Health Theme August 2018: The role of Biotin / Vitamin B7
How much do you know about Biotin? Taken by a wealth of celebrities including Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian and Vanessa Hudgens for its hair and nail-strengthening properties, this vitamin has grown in popularity in recent years.
Commonly known as Vitamin B7, Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin found in bodily enzymes which metabolise fat and carbohydrates.
It therefore plays an important role in cell growth and in maintaining a steady blood sugar level, and also assists in various reactions, including the movement of carbon dioxide around the body. It is often recommended as a dietary supplement for strengthening hair and nails, and as such is often found in many cosmetics and health products for the hair and skin.
Due to its key role within the body, the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) recommends a dose of 30 micrograms of biotin each day, from a range of food sources including beef or pork, egg, yeast, whole wheat bread, avocado, salmon, cauliflower or cheese. Raw egg whites however contain a particular protein that blocks the absorption of biotin, so people who regularly consume a large number of eggs may become biotin-deficient.
Those suffering from biotin deficiency disorders therefore are often prescribed biotin supplements – up to as much as 300 milligrams per day for Multiple Sclerosis patients, for whom the B group vitamins are vital in managing symptoms. Biotin in particular is very useful in cases of progress MS because it supports nerve cell metabolism.
There are also some inherited metabolic disorders which, due to a deficiency in the enzymes which process biotin, prevent the body’s cells from using it effectively.
Usually, however, biotin deficiency occurs simply from an absence of the vitamin in the diet, particularly in breastfeeding mothers. Symptoms of deficiency include:
- Dermatitis in the form of a scaly red rash
- Neurological symptoms in adults including depression, lethargy, hallucination, numbness and tingling of the extremities
- Brittle and thin fingernails
- Hair loss (alopecia)
Supplements may also be recommended to those suffering from alcoholism, patients who have had partial removal of their stomach, burn patients, epileptics, elderly individuals, athletes, and pregnant women, who have a higher risk of biotin deficiency. It is estimated that as many as 20% of people consume Biotin-containing supplements.
While biotin supplements may help pregnant women and some people with other health disorders, it is of course incredibly important to eat a balanced and healthy diet that includes all the vitamins and minerals necessary for normal body function.
Take time to consider how you can incorporate appropriate and safe amounts of biotin into your daily diet.
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