Biotin is a coenzyme and a B vitamin. It is also known as vitamin H. Because biotin is present in so many different kinds of foods, deficiency is rare.
As a supplement, biotin is sometimes used for hepatitis, brittle nails, neuropathy, and other conditions.
Why do people take biotin?
Biotin plays a key role in the body. It supports the health of the skin, nerves, digestive tract, metabolism, and cells. One small study suggested that biotin and other micronutrients helped treat peripheral neuropathy, nerve pain in the extremities that can result from kidney failure or diabetes.
Biotin supplements have been studied as a treatment for a number of conditions. Biotin might decrease insulin resistance and nerve symptoms related to type 2 diabetes. More research needs to be done. Some preliminary evidence suggests that biotin might help strengthen brittle nails. Other uses of biotin -- for conditions like cradle cap, hepatitis, hair loss, and depression -- are unsupported or untested.
However, most people don't need biotin supplements. We get biotin in foods naturally. Our bodies also recycle the biotin we've already used. Genuine biotin deficiency is quite rare.
Pregnant women sometimes have low levels of biotin, so some take biotin supplements. The benefits and risks aren't clear.
How much biotin should you take?
The Institute of Medicine has set an adequate intake (AI) for biotin. Getting this amount from diet, with or without supplements, should be enough to support good health.
19 years and up
Depending on your case, your doctor might recommend a higher dose. Even at higher levels, biotin appears to be fairly safe. Researchers don't know at what dosage biotin might start to pose health risks.
Can you get biotin naturally from foods?
Biotin occurs naturally in many foods. Wheat germ, whole-grain cereals, whole wheat bread, eggs, dairy products, peanuts, soya nuts, Swiss chard, salmon, and chicken are all sources of biotin.
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