Biotin is one of the B-complex vitamins, also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H. All living organisms need biotin, but it can only be synthesized by bacteria, yeast, mold, algae and some plants. Since people cannot synthesize their own biotin, they must obtain it from dietary sources. Biotin is involved in your body's metabolism, activates certain enzymes and assists hormonal functioning.
Biotin was first isolated by scientists in the early 1900's after discovering that feeding raw egg whites to rats or humans caused dermatitis, hair loss, nausea, anemia and depression. Raw egg whites have a protein called avidin that binds biotin, thus causing biotin deficiency and the resultant symptoms. Later it was discovered that biotin was an important enzymatic co-factor your body uses during cellular metabolism.
To maintain adequate biotin levels adults should consume 30 micrograms a day, while infants and young children require 5 to 8 micrograms. Older children and adolescents should consume 12 to 25 micrograms. Eggs, liver, pork and salmon are good sources of protein and rich in biotin. Examples of fruits that contain biotin include raspberries and avocados. Many of the foods that contain other B vitamins will contain biotin as well.
Biotin is essential to the functions of five different enzymes in your body: acetyl-CoA carboxylase I and II, pyruvate carboxylase, methylcrontonyl-CoA synthase and propionyl-CoA carboxylase. These enzymes are required for fatty acid synthesis, the formation of glucose and the metabolism of certain amino acids. Your body uses both fatty acids and amino acids as fuel for energy metabolism. Additionally, fatty acids can be used for cell membrane formation and signaling pathways, while amino acids can transport fats and synthesize components of red blood cells.
Assists Histone Proteins
Each of your cells contain DNA, a molecule that contains instructions to your body for development, living and reproduction. Part of the DNA structure requires proteins called histones. These histones help package DNA into structural components called chromosomes. Histones require biotin binding to facilitate restructuring during DNA packaging. Therefore, biotin availability is likely to affect DNA replication and synthesis of all the cells inside your body.
Since biotin is a cofactor of enzymes required for fatty acid synthesis, it may increase your body's use of glucose for fat synthesis, thus decreasing blood glucose. Additionally, biotin has been found to stimulate the release of insulin hormone, which also has the potential to lower blood glucose. According to a study published in the "Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition" in 1993, patients with insulin-dependent diabetes had reduced blood glucose levels by an average of 55 percent after supplementation with biotin.
- MedlinePlus: Biotin
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin H (Biotin)
- Linus Pauling Institute: Biotin
- Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism: The Discovery of Niacin, Biotin, and Pantothenic Acid
- Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition: Therapeutic Evaluation of the Effect of Biotin on Hyperglycemia in Patients with Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus