Our bodies rely on different vitamins and minerals to function properly and stay healthy. And, while nutrients like vitamins A, C, and D are familiar to most us, it’s not uncommon for others, such as biotin, to be lesser known.

However, biotin – or vitamin B7 – is just as important for health. It plays a role in various different body functions, including metabolism and nervous system function.

With that said, we’ll explore exactly what biotin is, its role in the body, and how you can make sure you’re getting enough.

What is biotin?

What is biotin

Biotin, or vitamin B7, is one of the eight essential B vitamins.

While we only need it in very small amounts, biotin is important for health in a number of ways.

It plays a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins – helping the body to turn food into energy. Without this, many of our daily functions (such as metabolic, digestive, and cardiovascular) wouldn’t happen.

Among other things, biotin also supports nervous system function, may help to manage blood sugar levels, and is thought to be beneficial for hair, skin, and nail health.

Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin, which means we need a regular supply of it, as it can’t be stored in the body. And, because our bodies can’t produce biotin on its own, we have to get it from our diet.

What are the health benefits of biotin?

What are the health benefits of biotin

As an essential vitamin for normal body function, biotin has a number of impressive health benefits.

We’ll cover some of these below…

1. Biotin may help to manage diabetes

There’s been scientific research into whether biotin may be useful for managing symptoms of diabetes – and some of the results are promising.

A number of studies have analysed biotin’s potential to lower blood sugar levels in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

For example, in this animal study, researchers noted that biotin may stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin, and lower blood sugar as a result.

In fact, some studies have found that, in people with type 2 diabetes, supplementing with biotin may help to decrease fasting blood sugar levels by up to 45%.

Meanwhile, there’s also evidence to suggest that biotin deficiency may lead to disruptions in blood sugar regulation. Therefore, people with diabetes may have lower levels of biotin in their blood.

2. Biotin may boost hair, skin, and nail health

Research has linked biotin deficiency with negative changes to hair, skin, and nails – including brittle nails, thinning hair, and in some cases, even causing skin rashes.

Meanwhile, there’s evidence to suggest that getting enough biotin may improve skin hydration, smoothness, and appearance. One reason for this is that biotin plays a role in the formation of fatty acids, which nourish the skin and help to protect it from environmental damage.

In this study of 35 people with brittle fingernails, 63% experienced improvements in the condition of their nails after taking 2.5mg of biotin per day for six weeks.

In another study, women with thinning hair experienced less shedding after they took an oral biotin supplement for 90 days. That being said, it’s important to note that biotin was just one of many ingredients in the supplement.

Therefore, while initial studies are promising, further research is needed to confirm any findings on biotin’s effect on hair, skin, and nail health.

3. Biotin may boost heart health

Biotin is required for fat metabolism, which is essential for a healthy heart. This is because during fat metabolism, triglycerides are broken down into smaller chain fatty acids, which body cells use for energy.

On the other hand, when triglycerides aren’t broken down, they can contribute to the thickening and hardening of artery walls. People with high triglyceride levels often have high LDL (bad) cholesterol levels too.

Research shows that, together with chromium, biotin can help to lower levels of LDL cholesterol, increase HDL (good cholesterol) – and therefore, reduce the risk of heart disease.

Other studies have also linked high biotin intake with lower blood triglyceride levels.

This is significant because high triglyceride levels are known to contribute towards the development of arteriosclerosis (thickening of the artery walls and hardening of the arteries). Arteriosclerosis can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, and heart attacks.

4. Biotin may help to manage peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a term used to describe damage to nerves located in the body’s extremities – such as the hands, feet, and arms.

It can occur alongside a range of health conditions, such as cancer, kidney disease, physical injury, excessive alcohol consumption, and poorly managed diabetes. Symptoms can include numbness in the feet or hands, muscle weakness, and loss of balance or coordination.

Research suggests that adequate biotin intake may help to manage symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

For example, this study found that people who took higher doses of biotin for one to two years saw an improvement in peripheral neuropathy symptoms. And another animal study indicated that biotin may be able to help with neuropathic pain.

One reason for this is that biotin is needed for the activity of pyruvate carboxylase. This enzyme regulates levels of compounds like pyruvate and aspartate in the body, which, at high levels, can damage nerves.

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5. Biotin may boost brain health and improve mood regulation

Research shows that, like other B vitamins, biotin is important for brain health and function.

In this animal study, low biotin levels were linked with impaired memory, cognitive function, and reduced levels of the feel-good hormone, dopamine.

Other research indicates that getting enough B vitamins may slow age-related cognitive decline. Interestingly, this study found that supplementing with biotin actually restored brain cells in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers believe this is partly due to biotin’s role in the mechanism of tau-proteins, which are essential for proper brain function.

Biotin is also responsible for helping to synthesize the hormones responsible for mood regulation. As a result, this study found that getting enough biotin may help to improve symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.

6. Biotin may boost immune health

We know from science that biotin is needed for the development of white blood cells – which protect the body against bacteria and viruses.

For this reason, research has linked biotin deficiency with impaired immunity and an increased susceptibility to infection.

Considering that 75% of our immune system is located in the gut (where biotin is converted), this link between immune function and biotin is unsurprising.

7. Biotin can aid tissue and muscle growth and recovery

Our bodies rely on B vitamins to rebuild tissues and muscles after they’re broken down or become damaged – for example, through exercise.

Biotin plays an important role in rebuilding muscle strength, supporting tissue growth, and helping to relieve muscle and joint aches, pains, and inflammation.

8. Biotin may be beneficial for the treatment of multiple sclerosis

There’s some research to suggest that biotin may help to improve symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS).

For example, previous research has indicated that biotin is a safe therapy for MS. And in this study, biotin helped to reduce symptoms in people with MS after nine months.

9. Biotin is important for healthy pregnancy

Since biotin is required for a number of body functions, it’s especially important during pregnancy.

Research has revealed that many pregnant women don’t get enough biotin naturally on a daily basis to support themselves and their baby.

For this reason, experts sometimes recommend supplementing with biotin during pregnancy, to reduce the risk of birth defects. That being said, anyone thinking of adding supplements to their diet, should have a chat with their GP first.

How much biotin do I need and what are some of the best sources?

How much biotin do I need and what are some of the best sources

There’s currently no recommended daily allowance (RDA) for biotin in the UK – largely because there isn’t enough evidence to set one. However, health experts generally agree that 20mcg per day is a safe and sufficient amount.

Biotin is found naturally in a variety of foods, including egg yolks, pork, and canned salmon. One of the best sources of biotin is beef liver. It’s also found in smaller amounts in vegetarian sources like almonds, sweet potatoes, yeast, sunflower seeds, and legumes like peas, beans, and lentils.

The majority of people should be able to get all of the biotin they need by eating a varied and balanced diet.

Some of the best natural sources of biotin include…

  • Beef liver (approx 96mcg per 100g)
  • Pork (approx 45mcg per 100g)
  • Whole, cooked egg (approx 20mcg per 100g)
  • Soybeans (approx 19.3mcg per 100g)
  • Nutritional yeast (approx 21mcg per 16g)
  • Sunflower seeds (approx 1.3mcg per 120g)
  • Sweet potato (approx 2.4mcg per 125g)
  • Mushrooms (approx 2.6mcg per 120g)
  • Bananas (approx 0.2mcg per 100g)

You can find more information on biotin-rich foods on Greatist’s website.

If you’d like to up your intake of biotin, why not try one of these 8 yummy biotin recipes from Curly Nicki? Or, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, you might like one of these 15 plant-based biotin-rich recipes from One Green Planet.

Biotin deficiency – who’s at risk?

Biotin deficiency is rare in the UK because, according to the NHS, the majority of people are able to get enough biotin by eating a healthy, balanced diet.

However, there are a number of lifestyle factors and health conditions to be aware of that can increase the risk of deficiency.

Risk factors for biotin deficiency

Factors that can increase your risk of biotin deficiency include…

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Bariatric surgery
  • Inflammatory bowel disease – for example, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
  • Celiac disease
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • Antibiotic use that disrupts the gut bacteria
  • Regularly eating a lot of raw egg whites. This is because they contain avidin – a protein which binds to biotin and hinders its uptake in the body.
  • Biotinidase deficiency – a very rare hereditary condition that prevents the body from reusing biotin. However, the condition is often diagnosed early in life.

Symptoms of biotin deficiency

Biotin deficiency can cause symptoms including…

  • Hair loss, or alopecia
  • Depression
  • A scaly, red rash around the eyes, mouth, nose, or genitals
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness and tingling in hands and feet
  • Weakened immune system

If you’re concerned about your biotin intake, it’s worth speaking to your GP, who may recommend taking a supplement.

This is important because, while the NHS suggests that taking 900mcg or less each day of biotin in supplements is unlikely to cause any harm, they won’t be suitable for everyone.

Final thoughts…

Biotin is one of the eight essential B vitamins. It’s important for metabolism, brain health, and nervous system function – and getting the right amount in your diet can bring a whole host of health benefits.

For further reading, head over to the diet and nutrition section of our website. Here you’ll find everything from vitamin and mineral guides to healthy diet tips.

How do you make sure you’re getting enough biotin? Which essential vitamins and minerals do you struggle to get enough of? We’d be interested to hear from you in the comments below.