Biotin, also known as vitamin B-7, is an essential nutrient for the human body to function. It contributes to various digestive processes, as well as the production and maintenance of our nails, hair, and skin. Humans get biotin from all sorts of natural sources in our food, including organ meats (such as pork or beef liver and kidney), eggs, cheese, leafy greens, mushrooms, and cauliflower.
However, this vitamin is also available in supplemental forms from pills. While biotin deficiencies are not common, some evidence suggests that increasing biotin ingestion can help with certain biological processes, as well as benefit the skin, hair, and nails. Here is everything you need to know about biotin and how the human body uses it.
Digestion of Macronutrients
Digestion is one of the most important functions of biotin. An essential component to various digestive enzymes, biotin is used by the body to metabolize fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. These substances are then converted by the body into the energy it needs to survive. In particular, glucose derived from carbohydrates is the primary energy currency the body uses.
This glucose converts into the energy molecule ATP, which all cells of the human body use to perform basic functions. Biotin also aids the body in the production of fatty acids, which are absorbed into the blood and are used for energy as well as cell structure. Finally, biotin helps to break down amino acids, which enable the body to repair itself and produce various proteins.
Nail, Hair and Skin Health
Biotin also plays a major role in the maintenance and production of hair, nails, and skin in human beings. Research has shown that individuals with a biotin deficiency often experience brittle and fragile nails, which can be remedied by taking biotin supplements, as well as proper maintenance on your nails. Other issues that arise due to a lack of biotic include scaly rashes on the skin, particularly if a person suffers from the skin condition psoriasis.
The role of biotin in fat metabolism also suggests that biotin contributes to soft, healthier-looking skin. Hair loss and brittle hair are also linked as potential consequences of a biotin deficiency. However, no research exists to suggest that ingesting more biotin benefits the hair, skin, or nails in individuals. Instead, the benefits of using it can be limited to those who may be severely deficient.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Biotin also plays a major role during pregnancy and lactation. These supplements are often an important part of maintaining physical health for pregnant women, as they tend to metabolize it faster. Around 50% of pregnant women suffer from a biotin deficiency, which may result in the symptoms detailed above, as well as other disturbances to bodily functions. They can make up for this faster breakdown, however, by either through supplementation or by eating more biotin-rich foods.
Blood Sugar Regulation
Biotin deficiencies have also been shown to have an impact on Type 2 diabetes. Supplementation may help prevent insulin resistance in diabetic individuals, suggesting an active role in regulating the body’s glucose levels. Researchers are studying treating Type 2 diabetes with biotin, especially when combined with chromium picolinate, which is also involved in glucose metabolism. However, further research is needed to determine if it’s actually a viable treatment option.
The Side Effects
Although biotin plays a highly important role in the body, taking excess biotin in the form of supplements has also been associated with certain side effects. Researchers are studying the question, “Does biotic cause acne?” among other side effects. While there is some evidence that biotin supplements do cause acne, some scientists suspect that biotin may interfere with the body’s absorption of another essential nutrient.
This nutrient is vitamin B5, otherwise known as pantothenic acid. It plays a role in allowing the epidermal skin barrier to function, which is important to help protect your body against pore infections that can cause acne. Since biotin uses the same uptake pathways as vitamin B5, researchers are studying whether taking excess biotin can cause an increase in the chances of developing acne. However, evidence of these side effects is not concrete.
So far, side effects have only been shown in relation to biotin supplements, rather than biotin ingested in foods naturally rich in it. Although scientists are still studying whether or not there is a genuine association between biotin supplements and acne, it is clear that unless you have been diagnosed with a biotin deficiency, there are very few legitimate benefits to taking biotin supplements. Simply stick with natural sources of biotin in your diet and you should be good!