Vitamin H, also known as Vitamin B7 or biotin, was only named a ‘vitamin’ after more than 40 years of research. It is an essential micronutrient that is often called the ‘forgotten vitamin,’ but it certainly shouldn’t be ignored. This coenzyme, which works to support the synthesis of glucose, protein and fats in the cells, does more than just make our hair and skin look amazing.
Biotin was discovered back in 1927 when researchers were finding that eating egg whites could be detrimental to health. The structure and properties of biotin were established by U.S. and European investigators between 1940 and 1943. The first chemical synthesis was completed by Harris and Associated of the Merck Company in 1943.
Vitamin B7 Vitamin H, as it is also known, is part of the B-complex supplements, also referred to as Adrenal Support Complex or Energy Complex supplements. These types of supplements usually include a full spectrum of B vitamins, including Vitamins B6, B12, B2 riboflavin and B3 or niacin. As with any supplementation, you should be sure to get all your macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients to ensure the best possible result.
Biotin is also being studied as a remedy for hyperglycemia, the prevention of birth defects, the support of delivering placental blood to a developing fetus, fatigue, insomnia, depression, severe dry skin, loss of appetite, diabetes, peripheral neuropathy and more.
This food-sourced, water-soluble vitamin, which is actually made by the healthy bacteria in our gut, can also be found in supplement form. If you don’t eat the foods that biotin naturally occurs within, it might make sense to take a supplement.
Foods that contain biotin:
- Brewer’s Yeast
- Whole-wheat Bread
- Cooked Oats
- Cheese, cheddar
- Cauliflower (raw)
Natural bacteria that live in the small intestines in humans also produce supplemental biotin. When considering dietary sources of biotin, some Vitamin H levels in the body must be accounted for. Egg whites contain a chemical that binds to biotin very tightly, preventing its uptake in the body’s bloodstream. Also, because of the micro flora that produce biotin in the human intestines, prolonged use of antibiotic medication can lower the amount of biotin within the body.
Because biotin supports the skin, nerves, metabolism and digestive processes of the body, as well as the cardiovascular system, it can be helpful to make sure you are getting enough. Though some people get enough Vitamin H through their diets, many can benefit from pharmacological doses in order to treat conditions as varied as hepatitis to depression, insulin resistance, or even prematurely greying hair and cradle cap in babies.
Who Needs Biotin the Most?
Pregnant women often have low levels of biotin because a baby requires high levels of biotin for its growth, and since this vitamin is essential to an unborn baby’s health, they are the most likely candidate for supplementation.
Another candidate for supplementation of Vitamin H is a formula-fed infant. Many cases of biotin deficiency have been found in babies that don’t ingest breast milk. A mother’s milk contains variable amounts of biotin for the baby depending on their stage of development, and other health factors, such as her own intake of the micronutrient. The more you nurse your baby, the more biotin is in your milk. The quantity of biotin is also directly linked to the biotin in your blood, but the quantity in your milk is hundreds of times greater than the content in your own blood cells.
Research from Oregon State states,
“Animal studies have shown that biotin sufficiency is essential for normal fetal development. Whether marginal biotin deficiency during pregnancy increases the risk for congenital anomalies in humans is currently an area of concern and investigation.”
Although few people experience a biotin deficiency, symptoms can include:
- Dry, irritated skin
- Brittle hair or hair loss
- Lack or energy or chronic fatigue
- Digestive and intestinal tract issues
- Muscle aches and pains
- Nerve damage
- Mood changes
- Tingling in the limbs
- Cognitive impairments
This does not mean that supplementation is only for those who experience these symptoms. Many people who either add biotin to their diet by making the right food choices, or those who simply take a high quality supplement experience:
- Softer, fuller hair
- Fewer wrinkles
- An elevated mood
- Lower incidence of depression
- Less anxiety
- Better sleep
- An elevated resting metabolic rate (meaning you would conceivably burn more calories when you are doing nothing)
- Regulated blood sugar
- Lowered cholesterol
- Stronger nails
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the U.S. National Library of Medicine are unsure about how much biotin we really need. According to the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine, the daily recommended value of biotin is:
- 5 micrograms daily for infants
- 6-8 micrograms daily for infants ages 7 months to 3 years
- 12-20 micrograms daily for children ages 4 to 13
- 25 micrograms for adolescents
- 30 micrograms for male and female adults over 19
- 30 milligrams for pregnant women and 35 milligrams for women who are breastfeeding
Even if you aren’t a pregnant or breastfeeding woman, or a formula-fed baby, you could likely benefit from biotin supplementation. This forgotten nutrient is essential to numerous physiological processes in the body, and our cells rely on its presence to carry out some of their most basic metabolic functions.
If you can’t be sure to eat enough of the foods that support the creation of biotin in your gut, you can always supplement as suggested herein. Who among us eats perfectly, anyhow? Great health starts with good choices, and adding biotin to your diet is one of those choices we can make.