Vitamin H, more commonly known as biotin, is a water-soluble vitamin produced
in the body by certain types of intestinal bacteria and obtained from food.
Considered part of the B complex group of vitamins, biotin is necessary for the
metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and amino acids (the building blocks of
Deficiency, uncommon in humans, may result in hair loss, dry scaly skin,
cracking in the corners of the mouth (called cheilitis), swollen and painful
tongue that is magenta in color (glossitis), dry eyes, loss of appetite,
fatigue, insomnia, and depression. Animals deficient in biotin during pregnancy
are more likely to deliver newborns with birth defects such as a cleft palate.
Research in this area for pregnant women is underway. One situation in which
biotin deficiency does often develop is in people who have been on parenteral
nutrition (nutrition administered intravenously rather than through the mouth or
stomach) for a long period of time. It may also been seen in people who have
been on long-term therapy with anticonvulsants, antibiotics, and sulfa
Interestingly, vegetarians are able to absorb more biotin from the
gastrointestinal tract than meat eaters. Biotin is often recommended for
strengthening hair and nails and is found in many cosmetic products for hair and
Below is a partial list of the health problems biotin may help treat:
Hair and Nail Problems
Biotin supplements may improve thin,
splitting, or brittle toe and fingernails as well as hair health. Biotin has
also been used to combat alopecia (partial or complete loss of hair) in both
children and adults.
Cradle Cap (Seborrheic Dermatitis)
Infants deficient in biotin
often develop this scaly scalp condition. Some infants may respond to biotin
supplementation either through formulas or breast milk. While studies have not
confirmed the value of biotin for treating cradle cap, there are individual
reports of some infants doing better with this treatment.
Similarly, children with a rare inherited metabolic disorder called
phenyulketonuria (PKU; in which one is unable to break down the amino acid
phenylalanine) often develop skin conditions such as eczema and seborrheic
dermatitis in areas of the body other than the scalp. The scaly skin changes
that occur in people with PKU may be related to poor ability to use biotin.
Increasing dietary biotin in the diet seems to improve seborrheic dermatitis.
Biotin supplementation is usually given
to babies and children with this unusual inherited condition. Biotinidase
deficiency is often associated with seizures, skin disorders, bald spots,
hearing loss, visual disturbances, and developmental delay. The inherited form
of biotinidase deficiency is seen most commonly in people from Saudi Arabia.
Use of valproic acid, a medication for seizure disorders, can cause a
biotinidase deficiency leading to skin rashes and hair loss. Biotin supplements
may prevent or treat some of the side effects from this prescription drug.
Another rare inherited metabolic disorder (which looks very much like
biotinidase deficiency) is called holocaroxylase synthetase deficiency. This
type of deficiency also alters biotin metabolism and infants with this condition
tend to improve from biotin supplements.
People with type 2 diabetes often have low levels of
biotin. Biotin may be involved in the synthesis and release of insulin.
Preliminary studies in both animals and people suggest that biotin may help
improve blood sugar control in those with diabetes, particularly type 2
diabetes. More research in this area would be helpful.
There have been reports of biotin
supplements improving the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy for some people who
developed this condition from either long-standing diabetes or on-going
hemodialysis for kidney failure. Peripheral neuropathy refers to damage to the
nerves of the extremities, most commonly the feet and calves. It is felt as
numbness, tingling, burning or strange sensations, and may be accompanied by
pain, muscle weakness, and difficulty walking. People who have taken biotin for
these purposes tend to notice improvement as early as 1 to 3 months after
starting the supplement.
Candida infections affect the skin, mouth,
and vagina and are caused by a yeast-like fungus. Possible symptoms include
white patches in the mouth or on the throat, painful cracks at the corners of
the mouth, skin rashes found commonly in the groin, between fingers and toes,
and under the breasts, and vaginal itching and irritation with a curd-like
discharge. Some believe that people with a biotin deficiency may be more likely
to become infected with candida. It is not clear, however, whether increasing
biotin in the diet or taking biotin supplements will prevent or treat this
condition. There has been one case report of a woman with frequent, recurrent
vaginal candida infections who did improve after taking biotin supplements for
Animal studies and a few human studies
suggest that low levels of biotin are associated with high total and LDL ("bad")
cholesterol. It is not known, however, if biotin supplementation or increased
biotin in the diet improves cholesterol.
These foods contain a significant amount of biotin:
- Brewer's yeast
- Organ meets (liver, kidney)
- Cooked eggs, especially egg yolk
- Nuts (almonds, peanuts, pecans, walnuts) and nut butters
- Other legumes (beans, blackeye peas, peanuts)
Note that raw egg whites contain a protein called Avidin that
interferes with the absorption of biotin. It is always recommended that people
avoid eating raw eggs because of food poisoning caused by Salmonella.
Food-processing techniques can destroy biotin. Less-processed versions of the
foods listed above will contain more biotin.
Biotin is available within multivitamins and B-vitamin complexes, and as
Standard preparations are available in 10 mcg, 50 mcg, and 100 mcg tablets
and contain either simple biotin or a complex with brewer's yeast.
|How to Take It|
As with all supplements, check with a healthcare provider before giving
biotin to a child.
Adequate daily intakes for biotin from the diet are listed below.
- Infants birth to 6 months: 5 mcg
- Infants 7 to 12 months: 6 mcg
- Children 1 to 3 years: 8 mcg
- Children 4 to 8 years: 12 mcg
- Children 9 to 13 years: 20 mcg
- Adolescents 14 to 18 years: 25 mcg
- 19 years and older: 30 mcg
- Pregnant females: 30 mcg
- Breastfeeding females: 35 mcg
For biotin deficiencies or to treat one of the conditions described in the
Uses section, a healthcare provider may
recommend as much as 100 to 1,000 mcg of this supplement. Safety has only been
established for dosages between 30 and 600 mcg.
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications,
dietary supplements should be taken only under the supervision of a
knowledgeable healthcare provider. That said, biotin has not been associated
with side effects (even in high doses) and is considered to be nontoxic.
Although there are no reports in the medical literature of interactions
between biotin and conventional medications, there are some medications that may
deplete biotin levels. If you are currently being treated with any of the
following medications, you should not use vitamin A without first talking to
your healthcare provider.
Long- term antibiotic use may decrease biotin
levels by destroying the bacteria in the gut that produces biotin.
Long-term use of anticonvulsant
medications such as phenytoin, primidone, carbamezepine, and phenobarbital can
deplete the body's stores of biotin, possibly by interfering with absorption and
increasing urinary excretion. Similarly, valproic acid can cause biotinidase
deficiency which may be helped by biotin supplements.
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|Review Date: April 2002|
|Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Jacqueline A. Hart, MD,
Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University
and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh
(Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick, Ma; Steven
Ottariono, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Veteran's
Administrative Hospital, Londonderry, NH; Margie Ullmann-Weil, MS, RD,
specializing in combination of complementary and traditional nutritional
therapy, Boston, MA. All interaction sections have also been reviewed by a team
of experts including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The Integrative Medicine
Works, Alexandria, VA;Enrico Liva, ND, RPh (August 2000), Vital Nutrients,
Middletown, CT; Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical
Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your
Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; Ira Zunin, MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000),
President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative Medicine,
Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc
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