Biotin is also known as vitamin B7, and is also sometimes referred to as vitamin H because of its association with hair and nail health. Like virtually all vitamins, we cannot make biotin in our body, and require a regular supply from our diet. This post show which foods are high in biotin, and explain what biotin is good for with regards to your health.
Foods high in Biotin
Unlike many vitamins, biotin is not restricted to just of food group such as meats or vegetables – it is found in both. In fact, the foods highest in biotin are swiss chard, eggs and nuts such as almonds, but it can also be found in various types of fish, milk, fruits and berries. Although it is found in a variety of food, it is not always found in high quantities.
There is no RDA set for biotin, but an adult should aim to get between 20mcg and 30mcg a day. To put this into perspective, here is the biotin content of some foods highest in biotin:
- 1 Egg will contain up to 15mcg of biotin
- ~5 almonds will contain 5mcg
- 1 Cup (175g) of swiss chard will contain 10.5mcg.
It might look like the foods highest in biotin don’t actually contain much compared to your requirements (especially when you think one orange contains more than your RDA of vitamin C). However, biotin is found in such a variety of foods, no matter what you eat you will be consuming it, and you shouldn’t experience a deficiency.
Biotin in the body
Although we cannot synthesize biotin ourselves, the probiotics found in our gut can produce it in significant quantities which we can absorb. This reduces the emphasis on the need of dietary requirements and means that deficiency is extremely rare.
In the body biotin is an essential co-factor for a number of enzymes which are responsible for the metabolism and synthesis of fatty acids. This makes biotin essential for normal cell function and cell growth. Like many B vitamins, biotin is vital for the overall production of energy in the body, and is required for a number of complex reactions such as creating glucose from precursor molecules and creating vital molecules required to synthesize ATP (energy) from pyruvate.
What is biotin good for?
Biotin is often recommended for improving hair and nail health, and many people do report thicker and faster growing hair when taking biotin in large quantities. As biotin is essential for the production of energy in cells, highly active cells in the body will be most effected if you have a mild deficiency of biotin. The most active cells in the body are the cells which produce hair and nails, and so it stands to reason that supplementing your diet with biotin (or eating more food high in biotin) will ensure there cells can function optimally. Consuming excess biotin will ensure these cells have enough to properly function, and will be produce more keratin (a protein abundant in hair and nails), which will make hair and nails grow faster.
There isn’t a great deal of clinical research into this, but anecdotal evidence and logic suggests that it should work.
Overdose & Deficiency
As biotin is so essential for all cells to function, deficiency is extremely serious (but rare). Symptoms of biotin deficiency are characterized by brittle hair, and is deficiency is persistent, can lead to baldness, hallucinations and ultimately death. High risk groups of deficiency are those who have had prolonged antibiotic therapy and those with sever malnutrition. Smoking and regular alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce levels of biotin, but not to dangerous levels in otherwise healthy individuals.
Biotin overdose has not been shown to have any adverse side effects on health, and any excess biotin in the body will simply be filtered out by the kidneys. There is speculation that large amounts of biotin may pose a potential health risk to pregnant women, and anyone with damaged or infected kidneys.
As with most B vitamins, biotin is required for a number of important and complex functions, especially in the production of energy. This makes biotin good for hair and nail health, which why many people take it. Fortunately, as biotin can be produced by our probiotics and is found is so many types of food, deficiency is very rare. At risk groups of deficiency are those who have taken oral antibiotics which may kill the probiotics in the gut. Large quantities of biotin can help with hair and nail growth, and this poses no known health risks to healthy individuals.