Biotin, also known as vitamin B8, is important for many bodily functions, including metabolizing food. Metabolization is the process of converting food into energy. Many people swear that biotin also improves the look of their hair, skin and nails. In this article we’re going to look at the functions of biotin, the beauty claims, and what the best food sources of biotin are.
Functions of Biotin
We can’t live without biotin. We need it every day.
Biotin plays an important role in converting carbohydrates, fats and proteins into energy. It also helps your body’s cells to function properly.
Furthermore, biotin plays a role in the formation of fatty acids.
Biotin also contributes to the proper functioning of the nervous system.
Biotin appears to help build the protein keratin, which in turn is needed for healthy hair, skin and nails.
How much biotin do we need?
For biotin, the Health Council of the Netherlands has determined an adequate intake (AI) of 40 micrograms per day for adults. This adequate intake is not a target value, but it does indicate how much biotin you should consume on a daily basis. The Health Council indicates that there is a weak basis for the recommended daily dietary allowance of biotin. This means that there are simply few research results available, and that there is therefore no scientific agreement about the recommended allowance. This is a very unclear guideline, but it is what it is.
Deficiency of biotin?
Deficiencies of biotin almost do not occur in developed countries. A biotin deficiency can only arise if you eat a lot of raw eggs. Raw eggs contain avidin, a substance that prevents your body from absorbing biotin. A biotin deficiency can cause skin abnormalities, anaemia and depression.
Other causes of biotin deficiency include alcoholism and long-term use of antibiotics, valproic acid (an epilepsy drug) or isotretinoin (acne drug). You also have an increased risk of a biotin deficiency during pregnancy. Long-term low-calorie diets also lead to biotin deficiency.
Too much biotin?
An excess of biotin is not harmful to your health. Biotin is soluble in water, so you pee the excess out. Still, that doesn’t mean you should take mega doses of biotin on your own initiative (and that goes for all supplements). The most common side effects of too much biotin are an upset stomach, nausea, cramps, or diarrhoea.
Biotin and Beauty
Why does biotin have a superhero status when it comes to hair, skin and nail health? Perhaps because a lack of biotin can lead to brittle nails, hair loss and scaly rashes. But biotin deficiency is actually rare, at least, in developed countries with no hunger. So, if your hair is thinning, or if you have brittle nails, it’s most likely NOT because of a biotin deficiency. There is usually another health condition that causes these problems, such as protein deficiency or iron deficiency. Treating this with biotin without knowing the cause of your condition makes little sense.
Maybe you’re not worried about a biotin deficiency, but wondering if a biotin supplement can help you get great hair, nails or skin?
Biotin supplements have NOT been scientifically proven to improve the quality of your hair, skin or nails. But some people find that taking a biotin supplement helps boost hair and nail growth. There is usually no harm in trying biotin for thicker hair or healthier nails. Just remember that it takes several months to see improvement in hair or nail growth, as they grow very slowly of course.
The Best Food Sources of Biotin
It is claimed that the best sources of biotin are eggs and organ meats. But if you look at the available data, you come to different conclusions. An egg yolk contains only 8 micrograms (mcg) of biotin. Compare it to a tablespoon of peanut butter, which contains a whopping 22 mcg of biotin. So almost three times as much. Animal organs, especially liver, should be rich in biotin because biotin in animals (just like in humans) is stored in the liver. But most people never actually eat organ meats.
I have made an overview of seven daily foods that contain a lot of biotin. Funnily enough, those are all plant foods. The data comes from Food Data Central of U.S. Department of Agriculture. The amount of biotin is indicated per 100 g:
- Peanut Butter: 88 mcg of biotin;
- Almond Flour: 69 mcg of biotin;
- Almond Butter: 57 mcg of biotin;
- Flaxseed: 34 mcg of biotin;
- Mushrooms: 6-33 mcg of biotin;
- Oatmeal: 20mcg biotin;
- Tahini: 13 mcg of biotin.