It's fair to say that most of us do our best to stay healthy (with the occasional day off, of course, moderation is our motto).
But between vitamins, minerals and nutrients, even the most health-conscious person can feel overwhelmed trying to keep up with the latest recommendations. You might have come across biotin before but you may not be aware of why our bodies need it, how it works to ensure healthy hair, where to find it, and how much to have.
We've taken the time to read through the latest health research and recommendations of health professionals to get to the heart of why this vitamin is so vital.
What is biotin?
Great question. Biotin is an essential nutrient that is part of the B-group family, also known as B7 or vitamin H. You might be familiar with the B complex vitamins: they are considered to be essential to the human body for many reasons. The vitamin B family helps your body's metabolism function properly and is involved in many cellular processes including building DNA components and proteins.
The B vitamins consist of several vitamins including thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), our aforementioned friend biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cyanocobalamin (B12).
Biotin, like its other B-group family members, is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it is not stored in the body and needs to be consumed regularly to maintain healthy levels.
As highlighted in the peer-reviewed journal article Biotin and Other Inferences in Immunoassays, biotin benefits the body by aiding in essential processes such as fatty acid synthesis and helping us absorb and metabolise amino acids. In simpler terms, biotin helps the body convert food into energy.
This important B vitamin is known to promote cell growth and is often found in supplements and health products used for strengthening hair, aiding hair health and improving the quality of skin and nails. This vitamin is often found in dietary supplements that target brittle nails or aim to promote hair growth.
How much biotin does the body need?
Interestingly, there are no specific or universal guidelines about a recommended dietary allowance of biotin, most likely as severe biotin deficiencies in most countries are rare.
That being said, Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council has provided the following suggested levels of biotin intake and is grouped by life stage:
- Zero to six months of age: five micrograms per day
- Six to 12 months of age: six micrograms per day
Children and adolescents
- One to three years of age: eight micrograms per day
- Four to eight years of age: 12 micrograms per day
- Nine to 13 years of age: 20 micrograms per day
- 14 to 18 years of age: 25 to 30 micrograms per day (boys are recommended to have slightly more than girls)
For adults, it is recommended that men aim for a biotin intake of 30 micrograms per day, and women 25 micrograms per day. Pregnant women and breastfeeding women are advised to increase their dose and aim for approximately 30 to 35 micrograms per day.
What are common sources of biotin?
This B complex vitamin can be obtained from a wide variety of food sources. Biotin naturally occurs in the following:
- Cooked eggs
- Beef liver
- Sweet potato
- Wholemeal bread
As you can see, this vitamin is found in a range of meats, fruits, vegetables and grains, so while you are more than welcome to increase (or begin consuming) meals made with organ meats, there are absolutely many other ways to obtain an adequate intake of B7.
The key point is that a varied, healthy diet provides the body with enough biotin for taking care of all those important bodily processes mentioned earlier and allows you to reap the associated health benefits.
What are the health benefits of biotin?
As we mentioned earlier, the human body needs biotin for a range of vital bodily functions. We need biotin to metabolise carbohydrates, fatty acids and proteins. It is a coenzyme which means it works alongside other B vitamins and carboxylase enzymes. Biotin assists in converting food into energy.
There is some evidence that biotin treatment may help in treating certain medical conditions and maintaining healthy skin and nervous system function.
Biotin is often recommended as a dietary supplement for strengthening hair and nails and to promote optimum skin health. If you're wanting healthy hair, biotin is the way to do this. It has been suggested that biotin aids cell growth and the maintenance of mucous membranes.
As well as these benefits of biotin, there is also some evidence that individuals with diabetes may need to ensure they are receiving adequate biotin levels. Research suggests biotin plays a role in the synthesis of glucose and may help maintain an appropriate blood sugar level in patients living with type 2 diabetes.
Biotin and healthy hair
By now we've established that a lack of biotin can lead to thinning hair and in some cases, hair loss. Without sufficient levels of biotin, your hair health can deteriorate and lead to brittle hair that is prone to breakage.
In fact, research from 2017 found that 18 participants showed evidence of clinical improvement in their hair and nail health after receiving biotin. Previously, all participants were shown to have an underlying pathology for poor hair or nail growth.
This vitamin is incredibly important for the health of your hair follicles and can positively impact your hair growth when taken as a biotin supplement or when used topically on the head. In fact, Pilot's Hair Growth Booster Kit was designed to support healthy hair growth and harness the benefits of biotin.
The kit includes four must-have products, starting with the Biotin Hair Gummies. Biotin supplementation has never been easier with these natural pineapple-flavoured gummies that are packed with biotin to support the synthesis of Keratin — the protective protein that makes up your hair and makes it stronger and less prone to damage.
The Thicken Shampoo and Keep Conditioner are formulated to give new hair follicles the best environment to thrive. Enriched with biotin as well as saw palmetto, panang ginseng root extract, niacinamide, zinc and caffeine, all of these ingredients are lauded for their efficacy in assisting healthy hair growth.
Rounding out the kit is Derma Roller, which is a handy tool that uses microneedling to encourage growth. By gently rolling the Derma Roller over your scalp, the tiny needles rupture the outer layer of the dermis, triggering a healing reaction that activates the scalp's stem cells, stimulates the follicles and results in hair growth.
What are the symptoms of a biotin deficiency?
Part of the reason there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to recommended biotin levels is because it is often diagnosed when a person is exhibiting symptoms of deficiency.
There are certain groups of people who may be more likely to experience biotin deficiency:
- People with alcohol dependency. Excess intake of alcohol has been shown to increase the risk of biotin deficiency (and many other vital nutrients) not only due to alcohol itself blocking the absorption but also because alcohol dependence is frequently correlated with inadequate dietary intake.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women. Inadequate biotin levels may lead to health risks in both mother and infant. Symptoms of deficiency in infancy include weak muscle tone, sluggishness and, delayed development.
- People with a genetic disorder called 'biotinidase deficiency'.
- People who regularly consume raw egg whites. Dietary avidin, a glycoprotein in raw egg whites, binds tightly to dietary biotin and prevents absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. Basically, it stops your body from absorbing the nutrient as it normally would. Cooked eggs, though, stops this from happening.
However, it is possible for anyone to experience B7 deficiency. Signs and symptoms generally appear gradually and can include the following:
- Thinning hair or hair loss
- Brittle hair
- Skin rashes that may appear scaly, usually in the mouth, nose or eyes
- Other skin problems such as infection
- Brittle nails
Ways to include more biotin in your life
As this vital nutrient is widely found in a range of meats, fruits, vegetables and seeds, it may not be necessary for everyone to be taking biotin supplements as a regular habit. That being said, biotin supplements can positively impact your hair, skin and nail health when taken regularly.
It's worth noting that there is no evidence that biotin is toxic at high intakes, so using products containing biotin or supplementing your diet with vitamins is very safe. Having too much biotin is so rare, in fact, that there is no specific antidote for biotin 'overdose': excess biotin will be excreted through urine even when consumed at high doses.
If you want to add more of this B vitamin to your life, you may consider adding in more foods that naturally contain it such as eggs (cooked ones, remember!), salmon, pork chops, sunflower seeds, almonds, tuna, sweet potato, spinach broccoli, cheddar cheese, milk, plain yogurt, oatmeal, bananas and whole wheat bread.
Like many water-soluble vitamins and nutrients, the simplest way of ensuring you are getting enough biotin — and your recommended dose of lots of vitamins — is by maintaining a healthy diet filled with variety, and fresh produce. Keeping an eye on alcohol intake and minimising heavily processed foods is always a good idea as well. No need to cut out all the fun stuff, of course; moderation is key.
Otherwise, if you're hoping to specifically target hair growth, it's best to take a two-pronged approach and try biotin supplementation alongside topical biotin products.
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