What is Biotin?
What is Biotin?
As health and wellness buzzwords go, biotin might not quite have attained the ranks of CBD, turmeric or - dare we say it - collagen.
But the chances are you’ve heard of it, and some of you probably already know you need it. But why do we need it, and where can we get it from? Today we’re delving into all things biotin and exploring the various benefits this essential stuff can bring.
What is biotin?
Biotin is also known as Vitamin B-7, and it’s part of the vitamin B group. It gets its name from the Greek word ‘biotos’, which means ‘life’, and as that name reflects, it’s an essential vitamin that helps our bodies convert the food we eat into the energy we need to function in our day-to-day lives. It does this by helping enzymes break down the proteins, fats and carbohydrates in our food.
As well as this crucial energy release function, biotin also helps maintain healthy hair, skin and mucous membranes, as well as supporting major systems in your body, such as your nervous system and metabolism. If you’re a diabetes sufferer, biotin helps to regulate your blood sugar levels and manage your symptoms. In pregnancy, it’s also an important nutrient that helps the embryo grow.
Biotin is soluble in water, which means our bodies can’t store reserves of it. However, we don’t need very much of it, and we generally get the biotin we need from food - which we’ll come onto shortly. It’s also produced naturally in your gut.
What are the benefits of biotin?
Biotin is an essential vitamin given its importance in maintaining our energy and general vitality. But its benefits go beyond this basic function, and one of the main things biotin has garnered attention for is its support for your hair.
Although more research is needed to understand the role of biotin in hair health, what we do know is that it stimulates keratin production - and keratin is the protein that your hair is made from. It’s thought to increase the rate of follicle growth, which makes it a popular supplement for those suffering from thinning hair caused by a biotin deficiency.
What’s more, keratin is present in your nails and skin, which is why biotin is also touted as beneficial for these. Again, more research is needed in this area, but a Journal of Drugs in Dermatology study in 2007 suggested that a 2.5mg daily dose of biotin improves brittle nails. Not only that, but it’s also thought to improve cognitive function, reduce inflammation and boost levels of ‘good’ cholesterol (while lowering the bad stuff).
It’s important to note that the small number of studies into biotin so far suggest that it’s only likely to make a big difference to the hair, nails and skin of those who have a biotin deficiency, and this is rare. There are a number of potential symptoms of biotin deficiency, which include thinner hair, brittle nails, a red and scaly rash around the eyes, nose and mouth, and skin and eye infections.
You’re more likely to be biotin deficient if you’re living with alcoholism, you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or you have a chronic health condition that makes it harder for your body to absorb nutrients.