The importance of vitamins and minerals in the normal functioning of the body is well acknowledged by healthcare specialists, hence the recommendations for healthy and balanced diets able to deliver all necessary nutrients. Biotin, Vitamin B7, or Vitamin H is one of the eight compounds of the B complex, a set of water soluble vitamins which play various functions.
Biotin is particularly relevant for the metabolic function, but is also essential for the production of red blood cells. The vitamin was discovered through a common effort of several scientists (Fritz Kogl, W.G. Bateman, and Paul Gyory), and its full structure and potential functions were not understood until recently.
Vitamin B7 can naturally be found in the body where it is produced by a bacterium found in the human intestine. A large number of food sources as well as a diversity of dietary supplements are also available and can ensure the daily recommended dose is reached.
Because the vitamin is water soluble, constant supplies should be made available to the body, as excess amounts are eliminated through urine. Biotin deficiencies are rare in the U.S, as a large number of dietary sources that can supply this vitamin exist.
Biotin Functions & Benefits
The nutrient performs various roles, both individually and in combination with other B vitamins. Essential functions of Biotin include carbohydrates, fats, and amino acids metabolism, and hence protein production, hair and nails health support, and normal embryonic growth during pregnancy. It has been studies on a large scale for benefits related to a large number of health conditions, both as a prevention measure and as part of various treatment schemes.
The vitamin is successfully used to treat brittle nails of hands and feet, as well as increasing the thickness of the nails. Although scientific evidence to support this use is weak, the nutrient enjoys much popularity as a treatment for these problems, due to a historic folk belief. There is insufficient evidence that the nutrient reduces hair loss and several studies (although fairly poorly designed) indicate that a treatment containing biotin and Clobetasol may enjoy some degree of success in this regard.
Preliminary research also shows that Vitamin B7, in combination with chromium, could have a positive impact on blood sugar levels and hence help people who suffer from type 2 diabetes. However, there is no evidence that Biotin alone has a similar effect.
Another potential application of Vitamin B7 is related to a condition developed by infants who for some reason are biotin deficient and develop a scalp condition called seborrheic dermatitis. Extra-caution is recommended before applying such a treatment on your infant, particularly because its effectiveness is not fully supported by clinical trial gathered evidence.
Biotin has been linked to a disease called peripheral neuropathy, a condition damaging the nerves and the peripheral nervous system. The condition manifests through loss of feeling, tingling, muscle weakness, and pain in the hands, feet, legs, and arms.
Biotin, like all B vitamins, is important for the production of energy, where it works to metabolize fat and sugar. The chemical energy resulted in this way supports all essential body functions and processes. Muscle cramps may be the result of the body’s inability to effectively use sugar to create energy and may sometimes indicate a deficiency in Vitamin H.
Biotin deficiencies are rather uncommon, however, under certain conditions, symptoms may occur, in which case you must contact a healthcare provider immediately.
Skin inflammation is one of the most frequent manifestation of a Vitamin H deficiency. These skin inflammations usually affect the scalp and cause hair loss to the point of boldness in some severe cases. Anorexia has been also known to be associated to an imbalance in the vitamin. In children, this symptom is likely dangerous as it can hinder both physical and mental growth, while in adults it may trigger depression, lethargy, or lack of sensation. Other common symptoms of a deficiency that you should be aware of are anemia (low red blood cells count), eye conjunctivitis, and irregular heartbeat.
There is no evidence that Biotin interacts with any group of medications, however you should pay attention if under antibiotic treatment, taking anti-seizure medication or drugs that aim to treat various stomach problems. These medications may lower levels of biotin present in the body and hence a healthcare provider should be consulted prior to starting a Biotin treatment.
Even in high doses, it appears that taking Vitamin B7 is safe. The adequate daily dosages depend on the age of the patient, as well as on his/her health condition. Infants up to 12 months are advised to take no more than 5-6 mcg daily, while this dose increases up to 25 mcg per day for adolescents aged between 14 and 18 years old. Adults 19 or older should consume an optimum 30 mcg of Biotin daily. Pregnant women should consume 30 mcg, while breastfeeding women are advised to take 35 mcg per day. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised to discuss the optimum dose with their healthcare provider.
Biotin is naturally produced by the body. Also, there are numerous dietary sources that contain this nutrient, which could ensure a daily adequate intake. The most biotin-rich dietary sources of biotin include carrots, almonds, walnuts, Swiss chard, cow and goat milk, chicken eggs, berries and fruits, and an array of vegetables including cucumber and onions. Animal organs are also some of the richest sources of this nutrient. For instance, cooked liver can provide 27 to 35 mcg of biotin for each 100 grams serving, while cooked eggs are able to provide somewhere between 13 and 25 mg of Vitamin B7 per portion, depending on the size of the egg.
Furthermore, you should know that one slice of whole wheat bread ensures approximately 6 mcg of b7, three ounces of cooked salmon provide 4 mcg of Vitamin B7 and half a cup of raw cauliflower should provide 2 mcg of biotin.
When dietary sources alone cannot provide the daily amounts recommended by specialists, patients can choose from a wide variety of dietary supplements. Most specialists recommend that B vitamins are taken in combination with other vitamins from the B-complex or other such nutrients.