Vitamin H, another name for biotin, is part of the group of B vitamins. Biotin is a critical nutrient for producing fuel for cells and supporting cell growth. You’ll get lots of it from bread, eggs, cheese, pork, salmon and avocados, although taking a supplement could be beneficial if you don’t normally have a lot of biotin in your diet. Because biotin is water-soluble and doesn’t stay in your system long, it’s usually considered a safe supplement to take regularly.
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Hair and Nail Health
You might see biotin supplements marketed as miracle pills for making your hair thick and lustrous, stopping hair loss or preventing your nails from breaking all the time. Biotin supplements could possibly improve the health of your hair, minimize hair loss and reduce nail breakage. But these benefits are usually only typical if you are deficient in the vitamin. Clinical research doesn't clearly support claims that high-dose biotin supplements will indeed improve hair and nail health if you normally get enough of the vitamin anyway.
As part of the B-vitamin family, biotin plays a role in producing energy in your body. During the ongoing metabolic processes that occur, carbohydrates, fat and protein are broken down into glucose, fatty acids and amino acids, respectively. Biotin and the rest of the B vitamins are essential nutrients for converting these macronutrients into fuel to power all the cells in your body. Without a steady supply of biotin, you could feel overly tired throughout the day.
Biotin allows cells to grow and divide, which happens regularly in all humans. Part of biotin’s job is to regulate DNA formation, which keeps genetic information in cells working normally. When cells are growing and dividing at a rapid pace though, like during pregnancy, biotin is increasingly important. Biotin ensures that cells and DNA develop properly in a growing fetus, minimizing the likelihood of having complications during pregnancy.
Safety of High Doses
The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine states that all adults should get 30 micrograms of biotin every day. This recommendation only goes up if you’re a breast-feeding woman. In that case, you need 35 micrograms daily. Some biotin supplements, multivitamins or B-complex pills may have way more than this amount, however. High doses are generally safe and nontoxic, with no known side effects reported. Consider talking with your physician first, though, because high doses of biotin can interact poorly with other nutrients or prescriptions.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin H (Biotin)
- MedlinePlus: Biotin
- Linus Pauling Institute: Biotin
- FDA.net: Biotin
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Alopecia
- New York University Langone Medical Center: Brittle Nails
- Legal Information Institute: 21 CFR 310.527 - Drug Products Containing Active Ingredients Offered Over-the-Counter (OTC) for External Use as Hair Growers or for Hair Loss Prevention