Medically reviewed by Suzanne Fisher, MS
Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, is a B vitamin that’s essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, as well as cellular signaling and gene regulation.
Biotin is concentrated in several foods, including eggs and fish, and is naturally produced by your gut bacteria. Biotin deficiency is rare, and supplementation isn’t usually necessary for healthy people.
That said, biotin supplements may be helpful for certain populations, including pregnant women and those with some medical conditions.
Here’s everything you need to know about biotin, including its health benefits and side effects.
Benefits of Biotin
Biotin is found in many plant and animal-based foods, including eggs, meat, nuts, and seeds. In addition to dietary intake, bacteria residing in the large intestine, such as Bacteroides fragilis, Fusobacterium varium, Prevotella copri, and Campylobacter coli, naturally produce biotin.
Because of this, biotin deficiency is rare, and a severe biotin deficiency in healthy people eating a balanced diet has never been reported.
The adequate intake (AI) for biotin is 30 micrograms (mcg) per day for adults and 35 mcg per day for breastfeeding women. Based on studies performed in Western populations, most people take in between 35–70 mcg of biotin per day, which exceeds the amount needed to support health.
For this reason, most people do not need to supplement with biotin. However, biotin supplements may be helpful for specific populations.
Can Benefit Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women
During pregnancy and lactation, the need for many nutrients increases. Research shows that as many as one-third of pregnant women develop marginal biotin deficiency even when they’re consuming the recommended amount of biotin on a daily basis.
Some studies suggest that biotin deficiency during pregnancy may increase the risk of preterm labor or fetal growth restriction.
What’s more, evidence suggests that biotin deficiency is more common in women with hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition that causes extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
Evidence suggests that pregnant women may need to take in two to three times the biotin AI to meet demands during pregnancy.
Breastfeeding also increases the demand for biotin. It’s important for pregnant and breastfeeding women to prioritize biotin-rich foods or take a prenatal supplement that provides an appropriate amount of biotin.
May Reduce Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that impacts the central nervous system and causes symptoms like fatigue, difficulty walking, and weakness.
Limited evidence suggests that high-dose biotin supplements may help decrease symptoms in people living with MS. Biotin activates acetyl-coA carboxylase, an enzyme involved in the synthesis of a layer of protein and fatty substances that surrounds nerves known as myelin. In people with MS, there is decreased synthesis of myelin, which is why scientists believe that biotin supplements may benefit those with MS.
A 2021 review of three studies involving 889 people diagnosed with MS found moderate evidence suggesting that high-dose biotin supplements delivering at least 300 milligrams (mg) of biotin per day administered for 12 to 15 months may help improve symptoms in people with progressive MS (PMS).
However, the researchers found that there was a high incidence of laboratory test interference in the participants taking high-dose biotin supplements.
What’s more, it’s unclear if high-dose biotin has a clear benefit for people living with MS, as not all studies have found biotin supplements to be helpful for improving MS-related symptoms.
More studies are needed to understand how biotin supplements impact people with MS.
May Improve Hair, Skin, and Nail Conditions in People with Biotin Deficiency
Although research shows that biotin supplements aren’t effective for improving the health of the hair, skin, or nails in healthy people, biotin supplements can help improve hair and nail health in people with a biotin deficiency.
Studies show that biotin supplements improve symptoms like hair loss and poor nail growth in people with low biotin levels.
For example, a 2017 review that included 18 studies found that, in people with acquired and inherited conditions causing a biotin deficiency, biotin supplements improved hair and nail growth.
However, there’s no evidence that biotin supplements are effective for improving hair or nail growth in healthy people with normal blood levels of biotin.
May Help Reduce Blood Sugar and Blood Lipid Levels in People with Type 2 Diabetes
A 2022 review that included five studies and 445 participants found that supplementation with biotin in doses ranging from 1.5-15 mg per day for 28 to 90 days significantly decreased levels of fasting blood sugar, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.
Biotin may help improve blood sugar metabolism and reduce the expression of genes involved in the formation of fat cells, which could help lower blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
Although these results are encouraging, the researchers noted that future studies are needed to fully understand how biotin supplements may benefit the health of those with type 2 diabetes.
Good Sources of Biotin
Biotin is concentrated in several plant and animal foods, which is why most people who follow balanced diets easily meet their daily biotin needs.
Here are some of the best food sources of biotin:
Beef liver: 30.8 mcg per 3 ounces (oz), or 103% of the Daily Value (DV)
Eggs: 10 mcg per whole egg, or 33% of the DV
Salmon: 5 mcg per 3 oz, or 17% of the DV
Pork: 3.8 mcg per 3 oz, or 13% of the DV
Sweet potato: 2.4 mcg per cooked cup, or 16% of the DV
Sunflower seeds: 2.6 mcg per ¼ cup, or 9% of the DV
Almonds: 1.5 mcg per ¼ cup, or 5% of the DV
Biotin is found in smaller amounts in foods like spinach, tuna, broccoli, bananas, cheese, oatmeal, and yogurt.
How to Take Biotin
Biotin is commonly found in dietary supplements like B-complex products, multivitamins, and hair, skin, and nails supplements.
Most people do not need to supplement with biotin because it’s found in a number of foods. That said, people who follow restrictive diets low in biotin-containing foods and those who have medical conditions that impact their ability to absorb and utilize biotin from food sources may need to supplement with biotin in order to maintain healthy levels of this nutrient.
Biotin can be taken at any time of day, with or without food.
There is no recommended dose for biotin supplements. However, some people, such as pregnant and breastfeeding women, people with alcohol abuse disorder, and those with conditions that impact their ability to absorb biotin from food, may require a biotin supplement.
Most biotin-only supplements contain very high amounts of biotin, which isn’t necessary for most people. For example, biotin products often contain over 10,000% of the 30 mcg DV for biotin.
Even though these high doses aren’t necessarily harmful, most people do not need the excessive amounts of biotin found in popular dietary supplements.
Is Biotin Safe?
Even when consumed in extremely high doses, biotin hasn’t been associated with dangerous side effects. For example, studies have found that doses of 200 mg per day, nearly 7,000 times the AI, did not produce symptoms of toxicity.
Because of its low toxicity, there’s currently no Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) established for biotin. The UL refers to the maximum daily dose of a vitamin unlikely to cause harm in the general population.
However, just because biotin supplements aren’t associated with side effects, they can interfere with the results of laboratory tests, such as those assessing thyroid hormones, reproductive hormones, and cardiac proteins. High-dose biotin supplements can cause falsely high or falsely low results, which can result in the misdiagnosis of diseases.
If you’re supplementing with biotin, it’s important to inform your healthcare provider before undergoing laboratory testing.
Potential Drug Interactions
Biotin supplements aren’t known to interact with medications. However, certain medications have been shown to decrease biotin levels.
For example, long-term use of anticonvulsant medications like carbamazepine, phenytoin, phenobarbital, and combinations of these medications may deplete biotin in the body.
If you’re taking any of these medications, your healthcare provider may recommend taking a biotin-containing supplement like a multivitamin.
What to Look For
When shopping for a biotin supplement or a multivitamin product that contains biotin, it’s best to choose high-quality products from trusted brands. Some supplement manufacturers hire third-party labs to test their products for purity and potency, which helps improve supplement safety. Whenever possible, purchase supplements from brands certified by organizations like UL, USP, and NSF International.
It’s also important to purchase supplements in forms that you can easily tolerate. For example, people who can’t tolerate swallowing pills may want to purchase a powdered supplement or a liquid product.
Lastly, unless specifically recommended by a healthcare provider, high-dose biotin supplements should generally be avoided by most people as they can interfere with common laboratory tests.
Can You Take Too Much Biotin?
There is currently no UL set for biotin as it has low toxicity.
However, this doesn’t mean that high doses of biotin are necessary or appropriate for most people.
Unless your healthcare provider recommends high-dose biotin to treat a specific health condition, you should avoid taking biotin supplements that provide more than the DV, which is set at 30 mcg per day.
A Quick Review
Biotin is a B vitamin that’s essential for health. Most people get enough through their diet, so biotin deficiency is rare.
However, biotin supplements may be appropriate for some people, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and people with certain medical conditions, such as MS and type 2 diabetes.
If you’re interested in supplementing with biotin, speak with your healthcare provider first. They can help you decide whether or not a biotin supplement may be appropriate for your health needs.
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