What Is It?
Although biotin is one of the lesser-known B vitamins, it plays an essential role in a number of important body processes. Taking its name from the Greek word bios, meaning “life,” this nutrient assists the body in metabolizing protein, fats, and carbohydrates from food. It plays a special role in enabling the body to use blood sugar (glucose), a major source of energy for body fluids. Biotin also helps produce certain enzymes.
Adults rarely suffer from a deficiency of biotin, in part because it’s found in so many foods, including rice, barley, oatmeal, whole wheat, soy products, and cauliflower. But when low levels do occur, problems such as brittle nails and lackluster hair can develop. Biotin supplements may help in such cases. Interestingly, one notable cause of low biotin levels has been linked to the consumption of a particular food–raw egg whites–over time.
Most multivitamins and B-complex vitamins contain biotin, and it is also available as an individual supplement, primarily in a form known as d-biotin.
Consult your doctor before taking very high doses of biotin (more than 8 mg) to treat diabetes, as the biotin may alter your insulin requirements.
Long-term use of antibiotics (particularly sulfa drugs) and antiseizure medications may decrease biotin levels; they hinder the production of this nutrient in the intestine.
The government has established that most adults over age 18 require 30 mcg of biotin a day. But there is still too little information to determine the safe maximum dose of this vitamin.
Consult your doctor before taking biotin supplements to treat an ailment.
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David Edelberg, MD