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What is biotin and what are the benefits of this vitamin?

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What is biotin?

Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin (vitamin B7) found naturally in a variety of foods. It plays an important role in assisting enzymes to break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats in the food we eat. Without this process, the food we eat wouldn’t be converted into energy for us and our bodies to use, either to help hair grow or simply perform our daily tasks.

Biotin is also used to help regulate signals sent between cells in the body, it’s a vital vitamin and one we can get through a varied, balanced diet and health lifestyle. Also, biotin can be produced naturally in your bowel and it’s only needed in very small amounts by your body to support normal function.

What are the benefits of biotin?

Not only is biotin important for the processing of our food into energy, it also helps support healthy hair, nails and skin and can assist in the re-growth of healthy skin and hair in those who are deficient in the vitamin.

Although a biotin deficiency is rare, the following can indicate low levels of the vitamin:

  • Thinning hair
  • Red, scaly rash around eyes, nose and mouth
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Brittle nails
  • Skin infections

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, we advise you visit your GP to rule out biotin deficiency as well as other health conditions.

What foods contain biotin?

Proper levels of biotin can be easily maintained through a varied and balanced diet. Many foods contain sources of biotin; the National Institute of Health list the following examples:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Pork
  • Cooked eggs
  • Sweet potato
  • Salmon
  • Beef liver

As biotin is a water-soluble vitamin, it cannot be stored inside the body, and it needs to be constantly ingested through the foods we eat. If you want to add more biotin to your daily meals you could try some delicious biotin-rich recipes such as coconut lentil soup or ground beef and sweet potato curry.

Biotin supplements

Whilst proper levels of biotin should be available through a varied and balanced diet, there are biotin supplements available to those who need some dietary support. Supplements are important for those who may be deficient in this vitamin, but minimal effects will be experienced in healthy individuals who absorb enough biotin through their normal diet.

Who is at higher risk of biotin deficiency?

Biotin deficiency is rare. However, the National Institute of Health states the following groups may be at higher risk of developing a biotin deficiency:

  • Individuals living with alcoholism – long term daily consumption of alcohol reduces the absorption of biotin, leaving individuals vulnerable to low levels of this vitamin. For more advice from a clinician on alcohol misuse and ways to get help, head over to our Online Doctor.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women – despite normal biotin consumption, pregnant and breastfeeding women tend to have lower levels of biotin.
  • Those living with chronic health conditions – chronic (long term) health conditions can often limit a person’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals properly, meaning despite their diet they are not getting enough of what they need.

It’s important you speak with your GP if you fall under any of these categories to ensure you have an appropriate treatment plan in place.

Will biotin stop hair loss?

A number of studies have been carried out on the effects of taking biotin on hair loss. The findings suggest that biotin supplements are effective on individuals who have hair loss relating to a biotin deficiency, however, it won’t slow down the progression of hair loss in healthy individuals.

Alternative: Your GP will be able to help rule out biotin deficiency and determine the cause of your hair loss - always follow the treatment advice of a healthcare professional. Explore hair loss products that may be able to help you, our range includes root-thickening sprays and serums, as well as medicated shampoos such as Regaine for men and women. Regaine contains minoxidil, an ingredient scientifically proven to slow down the progression of hair loss.

Will biotin help improve my skin and nails?

Biotin is often touted as a supplement that may help strengthen nails and improve the appearance of skin, however these claims are only supported by a small number of studies. In general, unless you’re deficient in biotin, taking supplements will not lead to any drastic improvements in your skin and nails.

However, there are alternatives out there. At LloydsPharmacy we have a number of products designed to care for your nails, as well as a full skincare range for anything ranging from acne to eczema.

References

www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/biotin-vitamin-b7/
www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-b/
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Biotin-HealthProfessional/
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Biotin-HealthProfessional/#:~:text=Foods%20that%20contain%20the%20most,)%20%5B2%2C12%5D.
www.biotin.com/recipes
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5582478/
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772032/
www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318724