Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that is found in small amounts in numerous foods. It's a part of the vitamin B and vitamin H family. Biotin is an essential vitamin—meaning that your body needs this micro-nutrient to function properly. The biotin you consume in foods helps your body to turn the food you eat (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) into energy. Biotin helps the body break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Biotin is commonly used for preventing and treating biotin deficiency associated with pregnancy, long-term tube feeding, malnutrition, and rapid weight loss. It is also used orally for hair loss, brittle nails, skin rash in infants (seborrheic dermatitis), diabetes, and mild depression.
Biotin is found in a wide variety of foods, so an actual deficiency is rare.
Foods that are particularly good sources include:
In addition, your gut bacteria produce some amount of biotin. It's also available as a supplement, either on its own or as a component of mixed vitamin supplements.
There are some cases where certain dietary or other habits have caused a deficiency of biotin. Studies have found that women who smoke can increase the metabolism of biotin in their bodies and cause a deficiency.
Another case showed that eating raw eggs — particularly the whites of the eggs — on a regular basis can also create a biotin deficiency. In this instance, the deficiency brought about a condition called biotin-responsive limb weakness. This condition mimics quadriplegia.
The regular consumption of raw egg whites was used in another research study that showed this caused a biotin deficiency as well.
Common symptoms of a biotin deficiency include:
Biotin supplements can cause problems if you ingest too much. Side effects can include skin rashes, digestive upset, problems with insulin release, and kidney problems.
According to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, biotin treatment was said to interfere with laboratory tests and mimic Graves' disease.
Here are the recommended amounts: