What Is Biotin?
Biotin is a B-complex vitamin that helps your body break down food into energy. You can get biotin from eating meats, eggs, fish, seeds, nuts, and some vegetables, or by taking a daily supplement.
The name “biotin” comes from the Greek word “biotos,” which means “sustenance” or “life-giving.”
Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, supports many of your body’s systems, including your nervous system, liver, eyes, hair, and skin. It helps the enzymes in your body carry out their jobs and keeps cells working as they should.
Some of its possible health benefits include:
Studies show that biotin supplements may help manage symptoms of diabetes. It might help reduce blood sugar levels, total cholesterol, and blood fats in some people with diabetes. But it doesn't have much effect on insulin levels.
Plus, B vitamins are important for your brain and nervous system, which could help with neurological symptoms of diabetes, such as neuropathy (nerve damage). We need more research on this, though.
Skin, nail, and hair health
Biotin supplements are often marketed as having benefits for hair, skin, and fingernails. If you have a shortage of biotin in your diet, you could have thinning hair, or skin or nail problems. But there's little scientific evidence that supplements can improve hair, skin, or nail health in people who don't have a biotin deficiency.
Biotin is necessary for a healthy pregnancy. Studies show that about a third of pregnant women in the U.S. have mild biotin deficiencies, but we need more research to understand why.
During pregnancy, make sure to eat foods rich in biotin or talk to your doctor about taking a biotin supplement.
Biotin is thought to help nerves recover from damage, especially in people with progressive diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. However, recent studies don't show any long-term benefits of taking high doses of biotin for nerve health.
Foods With Biotin
Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin, which means your body can't store it like fat-soluble vitamins. Instead, you have to replace it daily. Bacteria in your gut can create biotin, though researchers aren't sure what role this plays in your overall biotin levels.
Foods high in biotin include:
Beef liver. Just 3 ounces of cooked liver has 30.8 micrograms, which is 100% of your daily value.
Eggs, especially egg yolks. One cooked egg has 10 micrograms of biotin.
Milk. One cup of 2% milk has 0.3 micrograms of biotin. Milk also contributes to bone and teeth health, and it is a good source of protein, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, and vitamin D.
Bananas. One serving (half a cup) of banana has 0.2 micrograms of biotin. Bananas also have vitamin B6, vitamin C, and the minerals manganese, potassium, and magnesium.
Nuts and seeds have biotin, but how much you get depends. For instance, a one-fourth cup of roasted almonds has 1.5 micrograms, but just six walnut halves have 9.5 micrograms. A one-fourth cup of roasted sunflower seeds has 2.6 micrograms of biotin, more than the amount present in any other seed.
Pork chops. A 3-ounce serving of pork chops has 3.8 micrograms of biotin.
Salmon. A 3-ounce serving of cooked salmon has 5 micrograms of biotin, about 17% of your daily value.
Sweet potatoes have 2.4 micrograms of biotin in half a cup, about 8% of your daily value of biotin.
Mushrooms have biotin, too. A 100-gram serving of portabella mushrooms (a little more than 1 cup) contains 11.1 micrograms.
It's very rare to have a biotin deficiency, especially when you're healthy and eat a well-balanced diet. But there are symptoms if you're low on biotin, and they usually show up slowly. They can include:
- Hair loss (alopecia)
- Red rash around your eyes, nose, mouth, and genital area
- Brittle nails
- Lethargy (lack of energy)
- Numbness of your extremities (hands or feet)
Research suggests that taking biotin supplements, even in high dosages, has very little risk.
Because biotin is water-soluble, your body flushes out any amount it doesn't need through your urine. But if you take too much, it could interact with other medicines you take or produce incorrect results on lab tests. Always tell your doctor about any dietary supplements you take.
Amounts and Dosages
The amount of biotin you need daily depends on your age and gender. The FDA says adults need 30 micrograms daily. If you're nursing, you need 35 micrograms every day.
If you think you're not getting enough biotin in your diet, talk to your doctor about taking a daily supplement.