Biotin Supplements

Biotin is a water soluble B-vitamin and it acts as a co-enzyme in the breakdown and metabolism of protein, fats and carbohydrates. Some people are born with a deficiency of biotin whilst others do not get enough biotin from their diet – in these cases, biotin supplements may be needed.

Biotin supplements are thought to help with a number of common medical complaints, including acne, brittle nails, lank and lifeless hair, eczema and diabetes. Some people also believe that biotin is useful in treating low-level to mild depression and that biotin speeds up the metabolism, thus promoting weight loss.

Biotin is available in supplement form, but you can take in plenty of biotin through food – mushrooms, livers, carrots, egg yolks, sardines, salmon, bananas, cauliflower and yeast extract are all rich in biotin and including them in your diet increases your biotin levels naturally without the need for supplements.

Deficiency in biotin is very uncommon, although it can occur in people who drink excessive amounts of alcohol or who eat a great deal of raw egg white. Raw egg white contains a protein that blocks your body’s natural absorption of biotin, so you do need to take it in from elsewhere. Genetics can play a part in biotin deficiency, as can having your stomach removed. Biotin deficiency can be difficult to spot, although it can cause heart problems, cholesterol problems, tingling in the arms and legs, auditory and visual hallucinations, exhaustion, depression, a red scaly rash around the nose and mouth and thinning of the hair. Biotin deficiency can cause birth defects and up to 50% of women who are pregnant may have a biotin deficiency, so it’s especially important for them to eat biotin-rich foods or take supplements.

How Does Biotin Work?

There is very little scientific research that supports the use of biotin as a supplement for promoting strong hair and nails or for treating depression, although there is research that indicates biotin can be helpful in managing diabetes.

One small clinical trial that followed a group of patients with brittle nails showed that taking 2.5mg of biotin per day strengthened the nails of 2/3 of the group. Another small study showed that large amounts of biotin – 8-16mg per day, could support individuals with diabetes by lowering blood glucose and by preventing diabetic neuropathy.

A larger 2008 study from the Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews found that taking a biotin/chromium combination supplement in conjunction with anti-diabetic medication helped control blood sugar levels in overweight or obese type II diabetes patients. One half of the study group took a chromium/placebo combination whilst the other half of the study took a chromium/biotin combination. The individuals who took the biotin showed a significantly greater improvement in blood sugar levels compared to the placebo group. A similar study also showed that the chromium/biotin combination also helped to reduce cholesterol levels in obese patients.

A lot of these studies used biotin as a combination drug with chromium, so it’s not as yet known if biotin could improve diabetes symptoms alone.

Should I Take Biotin Supplements?

The only reason you should ever take a vitamin supplement is if you are showing a deficiency in that vitamin. If you’re showing any symptoms of biotin deficiency, speak to your doctor and ask if you could benefit from taking a supplement. They may just suggest taking in biotin by varying your diet, depending on the severity of your deficiency.

As for using biotin to lose weight – no doctors will recommend using a supplement to lose weight. The safest and most proven way to lose weight is to take in fewer calories and to do more exercise and biotin is not necessary in this case.