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What is Biotin?

Niki Acker
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Biotin is a B-complex vitamin, also known as vitamin B-7 or vitamin H. It is important in a number of metabolic functions in the human body, including cell growth, the synthesis of fatty acids, and the metabolism of the amino acid leucine. Biotin also assists in the Krebs cycle, through which the body converts food into energy, and in the transfer of carbon dioxide within the body. Intestinal bacteria naturally produce this vitamin, and a deficiency is therefore quite rare.

Many health and beauty products that promote hair and nail strength include biotin. However, the usefulness of externally applied products like shampoo is questionable, as this vitamin is not easily absorbed through the skin. In order to reap the health benefits, the vitamin must typically be consumed in supplement form.

Most people have no need for biotin supplements, as enough is either consumed through a healthy diet or produced by intestinal bacteria. Dietary sources of biotin include dairy products, shellfish, chicken breasts, cauliflower, and organ meats. There is no daily recommended intake of biotin in most nutritional guidelines. However, supplements may be helpful in treating some specific conditions.

Biotin may help prevent hair loss and can improve certain skin complaints. Children with the congenital disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) often suffer from skin problems like eczema and seborrheic dermatitis, more commonly known as Cradle Cap, and biotin supplements can help. Recent studies have suggested that the vitamin may also be helpful in improving insulin synthesis and release in diabetics, leading to improved blood sugar control.

Though biotin deficiency is rare, it is serious. This deficiency is usually a congenital condition, but it can also be caused by excessive consumption of raw egg white over a period of many months or years. If untreated, biotin deficiency can present serious and potentially fatal neurological symptoms. In early stages, it is marked by hair and skin conditions including dryness, alopecia, eczema, rashes, and fungal infections. Luckily, this condition is easily treated with supplements.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Niki Acker
By Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a The Health Board editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "
Discussion Comments
By anon948617 — On May 01, 2014

If you're not trying to lose weight and trying to gain I recommend you to not purchase Biotin vitamins!! I been taking them for three weeks and I have lost my appetite dramatically. I went from 138 to 130, I'm very sick and not able to eat. My skin is very clear; that is the only great result.

By anon947427 — On Apr 25, 2014

Biotin is water soluble. There is no risk in overdosing.

By anon328726 — On Apr 05, 2013

I have been taking biotin for two days and cannot believe how awake and happy I feel. I was lethargic, miserable and couldn't wait to get to bed in the evenings. Amazing!

By tech — On Jun 12, 2012

My nephrologist told me to stay away from bananas, avocados, potatoes and many other healthy things that probably have biotin in them, as well as most supplements I was taking.

Since being diagnosed with stage 3 chronic kidney disease and being so restricted in diet and supplements, my hair is dead and my nails are cracked to the cuticle! I'd like a clear answer to the question of taking biotin either orally or topically. I won't ask my doc because she has tunnel vision and only wants to treat her specialty.

By Oceana — On Apr 10, 2012

I have a kidney disease, so I am more susceptible to the effects of biotin pills than healthy people are. My doctor told me that it is best to just stay away from them.

Instead of popping pills, I eat plenty of foods that contain biotin. My doctor said that bananas are a good source, and I was glad to hear this, because I was already eating one every morning with breakfast.

He also said that salmon is full of biotin. I love baking salmon with a glaze of honey, butter, and brown sugar, so this is another delicious way for me to get the biotin my body needs without any health risks.

By shell4life — On Apr 10, 2012

@kylee07drg – I used to wonder the same thing. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a whole lot of research conducted on the subject.

The only information I ever found on a biotin overdose was from a study that had used pregnant rats. The findings showed that the excessive biotin made the rats have miscarriages, but the article published on the study claimed that humans might not have the same side effects.

All I can say is that you are probably safe taking the biotin, but if you ever become pregnant, stop taking it right away. You wouldn't want to risk having a miscarriage, even if it has only been proven to occur in rats.

By kylee07drg — On Apr 09, 2012

I had been having problems with fatigue, and I thought maybe a vitamin deficiency might be to blame. I had heard that a biotin deficiency could lead to lethargy, so I decided to start taking biotin supplements.

I'm not big on eating meat, so my diet probably didn't contain enough biotin. After a few weeks on the supplements, I started to have more energy. So, I probably was suffering from a deficiency.

Does anyone know what a biotin overdose can do to your body? I don't think I'm in danger of it, but I just wonder if there are any side effects to taking too much biotin.

By seag47 — On Apr 09, 2012

I get plenty of biotin from my diet, because I eat lots of chicken, shrimp, and yogurt. In spite of this, I seemed to be losing a lot more hair in the shower than I should have been.

I decided to try a biotin shampoo, even though I had always heard that supplements were more effective. I was afraid that I might get too much biotin if I took a supplement, considering the amount I already got from my food, so the shampoo seemed to be the best option for me.

Within two weeks of starting to use the biotin shampoo, I stopped losing clumps of hair. There had been handfuls of hair plastered to the shower walls before, but now, there were only a few strands. I was so relieved that the shampoo worked, because if it hadn't, it could have meant that I had a serious physical condition that was causing my hair to fall out.

By anon259865 — On Apr 09, 2012

Believe it or not, but try 5mg of Biotin for only a week and feel the difference in your overall fitness/wellness. Just one week and then decide for yourself.

By anon170449 — On Apr 26, 2011

Let me tell you that 100 percent of the time i don't believe what i read, but i have been taking biotin for two days and it really cuts your appetite. Really!

By anon91270 — On Jun 21, 2010

Where can I purchase these Biotin supplements.

By anon73697 — On Mar 29, 2010

Are there any side effects and is it safe to use?

By anon68199 — On Mar 01, 2010

is it good for you?

By anon36412 — On Jul 12, 2009

That's what brought me to this site, does it help curb appetite and help your metabolism to lose weight?

By anon26310 — On Feb 11, 2009

Will Biotin help boost your metabolism and does it help curve appetite if you take Biotin supplements?

Niki Acker
Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a The Health Board editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range...
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