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Vitamin B7: Biotin
An overview of biotinBiotin is the other name for vitamin B7. The two terms for the vitamin are used interchangeably throughout this article. Some people also refer to it as vitamin H. This is because, the vitamin is known for its hair strengthening properties. The cosmetic industry has built on this fact to create many hair products with the vitamin as one of the ingredient. Apart from the hair-health improving properties, , biotin possesses many more benefits that support overall health. Vitamin B7 is water soluble and a member of the 8 vitamins that make up the vitamin B-complex. The body’s stores of the vitamin cannot last for any significant period of time and so it must be replenished regularly through diet and nutritional supplements.
Functions of vitamin B7 in the bodyLike other vitamins in the B-complex group, vitamin B7 plays a role as a coenzyme in the production of energy from carbohydrates. It exists as free or protein-bound biotin in the body. For it to be available to the body an enzyme called biotinadase has to break the protein bond. This enzyme is also important in the recycling of biotin. Other functions of biotin include:
- Metabolism of fats
- Metabolism of proteins
- Metabolism of amino acids
- Supports the regulation of chromatins
- Supports gene expression functions
Symptoms of vitamin B7 deficiencyObvious signs of biotin deficiency are rare. When these symptoms occur, they may include:
- Scarce, thin and falling hair
- Sores at the corners of the mouth (cheilitis)
- Tongue color changes to magenta
- Dry eyes
- Lack of sleep
- Chronic fatigue
- Mood changes including depression. Other neurological disorders that may occur include:
- Loss of coordination
- Tingling sensations of the extremities
- Dry and scaling skin
- A red and scaly rash may be seen around the eyes, the nose, the genital area and the mouth.
- Abnormal fat distribution on the face which gives what has been described as biotin deficient faces
- Poor immunity and susceptibility to infections due to bacteria and fungi.
Who is at risk of developing biotin deficiency?There are genetic, dietary and lifestyle factors that can increase the risk of developing biotin deficiency. These include:
- People with an inherited disorder of biotin metabolism. These include biotinadase deficiency and biotin transport deficiency among other disorders.
- This has been found to increase the breakdown of biotin. One study found this to be a risk factor for pregnant mothers who smoked. It not only exposed them to marginal biotin deficiency, but it also exposed their unborn babies to congenital malformations due to the vitamins deficiency.
- Prolonged intravenous feeding without biotin
- Pregnancy increases demand for biotin
- Babies formula-fed without biotin
- Liver disease
- Severe malnutrition
- Prolonged use of antibiotics interferes with gut friendly microorganisms. Some of these are needed for biotin synthesis in the gut.
- Low-carbohydrate, high fat diet
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- A diet that consists of mainly processed foods
- Renal disease
- Prolonged use of some anticonvulsant medications
- Consumption of raw eggs. Although this may not be an issue to vegans, it is good to know that egg white contain a protein called avidin. This binds biotin making it unavailable to the body. Cooking deactivates this protein.
Sources of biotinThere are three main sources of biotin
- From some types of the food we eat
- Synthesis by bacteria in the gut
- Through biotin nutritional supplements or composite supplements with biotin as one of the ingredients
- Brewer’s yeast
- Raw cauliflower
- Nuts such as almonds, walnuts and peanuts
- Whole grains
- Legumes such as beans
Biotin from gut bacteriaMany of the bacteria that colonize the large intestines can synthesize biotin. It is not clear whether the free biotin that they produce gets absorbed into the body or not but a study using gut lining cultured cells suggests that this is possible.
Biotin nutritional supplementsThese are available as a sole vitamin B7 supplement or as an ingredient in a vitamin B-complex supplement. On many occasions, it is part of a multivitamin-mineral supplement.
Science backed health benefits of biotin
- Supports healthy fetal development
- May help in healthy glucose metabolism
- Supports skin health
- Helps to reduce peripheral neuropathy
- Supports healthy DNA functions
More benefits of vitamin B7These include:
- Prevention of baldness
- As an adjunct in the management of Parkinson’s disease
- In the management of Chrohn’s disease
- May play a role in the treatment of multiple sclerosis disorder
- Treats neonatal rash called seborrheic dermatitis.