Biotin is widely available in foods. Biotin supplements are used to promote nail, skin, and hair health. Some people also use it for nerve, muscle, and diabetic symptoms. Patients should discuss use of this supplement beforehand with their doctor.
Biotin is an important coenzyme involved in sugar and fat metabolism. It is found in a variety of foods such as meat, vegetables, and eggs, and is also made in the intestines by bacteria.
Some studies show that taking biotin can benefit patients with multiple sclerosis or may improve diabetic nerve pain. Patients with diabetes may have a greater chance of being biotin-deficient. Consuming large amounts of egg whites or taking epilepsy drugs may also lead to biotin deficiency. However, there is no evidence for using biotin supplements in general, and deficiency in this nutrient is otherwise quite rare. In addition, too much biotin may weaken immune response and reduce the number of white blood cells. It may also cause inaccurate lab test results. Therefore, patients should consult with their doctor to determine the source of a true deficiency, or to discuss proper use of this supplement.
To treat multiple sclerosis
Preliminary data from a long-term study suggests that biotin is safe and may reduce symptoms in some patients. However, this study is ongoing and the final result is still not known.
To treat diabetic peripheral neuropathy
A small clinical study supports this claim. Larger studies are needed to confirm the effects.
To treat brittle nails
A small survey indicates that biotin may be effective. Further studies are needed.
To treat hair loss
According to one study, women with hair loss tend to have lower biotin levels in their blood. However, it is unclear if biotin is effective in preventing or treating hair loss in otherwise healthy people or in cancer patients due to chemotherapy.
To treat infantile seborrheic dermatitis (a skin disorder)
A small study showed that biotin was not effective in treating itchy, scaly skin.
Taking high doses of biotin can incorrectly affect the results of many types of lab tests, including some used to detect heart or thyroid disease.
Biotin is an essential B vitamin that acts as an important coenzyme in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. It is often taken alone or in combination with other vitamins for skin, nail, and hair health. It is also thought to help diabetes and neuromuscular disorders.
Biotin supplementation may be effective in strengthening brittle nails. (3) Low serum biotin levels have been associated with hair loss in women (16). There are preliminary data suggesting that high-doses of biotin may decrease symptoms of multiple sclerosis (17). Biotin may benefit patients with severe diabetic peripheral neuropathy (4). When taken with chromium, it may improve glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes (5). There are reports that biotin can reduce skin rash from gefitinib or erlotinib (18), but it did not reduce seborrheic dermatitis in infants (2). More studies are needed to confirm these observations.
Biotin is abundant in foods including meat, vegetables, and eggs. True deficiency is rare but can be caused by a genetic disorder (13) or by malabsorption syndromes. Long-term use of certain anticonvulsant drugs can also induce biotin deficiency (11), but many of these conditions can be treated by biotin supplementation. Some cancer patients take biotin during chemotherapy. However, there is not enough evidence to show that it is effective in preventing or treating chemotherapy-induced hair loss.
Although biotin is generally safe, there are reports of interference with lab assays when taken in high doses (19)(20).
Biotin is an essential part of carbohydrate and lipid metabolism via carboxylase. It is converted into the free active form by the enzyme biotinidase, and can be synthesized in the intestine by bacteria (1).
Biotin induces microtubule formation in neurons (7), and biotin deficiency slows myelination (8) which may result in neuropathy. Biotin may reduce the activity of interleukins and interferons, and reduce the number of leukocytes (9).
Herb Lab Interactions
Inaccurate troponin test results(22): A patient death was related to a missed diagnosis of heart disease, stemming from falsely low troponin test results that were due to the patient’s high intake levels of biotin.
Multiple blood test results (20)(22): Biotin supplementation can affect various test results.
Free Thyroxine and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (FT4/TSH) assay: Reported false-high values were attributed to high serum biotin levels in a neonate (12).
Other immunoassay interferences: Biotin taken in moderate to high doses can result in either false-high or -low values (19).
Dosage (OneMSK Only)
Mason P. Dietary Supplements. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 2001.