Buying in on Biotin

Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, “vitamin H,” or co-enzyme R, is a water-soluble vitamin. One of the least well-known of the B-complex vitamins, biotin was discovered in late 1930s and early 1940s. It helps your body to process fat and sugars, and it helps form a critical process in fat production in your body. Because biotin is so involved with creating the building blocks for basic body functions at a cellular level, it’s very important to have a sufficient supply of this nutritional element. Your sweat glands, nerve tissue and bone marrow also function at their peak efficiency when you have proper biotin levels.

Biotin is required by all organisms but can be synthesized only by bacteria, yeasts, molds, algae, and some plant species. Most bacteria that normally colonize your intestines synthesize biotin.

Biotin deficiency rarely, if ever, occurs in healthy people who consume a healthy diet unless they are being treated either with certain anti-convulsants or with broad-spectrum antibiotics. The extremely low prevalence of biotin deficiency is probably the result of a combination of factors:

  1. The daily requirement for biotin is low.
  2. Almost all foods contain biotin.
  3. Your intestinal microbes synthesize biotin, and a portion of that biotin is probably absorbed into your bloodstream.
  4. Much of your body’s biotin is recycled: your body may use a molecule of biotin repeatedly before it is eventually excreted in your feces or urine.

Additionally, as many as 50% of pregnant women may be deficient in biotin, a deficiency that may increase the risk of birth defects. Preliminary research found laboratory evidence of biotin deficiency both in the early (first trimester) and late (third trimester) stages of pregnancy. National health experts recommend 30 micrograms of biotin a day for pregnant and lactating women.

Because biotin is a water-soluble compound, it can’t easily be saved in your he body long-term, so it’s important to get it into your regular diet. In its 1998 recommendations for intake of B-complex vitamins, the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences chose not to set a tolerable upper limit (UL) for intake of biotin.

High-biotin foods:

  • Support healthy skin through proper fat production: Many of the classic biotin deficiency symptoms involve skin problems, and the role of biotin in fat synthesis is often cited as a reason for this biotin-skin link. Biotin is required for the functioning of an enzyme in the body called acetyl Co-A carboxylase. This enzyme puts together the building blocks for the production of fat in the body. Fat production is critical for all cells in the body since the membranes of all cells must contain the correct fat components to function properly. Fat production is especially critical for skin cells, because they die and must be replaced very rapidly, and also because they are in contact with the outside environment and must serve as a selective barrier. When cellular fat components cannot be made properly due to biotin deficiency, skin cells are among the first cells to develop problems. In infants, the most common biotin-deficiency symptom is cradle cap – a dermatitis (skin condition) in which crusty yellowish/ whitish patches appear around the infant’s scalp, head, eyebrows and the skin behind the ears. In adults, the equivalent skin condition is called seborrheic dermatitis, although it can occur in many different locations on the skin.
  • Help you produce energy: Biotin is involved in the metabolism of both sugar and fat. In sugar metabolism, biotin helps move sugar from its initial stages of processing on to its conversion into usable chemical energy. For this reason, muscle cramps and pains related to physical exertion, which may be the result of your body’s inability to use sugar efficiently as fuel, may signal a biotin deficiency.
  • Maintain an energy supply in your nerve cells: Because glucose and fat are used for energy within your nervous system, biotin also functions as a supportive vitamin in this area. Numerous nerve-related symptoms have been linked to biotin deficiency, including seizures, lack of muscle coordination (ataxia), and lack of good muscle tone (hypotonia).

You may need more high-biotin foods if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Skin problems, including cradle cap in infants and seborrheic dermatitis in adults
  • Hair loss or brittle fingernails
  • Muscle cramps and pains related to physical exertion
  • Seizures, ataxia, and or hypotonia.
  • Poor nutrition due to lack of biotin-containing foods in your diet, or deficient or excessive dietary intake of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), because pantothenic acid works together with biotin in many metabolic processes, and may compete with biotin for absorption
  • Intestinal problems, which deprive your body of an alternative source of biotin
  • Pregnancy, as there is an increased demand for nutrients placed upon the mother by the growing fetus

Biotin may play a role in the prevention or treatment of the following health conditions:

  • Hair loss (alopecia) and brittle fingernails
  • Intestinal problems, including inflammatory bowel syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and chronic diarrhea
  • Neuromuscular conditions, including seizures, lack of muscle coordination, and lack of muscle tone
  • Skin problems, including cradle cap in infants and seborrheic dermatitis in adults

Biotin is relatively stable when exposed to heat, light, and oxygen. Strongly acidic conditions can, however, denature this vitamin.

Food Sources of Biotin

Serving size (g) μg biotin/serving
Chard, cooked 175 10.5
Peanuts, roasted, salted 28 4.91
Mushrooms, canned 120 2.59
Sunflower seeds, roasted, salted 31 2.42
Yeast 8.56 1.71
Strawberries, fresh 111 1.67
Almonds, roasted, salted 30 1.32
Orange juice, canned, from concentrate 296 1.22
Sweet potato, cooked 80 1.16
Broccoli, fresh 113 1.07
Walnuts, fresh 30 0.78
Pecans, fresh 30 0.6
Spinach, frozen 83 0.58
Salad, mixed garden 155 0.44
Avocado, fresh 37 0.36
Oatmeal 190 0.36
French fries 104 0.33
Beer 280 0.32
Tomatoes, fresh 43 0.3
Raspberries, fresh 140 0.25
White wine 212 0.25
Carrots, canned 29 0.18
Raisins 43 0.17
Banana, fresh 103 0.14
Apple juice, canned, from concentrate 250 0.13
Orange, fresh 258 0.13

6 thoughts on “Buying in on Biotin

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