Biotin in a nutshell:
Biotin is a co-enzyme. In other words it is essential to help enzyme carry out their roles in the body. Biotin helps enzyme make energy, store energy and release energy from liver and muscle stores of glycogen. Biotin also helps protect pancreas cells from free radicals. Biotin is a little known vitamin, but vital to your health.
Best source of Biotin for Juicers
Biotin can be found in nuts – almonds, cashews, peanuts etc, but those aren’t really useful sources for juicers. However, carrots, bananas & avocados (in smoothies), and papaya are good sources. You can also find it in brewers yeast that you might consider taking as a supplement.
What Is Biotin?
Biotin is the B vitamin most of us need and most of us have never heard of. Getting enough biotin can make major differences in the health of your skin and in blood sugar control.
Alternative Names:Biotin; Vitamin B7.
Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin in the vitamin group. It was discovered in 1927, but scientists did not realize that is was a vital nutrient for human health until over 40 years later.
Biotin functions as a co-enzyme, a substance that activates enzymes so that they can perform their tasks in the body. It fits like a key into a lock, and if you were to look at a molecule of biotin under an electron microscope, its outline would look surprisingly similar to a key.
What Does Biotin Do?
Biotin is a co-factor for enzymes in bacteria, in fungi, in green plants, in animals, and in humans. In people, the kinds of enzymes biotin “flips the switch” to activate make energy, store excess energy as fat, release sugar from its storage form glycogen in the liver and in the muscles, and to regulate certain amino acids in the liver, kidneys, and brain. The cells in the pancreas that create insulin use biotin to protect themselves from free radicals, and cells all over the body can use biotin to protect themselves from DNA damage that can occur when they absorb too much sugar.
What Happens When We Don't Get Enough Biotin?
A biotin deficiency won't make you sick overnight. Babies are especially sensitive to biotin deficiency, but their symptoms don't appear for 3 to 6 months on a low- or no-biotin diet. In infants, there will be a rash around the mouth, nose, and eyes. Over a the period of a month or two, the rash will spread to the ears and then to areas of skin usually covered by a diaper.
After a year or so, a biotin-deprived infant will begin to lose hair and eyelashes. By the second year of life, a baby who does not get biotin will show lethargy, failure to thrive, and developmental delays. Biotin deficiency symptoms are very similar to zinc deficiency symptoms and the effects of yeast infections.
In children, teens, and adults, biotin deficiency symptoms occur even more slowly. There are also rashes on the face. Hair may fall out, turn gray, or fade in color. There may be depression, fatigue, and hallucinations, usually in the second year of not getting enough biotin.
Blood tests for biotin are not perfect indicators of deficiency. Because the symptoms of deficiency take months or years to develop, people who have low bloodstream levels of biotin may not have any symptoms at all (yet). Up to half of adults who have biotin deficiency symptoms have normal bloodstream levels of the vitamin. In most of those cases, the problem is they are also consuming a kind of anti-biotin that neutralizes its benefits in the body.
Are You at Risk for Biotin Deficiency?
No one is at greater risk for biotin deficiency that people who consume large amounts of a protein called avidin, which acts as a kind of anti-biotin.
Biotin is not just a vitamin for people. It is also a vitamin for bacteria. One of the defenses raw eggs have against spoilage is the presence of avidin in the “white” of the egg. The white of an egg serves as food for the developing chick in a fertilized yolk. It would also serve as food for bacteria except for the presence of avidin.
Not many people eat their eggs raw. Many people, however, consume egg whites in protein powder supplements. These products are manufactured without heating the egg white to preserve maximum amounts of native protein. The avidin in uncooked egg white, however, cancels out the nutrient benefits of biotin.
It's not hard to avoid this kind of biotin deficiency. Don't eat raw eggs! Cooking eggs neutralizes avidin but preserves biotin. Eggs are an especially good source of biotin because so much is needed to balance the effects of avidin when the egg is fertilized and a chick begins to grow.
Most people who don't consume raw egg whites get enough biotin in their diets. Canadians, in particular, tend to consume about twice as much biotin as people in other parts of the world, but there is no part of the industrialized world where biotin deficiency is common. Taking certain seizure medications (especially valproic acid, the main ingredient in Depakote and Depakene), however, often causes deficiency, and some people lack the protein that keeps the kidneys from removing biotin out of the bloodstream and into urine.
There is also a risk of biotin deficiency during pregnancy. The Linus Pauling Institute cites studies that show that about 1/3 of women suffer biotin deficiency during early pregnancy. Since the developing baby needs biotin, pregnancy is a good time to take biotin as part of every expectant mother's “vitamin insurance.”
Smoking cancels out the effects of biotin. Women who smoke during pregnancy need biotin, and at least one study suggests that women who smoke may have lower risk of breast and lung cancer if they avoid biotin deficiency.
How to Make Sure You Get Enough Biotin
The daily recommended intake of biotin is measured in micrograms (mcg), just millionths of a gram. Most national standards recommend daily intake of:
- 5 mcg per day for babies up to six months old,
- 6 mcg per day for babies six months to a year old,
- 8 mcg per day for children aged 1 to 3,
- 12 mcg per day for children aged 4 to 8,
- 18 mcg per day for children aged 9 to 13, and
- 30 to 35 mcg per day for everyone else.
Biotin is contained in small amounts in large amounts in animal-based foods in a form that is easily absorbed. It is contained in smaller amounts in plant-based foods in a form that is poorly absorbed. You can get your biotin supply by the week rather than by the day, even though it is water-soluble, but you need to get biotin in your diet or in supplements on a regular basis.
The easiest way to get enough biotin is to eat eggs and liver. A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of beef liver has about 38 mcg of biotin. A 3-1/2 (100 gram) serving of chicken livers has about 140 mcg of biotin. A single cooked egg has about 10 mcg of biotin, mostly in the egg yolk, not in the white.
The amount of biotin in other foods has been recently re-determined. (The older figures you may see elsewhere on the Internet are up to 24,700% off.) Here are some examples:
- A serving of mushrooms offers about 3 mcg of biotin.
- A serving of chili (non-vegan) offers a little over 2 mcg of biotin.
- A hamburger patty has about 2 mcg of biotin.
- A serving of nuts or seeds offers a little less than 2 mcg of biotin.
- A serving of strawberries has about 1 mcg of biotin.
The latest research indicates that most of us get most of our biotin from the eggs we eat either by themselves or in cakes, puddings, or ice cream. However, research also shows that vegans are not usually deficient in biotin—if they eat lots of nuts, seeds, and berries. If you don't eat liver and you don't eat eggs, then you need to eat a great deal of healthy plant foods to get your biotin, or you should take a supplement.
It's not hard to get your vitamin insurance by taking supplemental biotin. A 1 milligram dose of biotin is enough biotin for 30 days. It's best to not to take biotin at the same time as you take pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), since the two nutrients are absorbed through the same receptor sites in the lower digestive tract, but any biotin supplement is enough to prevent deficiency even if you don't take it every day. Taking up to 2 grams (2,000,000 mcg or 2,000 mg) of biotin a day is not known to cause side effects—but it's totally unnecessary for most people. As little as 1 milligram a week is all healthy people need.
Using Biotin to Support Diabetic Health
Diabetics often benefit from taking supplemental biotin, but taking biotin by itself is not enough. One study found that diabetics who took 9,000 mcg (about 30 times the amount of biotin needed to prevent biotin deficiency, but only 9 mg a day), saw their fasting blood sugar levels fall 45%. Another study found that diabetics taking 15,000 mcg of biotin every day didn't get any better blood sugar control at all.
What made the difference? It turns out that diabetics benefit from biotin when they also get alpha-lipoic acid, another B vitamin called nicotinamide, and L-carnitine. All of these substances are available from food, but it's more effective to make sure of getting enough of all four by taking:
- At least 400 mg of alpha-lipoic acid (or 200 mg of R-lipoic acid) every day,
- At least 5000 mcg of biotin every day,
- At least 200 mg of L-carnitine every day, and
- At up to 500 mg of nicotinamide every day (to make sure you take no more than about 1/10 of the amount that might activate a form of acne known as rosacea).
R-lipoic acid is more useful for this indication than alpha-lipoic acid, but the “impurities” in alpha-lipoic acid are not detrimental for diabetics. They just act outside cells rather than inside cells.
These four nutrients together do some remarkable things. They help the liver take sugar out of the bloodstream by increasing the production of glucokinase, an enzyme the liver uses to transform glucose into glycogen. They “pump up” muscles by the same process, which also gives muscles a reserve supply of energy. And they protect fat cells from the toxic effects of absorbing too much glucose, allowing them burn sugar rather than storing it as fat.
Taking these four nutrients sometimes does lower fasting blood sugar levels about 45%, but the effects are usually less dramatic. Start with lower doses and build up to as much as 5 times all of the nutritional supplements except nicotinamide as you confirm that your blood sugars do not go too low with the medications you take.
Biotin for Brittle Nails
Biotin is also useful for supporting recovery from brittle nails. Three studies have found that women who took 2.5 mg (that's 2500 micrograms) of biotin every day for six months grew 25% thicker nails that split less often. Biotin is not a complete cure for brittle nails, but it may be a major help.