Also known as vitamin H, biotin is one of the B complex vitamins that help the body convert food into energy.
The word biotin comes from the ancient Greek word “biotos,” which means “life” or “sustenance.” B vitamins, and specifically biotin, help keep your skin, hair, eyes, liver, and nervous system healthy. Biotin is also a crucial nutrient during pregnancy, as it’s important for embryonic growth.
Most people get the biotin they need from eating a healthy diet, but there have been many claims that getting more biotin can regulate your blood sugar, promote healthy hair, skin and nails, and help pregnant moms have healthier babies. How much biotin is enough, where can you get it, and what can it really do for you?
Between 30 and 100 mcg per day of biotin is often recommended for adolescents and adults.
Because it’s water-soluble, extra biotin will simply pass through your body when you urinate. While most people can handle biotin supplements, some people report mild side effects like nausea and digestive issues. There are no known toxicity symptoms associated with too much biotin.
Because some studies show that people with type 2 diabetes have lower biotin levels, supplements may help with blood sugar regulation. The research so far is conflicted: some studies show an effect when biotin is combined with chromium, while others do not.
People with insulin-dependent type 1 diabetes also tend to have trouble regulating their blood glucose levels. Biotin helps to create fatty acids by converting glucose, and there is evidence that this can help lower blood sugar.
Biotin deficiencies are rare. But because people with a deficiency often show symptoms of hair loss or a scaly red rash, some doctors and supplement companies recommend increasing your intake.
However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that there is insufficient data to support recommending supplementation.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Nutrition reports that many pregnant women are biotin deficient, and that pregnant mice with low biotin are more likely to have babies with severe birth defects. To help promote baby health, doctors often recommend supplementing with biotin along with folic acid during pregnancy.
Biotin can also be found in a number of foods, including:
- egg yolk
- organ meats (liver, kidney)
- nuts, like almonds, peanuts, pecans, and walnuts
- nut butters
- soybeans and other legumes
- whole grains and cereals
Because food-processing techniques like cooking can render biotin ineffective, raw or less-processed versions of these foods contain more active biotin.
While biotin is necessary for normal body function, and supplements may help pregnant women and some people with diabetes, there is still not enough data available to support supplementation or claims about healthy hair, skin, or nails.
With that said, it’s always a good idea to eat a balanced, healthy diet of non-processed or minimally processed foods for your optimal health!