If you’ve been checking out for a vitamin lately in your drugstore, you’ve probably run into one of the coolest vitamin in town: biotin. Beauty guru and even celebrities have been raving about its amazing effects.

What is Biotin?

It is a B-complex vitamin that is found in many foods including eggs, milk, nuts, grains, soy, walnuts, whole grains, beans and legumes. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Biotin helps with the metabolism of fatty acids, glucose and amino acids in your body (1). It basically helps turn the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in the food you eat into the energy you need. Amazing, right? And because it is water soluble, it does stay in the body and flushes right of you when you pee. It is a group of key nutrients needed for healthy metabolic, nerve, digestive and cardiovascular functions (2). It plays a role in gene regulation – process that controls how your genes get expressed and cell signaling – the process that coordinates the actions of all of your body’s cells (3). Beth Warren, a registered dietitian nutritionist and the author of Secrets of a Kosher Girl, said that Biotin helps maintain the normal function of your nervous system. And it is touted as a beauty additive which plays a role in creating healthy nails, skin, and hair (4).

But do you really need it? Of course you do!

5 Benefits of Biotin:

  1. It promotes hair, nails, and skin health. Biotin is recommended for hair and nails health. Since biotin deficiency can lead to thinning of the hair, proponents claim that taking biotin supplements or using biotin-enriched shampoo and hair products can thicken hair and stimulate hair and nail growth (5). NYC dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said that Biotin is important for energy production and known to improve hair health and helps keeps nails and skin healthy. Brittle nails can easily become chipped, split or cracked. In a study involving eight people with brittle nails, nail thickness improved by 25% in all participants and nail splitting was also reduced after they were given 2.5 mg of biotin per day for 6 to 15 months (6). Biotin is also often associated with increased hair growth and healthier, stronger hair (7). While it is often marketed as an alternative treatment for hair loss, only people with an actual biotin deficiency get significant benefit from supplementing (8). Biotin deficiency results in a number of skin issues including cracking skin on the sides of the mouth, rashes and cradle cap (9). Therefore, Biotin supplements are often promoted skin health (10).
  2. It supports your proper metabolism. Biotin helps to break down carbohydrates more easily, hence, it can be very useful for reducing surplus fat from our body and allows one to maintain a healthy weight (11). Biotin plays a pivotal role in supporting metabolic function and works as a co-enzyme to help break down food which is further accelerated when biotin is paired with chromium picolinate (12). Here, your metabolic rate is elevated and food breaks down faster which is why there’s a link to biotin and accelerating weight loss (13). While this is true, it is still important to pair the supplement with a healthy diet and exercise regime to make sure you meet your slim-down goals.
  3. It maintains a healthy cardiovascular system. Biotin is effective for overall functioning of the heart and lowers the risk of heart disease (14). It reduces the cholesterol level in our body, which causes major conditions such as heart attacks, atherosclerosis, and strokes. In a study involving animals, Biotin plays a role in lowering cholesterol in animal studies. Research shows that this vitamin can help lower LDL or bad cholesterol levels while increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein, otherwise known as the good cholesterol (15). Since B complex vitamins are also important in reducing inflammation and plaque buildup in arteries, biotin can also help lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes (16).
  4. It regulates blood sugar. Biotin is useful for balancing our blood sugar levels as it stimulates the insulin production needed for balancing the glucose levels (17). For those who struggle with maintaining a healthy blood sugar level, biotin can be particularly helpful. Studies show that it has the power to lower blood glucose levels in people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes by stimulating the secretion of insulin (18). For diabetics suffering from nerve damage due to enzyme buildup, biotin can become necessary for certain enzyme activity for low levels of this vitamin can lead to dangerous levels of buildup. Biotin can get enzyme activity back on track and help some diabetics prevent additional nerve damage (19). A 2005 study reveals that Biotin deficiency has been linked to impaired glucose tolerance and decreased utilization of glucose (20).
  5. It maintains a healthy immune system. Biotin is effective for white blood cell development and a deficiency of these vitamins can lead to an impaired immune system (21). It is essential for the development of white blood cells – the defense mechanisms of your immune system – and work to protect your body against viruses and bacteria that make you sick (22). Your body actually contains two different types of white blood cells, called TH1 and TH2 and these two need to balance each other. Otherwise, it can push you into the inflammatory autoimmune spectrum, putting you at risk for a number of health problems. Biotin increases the production of TH1 cytokines like IL-1β and IFN-γ, important for extracting an immune response to fight off bacterial and viral infections (23). Cytokines are messenger proteins of the immune system that are secreted by immune cells in response to stimulation by antigens (24). After secretion, cytokines bind to receptors on the surface of target cells such as T cells and natural killer cells (25).

Final Thoughts on Biotin

True enough that Biotin has a lot of benefits and can be really affordable and readily available in the store. If you want to take a biotin supplement, that’s probably all right, but it is better to mention it to your doctor first to make sure there are no potential issues with your health. And if you’re having a biotin deficiency, your doctor, is the first person to go to. He will direct you which supplements might be right for you and how much dosage is appropriate to your needs.