known as eosinophilic pleuropericardial effusion developed life threatening conditions while taking biotin atvery high doses.
It has been suggested that dietary supplements may contain biotin levels 650 times the recommended daily intake (650 x 50mcg = 32,000mcg or 32mg) without causing side effects. Therefore, biotin is regarded as a safe nutrient and no health concerns has been identified with biotin supplementation.
In one study a daily mega doses of 300,000 micrograms (300 milligrams) were administered to patients with good results and without causing significant side effects.
However, healthcare providers are encouraged to advise their patients to stop taking biotin supplements temporarily before blood tests.
REASONS FOR INCREASED DEMAND
– Regular supplementation with alpha lipoic acid may lead to biotin deficiency.
– Too much pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) may lead to biotin deficiency as it competes with biotin for intestinal and cellular uptake (because of similarities in the structure).
– Lack of probiotic bacteria in intestines since bacteria are capable of producing biotin.
– Consuming raw egg white. Avidin, a protein found in egg white, can lead to biotin deficiency as it binds biotin. This can be prevented by backing or boiling eggs.
– Athletes and individuals very physically active may need biotin supplementation because they are most likely to experience a deficit.
– Refined diet, sugar, stimulants (especially alcohol and smoking), antibiotics and some medications. Anticonvulsants inhibit biotin absorption in the small intestine or increase its urinary excretion. Low consumption of good nutritional sources of biotin, especially leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach and Swiss chard.
– Biotin deficiency is common in pregnant women, because excretion levels of this vitamin are higher. Pregnant women are advised to supplement biotin (at least 500 mcg per day).
INTERACTIONS WITH MEDICATIONS
High doses of biotin may negatively interact with anti-seizure medications and medications that help lower cholesterol, making them less effective.
POSSIBLE OVERDOSING SIDE EFFECTS
– Getting too much biotin leads to deficiency of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) as both are absorbed from the intestines via the same receptors. For example, pantothenic acid regulates the barrier function of the surface layer on skin. Therefore, a deficiency of pantothenic acid (through excess of biotin) may lead to skin problems such as acne flares and increased risk of developing cystic acne on the chin and jawline. Symptoms usually disappear a few weeks after biotin supplementation is stopped. Doses lower than 2500 mcg per day and drinking plenty of water while using biotin supplements should reduce the risk of developing cystic acne. Since high strength biotin supplements (probably over 2500mg per day) may lead to the deficiency of pantothenic acid supplementation with vitamin B5 is recommended to prevent its deficiency.
– Taking high doses of biotin in early pregnancy may probably increase the risk of miscarriage, although the reasoning behind this is not clear. However, pregnant women are advised to consult a medical professional before taking high doses of biotin.
FORMS OF BIOTIN
There are eight different forms of Biotin, but only D-biotin is naturally occurring, biologically active, and is regarded the only type that has full biotin capabilities.
Since high strength biotin supplements may lead to the deficiency of pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) supplementation with this vitamin is recommended to prevent its deficiency.
Written by Slawomir Gromadzki
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