A water-soluble B-complex vitamin, biotin is also known as vitamin H or B7 and is essential for the function of certain enzymes in the body. Biotin has been derived from the Greek word bios meaning life. It can be easily sourced from a variety of foods such as dry fruits, oats, eggs, cucumber, onions, cabbage, cauliflower, goat's and cow's milk, raspberries, strawberries, royal jelly, and brewer's yeast. As the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for biotin is very small; for children between 5µg to 12µg, and for adults between 20µg to 30µg, hence, deficiency is a rarity. However, there are certain instances where biotin deficiency may occur. In such scenarios, biotin supplements are recommended. Before one intakes these dietary vitamin supplements, it is imperative to know and understand the deficiency, its side effects and benefits.
One of the important vitamins listed under B-complex, biotin plays an important role in the upkeep of good health and promotes growth. It acts as a carrier of carbon dioxide in the process known as the tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA cycle). It aids in the conversion of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy (glucose), increasing the body's metabolism. It helps to keep hair lustrous and in a good and healthy condition. Brittle nails and cradle cap can also be kept at bay with an adequate biotin dosage in the body. It has proven to be extremely helpful for diabetics, and for those with high cholesterol and depression, as it helps to manage blood sugar levels and metabolizes carbohydrates for energy conversion. However, just biotin on its own does not affect the blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes, but there is an evidence that a combination of biotin and chromium (Diachrome, Nutrition 21) may aid in lowering blood sugar in the diabetic people whose condition is improperly controlled by prescription medications. There is insufficient evidence to rate its effectuality in this case.
This is a rare nutritional disorder caused by the deficiency of biotin, either due to inadequate dietary intake or as a result of other health-related conditions. When the enzymes responsible for extracting biotin from the diet falls short of their capacity to do so, a deficiency can occur. Some medical studies indicate that a high consumption of egg white binds biotin with its proteins, leading to a deficiency. Prolonged intravenous feeding or an intake of antibiotics can also trigger a deficiency. The symptoms include skin conditions like acne, dermatitis, psoriasis, seborrhea, eczema, etc., loss of appetite, low metabolism, and chronic fatigue, hair loss, dandruff, and loss of hair color, insomnia, depression, drowsiness, hallucinations, muscle pain, etc.
Very few side effects have been attributed to biotin. One of the main factors leading to side effects is either excess or prolonged dosages. Very little evidence is available to prove that its normal use results in side effects. A study conducted on pregnant rats, where they were subjected to extremely high doses of biotin, increased the probability of miscarriage as the size of placenta decreased. However, this test is not used as a benchmark for women.
Prolonged use in certain cases has resulted in occurrences of aggravation of skin infections and rashes. It could also has a reverse effect on blood sugar and insulin levels. It will reduce or decrease the levels of insulin in the body, while increasing blood sugar levels. Pregnant women or sick people should pay special attention to this aspect of biotin vitamin side effect.
High dosage of biotin along with vitamin B5 can cause a life-threatening condition called eosinophilic pleuropericardial effusion. This was found in one documented case, which was resolved once the affected person stopped taking both; biotin and vitamin B5. What could not be understood was what triggered this fatal condition, whether it was biotin or vitamin B5 alone, their combination, or another reaction in the body.
The side effects are very rare, however, as a precautionary measure it is best to consult a doctor to determine the deficiency and the correct dosage to ensure that one does not get affected by kind of complications in the future.
Disclaimer: This NutriNeat article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.