Hair is considered a beauty staple in our societies today. Who doesn’t want to have beautiful, thick, healthy hair?
Biotin is a vitamin which plays an important role in the growth of hair, nails and skin health. The use of biotin supplements has become quite popular as the ultimate hair growth booster.
People suffering from biotin deficiency tend to develop red scaly rashes and/or hair loss. However, biotin deficiency is rare because the biotin we obtain from our daily diets is quite sufficient for us to enjoy its benefits.
But then, so many people are increasing their biotin intake with the help of supplements in the hopes of reaping additional benefits such as faster and fuller hair growth. Do they really acquire those additional benefits? Keep on reading to find out.
What is Biotin?
Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin known as vitamin H. It falls under the B-complex vitamins that helps convert certain nutrients into energy.
Biotin is commonly found in foods like egg yolk, liver, kidney, cauliflower, mushrooms,bananas, nuts like peanuts and almonds, apples, chicken, and legumes.
Though quite rare, a deficiency in biotin has been associated with long term consumption of raw eggs because egg whites contain the protein avidin which tends to bind to biotin and prevent its absorption. Avidin can only be rendered inactive by cooking the egg.
People with high alcohol dependency are also at a risk of becoming biotin deficient as alcohol tends to inhibit biotin absorption.
Benefits of Biotin
Biotin has a variety of health benefits.
1. Improves hair health
A deficiency in biotin is usually associated with hair loss which indicates the vitamin is necessary for hair growth.
2. Improves skin condition
Studies suggest that biotin deficiency may cause a skin condition known as seborrheic dermatitis. This is because biotin is involved in fat metabolism which is important for skin health.
3. Healthier nails
Brittle nails are weak and can easily become cracked and damaged. Biotin may help strengthen nails.
In a study, 2.5 mg of biotin were given to 8 people with brittle nails for a period of 6-15 months. Results revealed that nail splitting reduced while nail thickness improved by 25% in all participants.
4. Metabolism of macronutrients
Biotin is important for the functioning of enzymes that take part in the metabolism of macronutrients.
For example, biotin-containing enzymes play a role in the production of glucose from amino acid, biotin assists enzymes in the production of fatty acids, biotin-containing enzymes participate in the breakdown of important amino acids like leucine.
5. Pregnancy and breast feeding
Pregnant women may develop a mild biotin deficiency due to faster breakdown of biotin during pregnancy.
Animal studies have found that a deficiency in biotin during pregnancy may cause birth defects. Biotin is therefore important during pregnancy and breast feeding as these stages require an increase in this vitamin.
6. Blood sugar reduction in diabetics
There is some evidence that biotin levels may be lower in the blood of diabetics compared to healthy individuals.
A 2007 study reveals that biotin when combined with chromium may help lower blood sugar levels in people suffering from type 2 diabetes.
7. Multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the central nervous system. A study reveals that high biotin doses may be promising for treating multiple sclerosis.
Biotin supplements are quite popular these days. They come in capsule or tablet form, and their effects may be seen after several months of consuming the supplement.
Before purchasing biotin supplements, it is always advisable to talk with your doctor first, read the packaging carefully, and purchase from trusted suppliers. You can find a variety of good biotin supplements here.
The daily recommended intake can vary depending on a person’s age, sex, and overall health condition. The U.S Food and Drug Administration has not established a recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for biotin.
The following guidelines have been recommended by the food and nutrition board of national academies of sciences, engineering and medicine dietary reference intakes.
Infants: 0 to 6 months – 5 micrograms (mcg) /day
7 to 12 months – 6 micrograms (mcg) /day
male/Female: 1 to 3 yrs – 8 micrograms (mcg) /day
male/Female: 4 to 8 yrs – 12 micrograms (mcg) /day
male/Female: 14 to 18 yrs – 25 micrograms (mcg) /day
male/Female: 19 + yrs – 30 micrograms (mcg) /day
Pregnant women: 30 micrograms (mcg) /day
Breastfeeding women: 35 micrograms (mcg) /day
Biotin is considered very safe. Side effects from consuming a high dose of biotin are rare because the body can easily get rid of the excess biotin through urine or faeces.
However, one of the side effects of biotin is that it can mess up your lab test results, especially if you’re subjected to tests for hormone, cardiac troponin, and vitamin D levels. This could lead to faulty results. So if you’re on biotin supplements, always disclose this to your doctor before going in for a lab test to avoid a faulty diagnosis.
Other minor side effects of biotin include nausea, cramping and diarrhea.
Biotin Supplements and Hair growth
There isn’t much research on the effects of biotin on hair growth. Research reveals that biotin intake for people suffering from hair loss/thinning hair could help in hair growth.
For example in a 2015 study, women with thinning hair were administered an oral extra-strength marine protein supplement containing biotin for a period of 3 months.
The results revealed that the women experienced an increase in the number of terminal hairs and decreased hair shedding. The results were also associated with overall improved hair growth and strength.
Another study conducted in 2012 revealed similar results. However, there still isn’t enough data to support claims about healthy hair growth.
But then, what about people who are not biotin deficient but who keep on taking biotin supplements with the hope of achieving thicker and faster hair growth? So far, there is no scientific evidence to support the use of biotin in this situation.
Some beauty companies have produced shampoos, conditioners , hair oils, and masks containing biotin with claims that it would thicken hair and boost growth. Despite these claims, there is still no scientific data to back this up.
There are preliminary studies that suggest a benefit to taking biotin supplements in biotin deficient people suffering from hair loss and thinning hair. However, there isn’t enough evidence to support claims about faster and thicker hair growth in non-deficient people.
The bottom line is, it is advisable to always eat a balanced diet in order to benefit from all the nutrients needed to promote healthy hair growth.