What is it?
Biotin, sometimes known as vitamin H or coenzyme R, is one of eight water-soluble B vitamins. Because biotin breaks down in water, the body can’t store it. Biotin is essential in turning carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy. Vitamin H also promotes healthy hair and skin, sweat glands, nerve tissue, bone marrow, and male sex-gland function. Biotin also works with the immune system to fend off illness. Several studies suggest that vitamin H may help restore the sense of taste among people who have lost it, however more research is needed. High doses of vitamin H have also been linked with reductions in general disability among multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.
Biotin can be found in brewer’s yeast; cooked eggs (especially egg yolks), sardines, nuts, legumes (beans, peas, and peanuts), whole grains, wheat germ, cauliflower, bananas, and mushrooms. A balanced diet contains adequate amounts of biotin. However, eating raw egg whites (meringue, for example) interferes with the body’s absorption of biotin, as do alcohol, estrogen therapy, large amounts of the artificial sugar called saccharin, anti-seizure medications, and sulfa-based antibiotics.
Also at risk of low or absent levels of vitamin H are those who have been on intravenous feeding for a long time, and those suffering from digestive diseases (like Crohn’s and irritable bowel disease, or IBD). Food processing techniques like heat and canning also destroy biotin. To get more biotin per food dollar, choose less heavily processed foods.
According to several medical information sites, biotin has not been linked with any side effects, even in high doses, and medical professionals view it as nontoxic. In addition, taking a biotin supplement over the long term has shown an almost 50-percent improvement in the blood sugar levels of type 2 diabetes.
Few people in the developed world are biotin-deficient, thanks to the modern food supply and bacteria in the human intestine that actually make vitamin H. However, those few who lack enough biotin in their diets may notice hair loss, dry and scaly skin, cracks at the corners of the mouth, dark reddish swollen and painful tongue, dry eyes, lack of appetite, tiredness, insomnia, and depression.
Biotin supplements commonly come in 10 micrograms (mcg), 50 mcg, or 100 mcg, either as pure vitamin H or mixed with brewer’s yeast. The recommended daily dose for adults is 30 mcg, rising to 35 mcg for breastfeeding women.