Biotin (also known as Vitamin H and B7) is a B-complex vitamin that aids metabolic processes by breaking down proteins, fat, carbohydrates and amino acids. It is also vital for healthy cell growth, carbon dioxide transfer, and the generation of fatty acids. Since this vitamin is naturally produced by bacteria in the intestines, most people do not need to take biotin supplements.
Sources of Biotin in Food
It can be found in low concentrations in an extremely wide variety of healthy foods. Foods that are rich in B-vitamins frequently contain this important vitamin. Liver, legumes, tomatoes, carrots, egg yolks, soy beans, royal jelly, and brewer’s yeast are particularly good sources of biotin.
Are You At Risk For A Biotin Deficiency?
The deficiencies are extremely rare. Supplements are typically unnecessary, particularly for those who have a healthy metabolism and eat a nutritious diet. Some inherited metabolic disorders can interfere with the body’s ability to use it effectively, so individuals with these disorders may need additional supplements or medications.
Pregnant women have an increased risk of deficiency and should consult a doctor if they are concerned that they may not be consuming an adequate amount of biotin. Unfortunately, even mild cases of deficiency can cause harm to a fetus long before the woman begins to exhibit any noticeable symptoms.
Symptoms of deficiency include nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, swelling of the tongue, conjunctivitis (also known as “pink eye”), and a scaly rash that typically presents itself on the face or genitals. Depression (and, in some cases, hallucinations) can also result. There are no known adverse reactions associated with excessive intake, so a “better safe than sorry” approach may be preferable for individuals at a high risk for deficiency.
Supplement Your Diet
Even if you are not at risk of a deficiency, you may benefit from supplements. There is some evidence that weak fingernails and easily-damaged hair may be strengthened by a biotin-rich diet for your hair growth(1). The vitamin has also been shown to improve blood sugar control and manage appropriate blood glucose levels, so diabetics may benefit from taking it as a supplement.