Benefits of Biotin
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On this page we'll look at the benefits of biotin and how it's used by our bodies. In particular, we'll look at how biotin affects the hair - and whether or not supplements and products containing biotin are really worth the money!
NOTE: It's important to speak to a medical professional before considering ANY kind of dietary supplement. This page is intended for guidance only and does not constitute medical advice.
What Is Biotin
Biotin is a vitamin - a B vitamin, in fact, also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H. It's a "coenzyme", which is actually a substance that works WITH an enzyme in the body, to help the enzyme do its job.
Biotin Supports LOTS of Functions in the Human Body
Like other B vitamins, its primary role is related to metabolism - it helps the body efficiently process the foods you eat, including protein, fats and carbohydrates.
And the fact that it breaks down carbohydrates means it's also responsible for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
It has lots of other jobs too, including the support of...
- nerve tissue
- sweat glands
- bone marrow function
- healthy nails and hair
- healthy skin
Where Does Biotin Come From?
We get biotin from the foods we eat. It's actually a 'water soluble' vitamin, so our bodies don't store it. That being said, they do 'recycle' it, and bacteria in our intestines can even MAKE biotin, although experts are not too sure how much of it is then released and absorbed.
Foods containing biotin include...
- Swiss chard
- soy beans
- blackeye peas
- whole wheat bread
- whole grain cereal
- wheat germ
- cooked eggs (especially the yolk)
What Happens if We Don't Get Enough Biotin?
True biotin deficiency is actually very rare. And there isn't a reliable test for detecting it - nevertheless, doctors are usually able to diagnose it from the symptoms it causes.
Signs of biotin deficiency include...
- skin problems including itchiness, psoriasis, acne and dermatitis, often around the eyes/nose/mouth
- numbness or tingling in toes or fingers
- hair loss
- brittle nails
- muscle pain
What Causes Biotin Deficiency?
Most of us have healthy levels of biotin and easily meet our daily biotin requirements - an adequate daily intake of biotin for a woman aged 19 years and older is 30 mcg.
However, there ARE situations that can trigger biotin deficiency and these include...
- The use of epilepsy drugs. These can cause you to absorb less biotin from your food.
- The use of a supplement called lipoic acid, which may increase your biotin requirements.
- Regularly eating raw egg whites.
- Drinking a lot of alcohol.
- A genetic disorder of biotin deficiency.
- Anti bacterial medications, which may interfere with biotin production in the intestines.
- Pregnancy - the recommended adequate intake does not change for pregnant women, yet extra biotin may be used by the developing fetus, leaving the mother-to-be slightly biotin deficient.
- Long term use of antibiotics.
- Parenteral nutrition (intravenous feeding)
- Crohn's disease (which makes it hard to absorb nutrients)
- Diabetes - some people with diabetes have low biotin levels.
So Will Taking Extra Biotin Stop My Hair Loss?
Unless you are truly biotin deficient (as described above), then experts feel it's quite unlikely that extra biotin - whether it be through food, supplements, or products like biotin-rich shampoos - will help very much at all.
It's true that a deficiency of biotin can cause hair loss, but taking extra biotin when your levels are already adequate is believed to be unlikely to prevent or stop hair loss.
Despite claims to the contrary, there is no medical evidence that biotin shampoos can thicken the hair and there are no published scientific studies proving that biotin supplementation can prevent or treat hair loss in either women or men.
Nevertheless, there are a couple of glimmers of hope!
One particular study - involving children with alopecia areata - showed some improvement in the children who were supplemented with a combination of biotin and zinc given by mouth, whilst a cream containing clobetasol propionate was applied to the scalp.
Furthermore, experts agree that biotin supplementation is safe and well tolerated, even at high levels, although there is no set 'maximum safe' dose.
Of course, you should always check with your doctor before taking a biotin supplement - particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking any other medication - but otherwise there certainly doesn't seem to be any harm in at least trying a supplement.
At the very least, it may have a beneficial effect on the health of your skin and ultimately your scalp, which - in itself - can only benefit your hair and minimize further hair loss. This is an opinion shared by the Hair Loss Medical Doctor, Dr Yates MD, who says...
"Although no scientific evidence exists that supports biotin supplementation is beneficial to help treat hair loss, it certainly doesn't cause any harm."
Benefits of biotin for hair loss: comments from our readers...
Back in October, I happened to mention my hair problem to my girlfriend, and she said that I should have my thyroid checked because she and her two sisters all suffer from Hashimoto Disease/thyroid disease. I immediately called my doctor, who suggested that I have some blood tests done to check my thyroid and hormone levels (I'm postmenopausal).
In the meantime, he told me to take 5000 mcg of Biotin and B Complex 100 vitamin and eventually to increase the Biotin to 10,000mcg. He also recommended that I used Biota Shampoo.
That very day I made the purchases and started everything except the shampoo. Within a week, I saw a difference. I had been taking 3000mcg of Biotin but I guess it was not enough. I did have bloods tests
done and everything was fine. After nine days, I increased my dosage to 10,000 mcg and within a week, there was even less hair shedding after shampooing.
It was "REMARKABLE"!
I have gone from the first knuckle of my fore finger-size hair ball to my little fingernail or smaller hair ball. With each succeeding week, the hair balls and hair shedding had decreased. It has been three months and a week, and I am VERY PLEASED.
My doctor mentioned that he also uses all those items.
I didn't buy the shampoo because it is brown in color, and it would make my salt and pepper hair look brassy. I am very happy with my L'Oréal Sulfate-Free shampoo.
Another thing, I had to stop taking B Complex 100 vitamin because it made my B-12 levels very high in my
blood tests. So I'm now taking 25 mcg which is included in my hair vitamins.
Currently, everything is looking fine and my hair shedding is at a minimum ....10 or less hair strands a day.
I am VERY GRATEFUL that my prayers have been answered. Although no one can see my thinning area, I do hope that the hair will grow back and fill it in there.
It is quite obvious that I was suffering from a Biotin Deficiency. The difference in the marked improvement between 5000 mcg and 10,000 mcg was AMAZING. I am quite sure that there are other people who probably suffer from the same deficiency as I do.
Importantly, I am glad that I had a doctor who could relate to me because he had the same problem.
It is very important that you check with your physician first before taking a high dosage of biotin especially if you are prone to acne. Ideally, you should start with a small dosage and if all's well, then slowly increase it to your target amount. Some people need less biotin and some people need more... just like medicine.
Lucinda, from New York, USA
Three months ago I discovered I had traction alopecia. I took a proactive measure and cut my 'LOCKS' off! I started taking Biotin on a daily basis and now see hair growth after 30 days and a bonus that I didn't expect - my skin glows!
SO! For me it WORKS!
Denise, from USA
I know Biotin works. I have cirrhosis and when I was first diagnosed with it I had experienced extensive hair loss and my skin turned as yellow as can be. 3 times I lost my hair... and I have to say all my hair came back each time and my hair and skin are healthy. My hair is really long and grows like crazy. Biotin is one thing I will never miss a dose on - it really works and I have advised other people and they have had great results as well. I swear by it. I will add I really got healthy and drank tomatoes and tons of tomato juices and tons of veggies... which have all contributed to the liver transplant I still haven't had to get...
Connie, from USA
Omega Fatty Acids and Hair Loss
Research shows how effective omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids can be in restoring thinning hair
I hope you've found this page about the benefits of biotin helpful. I'd love to hear YOUR opinion, and whether or not you believe biotin has helped with YOUR hair loss.
If you have any experience with biotin supplements that you'd like to share, please contact me here.
Learn more about which foods help fight hair loss
Learn how your pillowcase can affect your hair
Sources - and for More Information
The Benefits of Biotin
WebMD - Biotin Supplements
Biotin Deficiency and Parenteral Nutrition
Discovery Fit and Health - How Biotin Works
Linus Pauling Institute
Group Health Biotin Supplement Studies
Zinc Aspartate, Biotin and Clobetasol In the Treatment of Alopecia Areata in Childhood
Benefits of Biotin