Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin and a member of the vitamin B complex. It is often referred to as vitamin H, coenzyme R and also the ‘beauty’ vitamin. Biotin assists in energy and amino acid metabolism, fat and glycogen synthesis as well as promoting healthy skin, hair and nails.
Why you may need biotin
Brittle finger nails – biotin has been found to increase the thickness of finger and toenails in people with brittle nails.
Energy production – biotin is involved in the production of energy from food, especially the metabolism of fats and proteins, and the proper utilisation of glucose.
How much do you need?
Adequate Intake levels are:
Adults (over 19 years): 25mcg (women), 30mcg (men) daily
Pregnancy: 30mcg daily
Breastfeeding: 35mcg daily
Children 9-13 years: 20mcg daily
Children 14-18 years: 25mcg (girls), 30mcg (boys) daily
Symptoms of deficiency
Deficiency of biotin is rare since it is so widespread in foods and can be synthesised by the bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract.
To assess the deficiency symptoms, researchers have induced biotin deficiency by simply feeding raw egg whites! These contain the biotin-binding protein called aviden that binds biotin and stops its absorption. Cooking the egg whites stops aviden in its tracks, therefore placing no stress on biotin absorption.
After eating two raw egg whites daily for several months you may present with the following deficiency symptoms – loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, dry scaly, red scaly dermatitis around the eyes, nose, and mouth inflamed tongue (glossitis), loss of taste, sleepiness, anxiety, depression, an increase in serum cholesterol levels, thinning hair and loss of hair colour.
The best dietary sources of biotin include bean sprouts, liver, kidney, soy beans, milk, meat and peanuts.
Other reasons why you may need more
Certain conditions and factors can increase your demand of biotin, these include alcohol, coffee, cigarette smoking, congenital biotinidase deficiency (this affects your absorption of biotin), malabsorption syndromes and during pregnancy.
Biotin is well tolerated.