Biotin, the name sounds like some sort of scary, weaponized biochemical compound, but in truth biotin is nothing more than a sweet and innocent water-soluble B vitamin. Its main task is to take the food we eat and transform it into energy. And that’s a good thing; something to enhance our health. Not only is biotin vital for the health of our skin, nails and hair, it also is important to have around for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
If the name biotin itself gave you pause when you first heard it, you probably are not alone. In fact, it has several aliases – just kidding – actually it just has had several well-known names over the years. Per medicalnewstoday.com, biotin is also referred to as vitamin B7. It also has gone through life known as vitamin H – the H standing for the German words for hair, which are haar and haut – as well as the coenzyme R.
Maybe it’s time for a brief etymology lesson. The word ‘biotin’ has its roots in the Greek word biotin, which, according to healthline.com, translates to “life” or “sustenance.”
B vitamins in general, and biotin more specifically, not only are players in the health of our hair, skin and nails, they also contribute to the wellness of our eyes, liver and nervous system. Most people get sufficient biotin just from consuming an all-round healthy diet without specifically targeting biotin, but supplements are available to help close the gap on any biotin deficiency.
Still, it can’t hurt to know which foods are known for their inclusion of biotin:
- Egg yolks
- Nuts, such as almonds and peanuts
- Legumes, such as soybeans
- Organ meats – liver and kidney
- Whole grains and cereal
So, short of a blood test or the like, how can you know if you have a biotin deficiency? Here are some symptoms that could be linked to a biotin shortage in your body, per draxe.com:
- Dry, irritated skin
- Brittle hair or hair loss
- Tingling in the limbs
- Cognitive impairment
- Lack of energy/chronic fatigue
- Nerve damage
- Muscle aches, pains
- Mood fluctuations
- Digestive/intestinal tract issues
Biotin is Water Soluble
Biotin is referred to as being water-soluble, per webmd.com, because our body doesn’t store it, even though it performs an impressive array of functions. That suggests that our body’s inability to store it means that we need to keep supplying it, ourselves. That’s where being cognizant of our daily diet and what goes into our body is of paramount importance. Several of our enzymes categorized as carboxylases depend on biotin for their functionality when it comes to being involved in our metabolic pathways, to include the manufacture of glucose and fatty acids.
Biotin’s Multitasking Properties
Biotin plays a key role in our health in several different ways, such as those described below:
- Healthy metabolism. As mentioned earlier, biotin converts food into energy, and it does this several ways. One method is by using the glucose gleaned from carbohydrates and sugar sources and turning it into fuel for the body, per draxe.com. Similar effects have been shown for issues regarding hair and skin.
- Fetal development. Health experts say that as many as 50 percent of pregnant women might develop a modest biotin deficiency, but even that’s a concern. Such a deficiency has been shown through animal studies to possibly lead to birth defects. Doctors have recommended supplementing with biotin as well as folic acid during pregnancy, as needed.
- Diabetes. Controlled studies have shown that biotin supplements, in tandem with the mineral chromium, might lower blood-sugar levels in some people with type 2 diabetes, per medicalnewstoday.com.
- Healthy nails. Studies referenced by medicalnewstoday.com have found that a clear majority of test subjects with brittle nails given 2.5 milligrams of biotin a day for a period showed marked improvement in nail health, with one group showing 25 percent improvement in nail thickness.
- Brain function/cognition. B vitamins, to include B7, have been shown to have a positive effect on brain function, and they assist in warding off age-related cognitive impairment, per draxe.com.
- Cardiovascular system. Well, for starters, biotin is thought to increase HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, per healthline.com.
- Thyroid/adrenal function. A B vitamin deficiency, biotin included, can impair thyroid and adrenal activity, which in turn can be a source of weight, energy and sleep problems, among other issues.