Biotin is a B vitamin involved in the production of energy. Available in supplement form and found naturally in a number of foods, biotin is essential for the formation of fatty acids and blood sugar (also called glucose). Sometimes referred to as "vitamin H," biotin aids in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins as well.
Why Do People Use Biotin?
Proponents of biotin supplements claim that boosting your biotin intake can help with the following conditions:
- healthy hair
- brittle nails
- hair loss
- mild depression
- skin rash in infants (also known as seborrheic dermatitis)
Some supplement manufacturers also claim that biotin supplements can speed up metabolism and—in turn—promote weight loss.
Benefits of Biotin
There is very little scientific evidence to support the use of biotin in treatment of any health condition, including brittle nails and hair loss. What's more, the National Institutes of Health warns that biotin appears to be ineffective for treatment of seborrheic dermatitis.
However, some research suggests that consuming biotin in combination with chromium picolinate may be of some benefit to people with diabetes.
For instance, a 2008 study from Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews found that taking a chromium picolinate/biotin combination in addition to prescription anti-diabetic medication may help improve blood sugar control in overweight or obese people with type 2 diabetes. The study involved 447 diabetes patients, each of whom was assigned to receive either chromium picolinate with biotin or a placebo for 90 days (along with their diabetes medicine). By the study's end, those who'd taken the chromium picolinate/biotin showed a significantly greater improvement in blood sugar levels (compared to members of the placebo group).
Additionally, a 2006 study from Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics found that four weeks of taking chromium picolinate with biotin (in combination with diabetes medicine) helped improve blood sugar levels in diabetes patients. Involving 43 people with poorly controlled diabetes, the study also found that the chromium picolinate/biotin supplements helped reduce cholesterol levels.
Since both of these studies tested the use of biotin in combination in chromium picolinate, it's not known whether biotin alone might produce similar results.
When Should You Take Biotin Supplements?
Although biotin deficiency is uncommon, it may occur in people who drink alcohol excessively or consume a great deal of raw egg white (which contains a protein that blocks the absorption of biotin). Genetic disorder of biotin deficiency, infant seborrheic dermatitis, and surgical removal of the stomach may also increase your need for biotin.
Symptoms of biotin deficiency include thinning of the hair, a red scaly rash (especially around the eyes, nose, and mouth), depression, exhaustion, hallucinations, and tingling of the arms and legs. Biotin deficiency may also lead to high cholesterol and heart problems.
To get your fill of biotin, make sure to include biotin-rich foods like brewer's yeast, nutritional yeast, liver, cauliflower, salmon, bananas, carrots, egg yolks, sardines, legumes, and mushrooms in your diet. If you're considering the use of biotin supplements for prevention or treatment of any health condition, talk to your care provider before starting your supplement regimen.
Albarracin CA, Fuqua BC, Evans JL, Goldfine ID. "Chromium picolinate and biotin combination improves glucose metabolism in treated, uncontrolled overweight to obese patients with type 2 diabetes." Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2008 Jan-Feb;24(1):41-51.
National Institutes of Health. "Biotin: MedlinePlus Supplements" [link: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/313.html]. April 2011.
Singer GM, Geohas J. "The effect of chromium picolinate and biotin supplementation on glycemic control in poorly controlled patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a placebo-controlled, double-blinded, randomized trial." Diabetes Technol Ther. 2006 Dec;8(6):636-43.