Biotin: Avoid Regular Consumption of Egg Nog

When biotin was first discovered, it was called Vitamin H or vitamin B7. Now, it's only called biotin.

It's a water-soluble B vitamin that is important for the breakdown and utilization of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. It acts as a coenzyme participating in biochemical reactions that make digestion work smoothly. It is also essential for the metabolism of the amino acid leucine and involved in the breakdown of non-glucose sources such as protein for energy in times when carbohydrate is limited in the diet. Another important metabolic role is the transference of carbon dioxide.

Little Known Connection to Blood Sugar Regulation

Recent research has found that this vitamin is important for maintaining proper blood sugar levels. This can give new hope to Type 2 diabetics, confused about how to eat right and use supplements to help control their blood sugar levels. It's possible that the ability of biotin to break down protein for energy when it cannot break down glucose is responsible for the ability to help maintain proper blood sugar levels.

Biotin is closely tied in with mechanisms that affect how the body utilizes three other B vitamins: folic acid, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B12. In nutrition, it's often the interaction of nutrients that makes the biggest difference in how fast a patient gets healthier. As you can see here with biotin, having enough of it helps other vitamins work properly. However, without enough biotin, folic acid won't be able to do its work in the body. Without enough biotin, pantothenic acid won't be able to do its work. And without enough biotin, vitamin B12 won't be able to do its work.

Nutrition is never about taking one vitamin by itself. It's always the interrelationships that matter most.

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Food Sources of Biotin

Like Vitamin K, biotin is synthesized by intestinal bacteria.

Egg yolk, beef liver, unpolished rice, cauliflower, mushrooms, alfalfa, milk and brewer's yeast are rich sources of this B vitamin. The two highest sources are royal jelly and brewer's yeast.

However, a protein in egg whites called avidin binds with biotin in the intestine and decreases availability of the vitamin. This is easily remedied, though, since avidin is destroyed by cooking the raw eggs. Avoiding raw eggs is an easy way to avoid a deficiency.

Biotin Deficiency Is Rare, but See If You Have Any Symptoms

Biotin deficiency is rarely diagnosed, probably because the symptoms can be associated with many other diseases. They include a poor appetite, dry skin, lack of energy, dermatitis, grayish skin color, depression, and sleeplessness. In a severe deficiency, the body's fat metabolism is disturbed. When fat metabolism is affected, it's common for dermatitis to appear.

This deficiency can also result in high cholesterol levels and low hemoglobin levels.

On a more personal level, biotin deficiency is tied to hair loss that can progress to the loss of the eyelashes and even eyebrows.

Sometimes, seborrheic dermatitis can lead to the loss of eyebrows and head hair. In the case of cradle cap, seborrheic dermatitis in an infant with a genetic disorder called phenylketonuria or PKU, a biotin deficiency is found, and replacing biotin with high doses will relieve the cradle cap.

Biotin has been shown to improve cases of dermatitis and cases of baldness.

How Much BIotin is Enough?

In the 1990s, 150 to 200 micrograms of folic acid was recommended for the RDA. Now the amount recommended is only 20 to 30 mcg for adults with levels of 35 mcg recommended for women who are lactating. This has created controversy among nutritionists and health practitioners because although the amount generally consumed is 40 mcg per day, up to only 40% of the biotin in grains is available to the body.

Low levels of stomach acid may indicate a higher need for biotin. Those who have had gastric bypass or gastric surgery generally have low levels of this essential B vitamin. Those who have suffered from burns, are epileptic, elderly or athletic may have higher requirements for this water-soluble B vitamin.

Research has shown that those with type 2 diabetes often have low levels of biotin. Scientists believe that the synthesis and release of insulin may be dependent on it. High doses have been found to lower blood glucose levels and improve glucose tolerance.

Should You Be Worried about Toxicity?

There is no known toxicity of it. In research studies, infants were given 5 mg per day with no toxic side effects. Adults with dermatitis, low hemoglobin, depression, high cholesterol and muscle pain given 150 mg in injection form showed lower levels of cholesterol and regular skin tone returned after 4 days. There were no toxic side effects.

Sources of Biotin?

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1. Dunne, Lavon. Nutrition Almanac, McGraw-Hill Publishing, 2002.
2. Wikipedia.

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