Vitamin H, more commonly referred to as biotin, is a part of the B-complex family of vitamins. Supplements of biotin are available in capsule and tablet form, and although the recommended dose for biotin deficiency can vary between 100 and 1,000 micrograms, many supplements provide 500 micrograms. Biotin deficiency is rare in healthy individuals, and you should talk to your health care practitioner before supplementing with biotin.
Sources of Biotin
Biotin is found in a variety of foods. It is found in particularly high levels in liver, kidneys, sardines, eggs, soy beans, peanuts and whole-grain cereals. In addition to being found in foods, biotin is synthesized by bacteria in your intestines. When biotin-containing foods or supplements are consumed, your gastrointestinal tract rapidly absorbs the biotin. An excess of biotin is excreted via urine. Biotin supplements have not been associated with any side effects or drug interactions.
Purported Benefits of Biotin Supplements
Biotin is essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats, and it helps convert them into energy. According to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, or MSKCC, biotin supplements have been purported to treat acne, cradle cap, seborrheic dermatitis, mild depression, thyroid disorders and alopecia, a condition that results in partial or complete hair loss. Biotin may also help improve thin, splitting, or brittle toes, fingernails and hair.
Biotin Supplements for Diabetes
The University of Maryland Medical Center says that preliminary research has found biotin supplementation to be beneficial if you have severe diabetic peripheral neuropathy, a condition characterized by an inability of the nerves in the brain and spinal cord to carry information to and from the rest of the body. In addition, when biotin is combined with the mineral chromium, it may be an effective adjunctive therapy for type 2 diabetics and help regulate blood sugar levels. More research needs to be done, however, to confirm the efficacy of biotin for the treatment of diabetes.
Adults require 30 micrograms of biotin daily on average, which is easily obtained through the diet. A 500-microgram biotin supplement is therefore not necessary for most individuals, but it may be beneficial to those with a deficiency. Symptoms of biotin deficiency might include anorexia, depression, tingling in the arms and legs, nausea, vomiting, seizures, increased cholesterol levels in the blood and a red scaly rash around the eyes, nose and mouth.
Who May Benefit
MSKCC says that individuals with malabsorption problems or who are deficient in the enzyme biotinidase, which is required to synthesize biotin, may develop a biotin deficiency. Diabetics, smokers, pregnant women, and individuals on long-term antibiotic therapy may also become deficient. Finally, egg whites contain a substance that blocks biotin absorption, and individuals who consume a large amount of egg whites may also become biotin deficient.