When it comes to supplements, some people think more is better, but that's not necessarily true. Both vitamin B complex and biotin supplements fall under the blanket of B vitamins. Because vitamin B complex typically includes biotin, it's not necessary to take a separate biotin supplement with it.
There's no real harm in taking vitamin B complex and biotin together. Since the vitamins are water-soluble, any excess is simply removed from your body when you pee. But this means there's no real benefit, either. You're better off sticking to one or the other, depending on your needs and what your doctor thinks is best for you.
What Are Water-Soluble Vitamins?
All vitamins are divided into two major categories: fat-soluble and water-soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins, which include vitamins A, D, E and K, get absorbed with fat and any excess amounts are stored in both your fat and liver tissue. Because your body has the ability to store fat-soluble vitamins, you don't have to consume them every day to meet your needs. If you're low on one of the fat-soluble vitamins on any particular day, your body can take what it needs from your liver or fat.
On the other hand, water-soluble vitamins, which include all of the B vitamins and vitamin C, dissolve in water and cannot be stored in your body. If you consume excess amounts of water-soluble vitamins, your body uses what it needs and then gets rid of the rest through your urine. Because of this, you need to consume adequate amounts of each vitamin every day to meet your needs and keep your body healthy.
Your body's ability (or inability) to store the different types of vitamins also determines whether taking too much of a particular vitamin is dangerous. Because B complex and biotin (which falls under the B complex umbrella) are all water-soluble, there's no real danger in taking both of them together. Your body will simply use what it needs and then get rid of the rest. So, there's no benefit in going over your needs for the vitamins.
What Is B Complex?
When it was first discovered, researchers thought that vitamin B was a single vitamin, but after further investigation, they realized that what they called "vitamin B" was actually eight different vitamins. These vitamins work closely with each other to keep you healthy, but each has its own function, too. Biotin is one of the B vitamins (vitamin B7, to be exact) that falls under the bigger umbrella of "B complex." The other B vitamins are:
- Thiamine (vitamin B1)
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Niacin (vitamin B3)
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
- Vitamin B6
- Folate (vitamin B9)
- Cobalamin (vitamin B12)
The major difference between biotin and B complex is that biotin is a single vitamin, whereas B complex typically includes all eight of the B vitamins in different quantities, depending on how much you need for the day. Taking vitamin B complex and biotin can have positive health effects, especially if you're deficient in the B vitamins, but taking both supplements together won't make them extra beneficial.
Benefits of the B Vitamins
Many of the B vitamins work together to help you convert the food you eat into energy. They help you break down carbohydrates, protein and fat and turn them into a form of energy that your body can use to carry out basic functions. The B vitamins also help:
- Make healthy blood cells
- Keep the nervous system functioning properly
- Protect your eye health
- Support your digestive system
- Make hormones
- Carry oxygen and other nutrients around the body
Your needs for each vitamin vary too. For example, recommendations for vitamin B12 are currently set at 2.4 micrograms per day, while you need 30 micrograms of biotin daily. Usually, B complex supplements are designed to reflect these varying needs and have different amounts of each vitamin in sufficient amounts to meet your entire daily needs. If you take B complex and biotin together, it's likely that you're getting double the amount of biotin that you need for the day.
Vitamin B for Hair
One of the most common reasons people turn to biotin supplements is the promise of healthier hair, nails and skin. Many "beauty" supplements contain biotin in high concentrations with marketing claims that it can help reverse hair loss or make your hair grow longer and healthier. However, a report published in the International Journal of Trichology in June 2016 notes that biotin is only effective in promoting hair growth in those with hair loss due to a biotin deficiency.
The report did dig a little deeper, though, and found that about 38 percent of women who complained of thinning hair had a true biotin deficiency. Because of that, it would make sense that supplementing with biotin may be able to help a little more than one-third of people with hair loss.
But you don't need to double up on the dose to reap the benefits. If you want to supplement with biotin, you can choose either an individual biotin supplement or a B complex supplement that supplies enough biotin for the day.
A Word of Caution
A report that was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in June 2018 also notes that taking too much biotin can interfere with certain lab test results. According to the report, excess biotin can cause false positives on tests that look for measures of heart injury and heart attack.
This can lead to misinterpretations of results and recommendations for the wrong or unnecessary treatments. If you take B complex and biotin together, you increase the probability that your body is getting too much biotin.
The supplement industry is a booming one, with about half of the adult population (or 114 million Americans) taking at least one supplement daily, according to Harvard Health. A lot of supplements make big promises, but there's no real regulation on the industry, so it's important to use caution when choosing which supplements to take.
If you want to up your biotin intake, talk to your doctor about which supplement is best for you. Or better yet, increase your intake of biotin-rich foods such as beef liver, salmon, pork, avocado, eggs, sweet potato, nuts and seeds.
- Colorado State University Extension: "Water-Soluble Vitamins: B-Complex and Vitamin C"
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Biotin"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Biotin - Vitamin B7"
- Better Health Channel: "Vitamin B"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Supplements: A Scorecard"
- Kaiser Permanente: "Vitamin B-Complex"
- Colorado State University Extension: "Fat-Soluble Vitamins: A, D, E, and K"
- Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: "Rethinking Biotin Therapy for Hair, Nail and Skin Disorders"
- International Journal of Trichology: "Serum Biotin Levels in Women Complaining of Hair Loss"