Biotin, also known as Vitamin B7, is a water-soluble vitamin that is important for the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It is vital for cell growth and also helps maintain steady blood sugar levels. In fact, some studies have shown biotin supplementation can decrease fasting blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetics, which is supported by other research that shows diabetics tend to have lower blood levels of this important vitamin.
Good food sources of biotin include liver, kidneys, legumes, egg yolk, vegetables and fruit. Interestingly, raw egg whites interfere with biotin absorption so eggs should always be cooked prior to consumption. In addition to food sources, healthy gut bacteria produce some of the biotin your body needs, so deficiency is rare. However, those at risk for biotin deficiency are alcoholics, epileptics, diabetics, the elderly and athletes. Biotin needs increase during pregnancy and lactation, but additional needs for most pregnant women would be met with a quality prenatal vitamin.
Signs of biotin deficiency include reduced appetite, slow growth in children and hair loss – including loss of eyelashes and eyebrows. Although some shampoos contain biotin, they most likely aren’t helpful because biotin isn’t absorbed well through the skin. Brittle fingernails may be a sign of deficiency and some studies have shown that nails improve with supplementation. Another interesting fact here, many supplements don’t provide much biotin because it is an expensive nutrient, instead, you will find many over-the-counter supplements contain massive amounts of cheap B vitamins, and very little of the more expensive ones, such as biotin.
Children with PKU, an inherited metabolic disorder, may have a poor ability to use biotin. These children sometimes develop skin conditions such as eczema and seborrheic dermatitis, which may improve with biotin supplementation. Individuals on long-term anti-seizure therapy may have reduced levels of biotin due to decreased absorption and may need to be monitored for sufficient levels.
To see if supplements are right for you, schedule your personal nutrition consultation today and start getting sound nutrition advice.