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Biotin, also known as Vitamin H or B7, is a water-soluble vitamin belonging to the family of B complex vitamins. The word biotin originates from the Greek word 'biotos', implying 'life' or 'sustenance'. It helps the body to convert food into energy by metabolizing fats, protein and carbohydrates.
Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body, and hence, their daily intake is necessary. As Vitamin B7 is not synthesized by human cells and is produced by the intestinal bacteria in the body, we need to eat a healthy diet and depend on various food sources to get biotin.
Biotin helps in keeping your hair, eyes, liver, skin and nervous system healthy. It is also crucial during pregnancy and helps pregnant women in having healthier babies. Biotin therapy is believed to treat certain medical conditions too. Although rare, a deficiency of this vitamin is believed to lead to skin problems, hair loss, and brittle nails. Biotin deficiency may also lead to certain nervous system symptoms like exhaustion, depression, hallucinations and tingling of legs and arms.
Although a majority of us get the required quantity of biotin by eating a healthy diet, some people believe that taking biotin supplements may be of help too. But, there is no sufficient evidence to support this. Therefore, it is essential for us to be aware of the importance of biotin, the recommended quantity of biotin intake, and the negative effects that excess use of biotin may cause to the human body. This article focuses on these aspects.
Importance Of Biotin:
Biotin is a vital nutrient, and its deficiency can be easily managed with a well-balanced diet. It is essential to maintain biotin levels in the body, as our body needs it to metabolize carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Biotin is also necessary for the following reasons:
• To synthesize fatty acids
• To synthesize certain amino acids
• To generate glucose
• Biotin is necessary for a healthy pregnancy. A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to abnormal development of the foetus.
• Improves the nail health, hair health and skin health
• Studies have confirmed biotin's ability to reduce blood glucose in cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. This is because biotin stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin, helping to lower blood glucose.
• Reduces nerve damage in people with diabetes, and those undergoing dialysis.
• It treats diseases such as 'basal ganglia disease' (a rare inherited disorder of the nervous system) and multiple sclerosis (an auto-immune disease that affects the nervous system).
Recommended Quantity Of Biotin Intake:
Experts recommend that 30 mcg to 100 mcg of biotin is recommended for adults and adolescent per day.
Before and during pregnancy, women are generally recommended folic acid supplementation. In addition to folic acid, it is advised to use a multivitamin that contains at least 30 mcg of biotin per day, to avoid the risk of deficiency.
Foods Rich In Biotin:
Biotin is present in several foods, the best being:
• Whole grains
• Egg yolk
• Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans and peanuts)
• Nut butters
• Organ meats
• Salmon and Sardine
Sometimes, certain food processing techniques can make biotin ineffective. Therefore, stick to raw or less-processed versions of foods to get more active biotin.
Major Side-Effects Of Biotin Usage:
Natural sources are always the best way to draw nutrients required by our body. As our body requires only a minimal dosage of biotin, you can easily achieve this with a healthy diet. Moreover, our gut bacteria create biotin that can be absorbed systematically.
But, as biotin supplements are easily available over-the-counter and marketed as a remedy for thinning hair, itchy skin or brittle nails, and if you resort to using these for the prolonged duration without consultation with your doctor, then, you should know that anything in excess can be harmful to your body.
Here are 10 major side-effects of biotin usage:
1. Incorrect diagnosis of diseases
If you are taking biotin supplements, it might interfere with laboratory blood tests. Biotin may cause false high or false low test results, leading to an incorrect diagnosis. The FDA has reported adverse effects, including a death, pertaining to biotin interference with lab tests. This is because several lab tests use biotin due to its ability to bond with particular proteins to detect certain health conditions. For instance, biotin is used in hormone tests and for some cardiac markers. Therefore, a high amount of biotin in the blood may give false positives in laboratory tests such as tests for thyroid diseases.
2. May cause acne
Too much biotin may cause 'cystic acne', as the vitamin increases sebum production in the skin, leading to dirt accumulation and acne. But this acne may fade away once the biotin levels are regulated.
3. May cause allergies
Sometimes, biotin supplements, when used in excess, can cause allergic reactions like nausea, itchy rashes, swelling of face and neck etc.
4. May lead to miscarriage
When pregnant women take biotin in more than recommended dosages, it can lead to miscarriage. So discussing with your doctor before taking biotin supplements is a must.
5. Frequent urination
High dosages of biotin may increase your urgency to urinate and can lead to excess sweating too.
6. Can cause diarrhoea
People who take biotin in high dosages are said to have reported stomach cramps and diarrhoea. So, if you experience these symptoms when taking biotin supplements stop it immediately and discuss with your doctor.
7. May be unsuitable for diabetics
Few studies have revealed that high biotin dosages may lead to a surge in blood glucose levels in diabetics. This is because it increases the production of glucose and fatty acids in the body.
8. Interferes with certain drugs
Biotin intake may interfere with cholesterol and anti-seizure medications. So, check with your doctor if you are under medication for any of these.
9. Shows interference when taken with B5
In a case study, when women who were already taking vitamin B5 supplements, were also administered B7, a severe case of pulmonary infection was reported.
10. May cause acute respiratory problems
Some people are said to have reported with acute respiratory problems (anaphylaxis) when biotin was taken in high dosages.
1. Biotin supplements should not be taken unless directed by your doctor. It should be taken only in prescribed dosages and only for the duration recommended by the doctor.
2. It is essential to tell your doctor if you are taking biotin supplements in case you are getting lab tests done.