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Biotin is one of the B-complex vitamins that acts as coenzyme in many body processes. It is also called coenzyme R, vitamin B7 or vitamin H.

B-vitamins like biotin work as coenzymes to help the cells convert carbohydrates from food into simple sugars, which the body uses as fuel for energy. They also help metabolize proteins and fat so that the cells can utilize these nutrients for various functions.

Like other vitamins, biotin is a substance that is not produced by the body and must be obtained from foods. It is also water soluble, as other B vitamins are, and is therefore not stored in the body for long periods. However, since the body needs it only in small amounts, people who eat a regular, balanced diet are not likely to suffer from biotin deficiency.

Biotin Food Sources

You are most likely to have enough biotin in your diet if you eat cooked egg yolks, sardines, nuts, soybeans and other legumes, bananas, cauliflower, mushrooms and brewer's yeast. However, eating raw egg whites can interfere with biotin absorption, while food processing can destroy it.

The body needs only a small amount of biotin, so unless you have an eating disorder or condition that causes you to eat a nutrient deficient diet, there is no absolute need to take supplements. Some evidence suggests that cigarette smoking is associated with biotin deficiency, so it may be best to quit smoking to stay healthy, rather than take supplements to counteract the effects of smoking.

Biotin Supplements

Biotin is often included in multivitamin preparations used to supplement the diet. Biotin supplements are used for treating people who are at risk for biotin deficiency such as pregnant women, those suffering from malnutrition or rapid weight loss, and patients who are on long-term tube feeding. Biotin is also taken to treat brittle nails, hair loss, diabetes, seborrheic dermatitis, and even mild depression. Because of its possible role in strengthening the nails and the hair, biotin is sometimes also found as an ingredient in various hair and skin care products. However, there is insufficient evidence regarding its effectiveness for these effects.

Although some advertisers claim that biotin can help you lose weight, there is no solid evidence that this is true. Some people believe that since biotin helps break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins, one is likely to lose weight by taking supplemental doses of the vitamin. At best, the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates biotin as likely effective for treating biotin deficiency, which is manifested by thinning hair and skin changes (red rashes and scaliness around the nose, mouth and eyes.

There is no recommended dose for biotin, but the adequate intake for adults is between 30-35 mcg, which is easily obtained from a healthy, balanced diet.

It is considered safe at a wide range of doses, and is considered non-toxic even at high doses. Consult your doctor if you are taking other drugs to make sure no drug interactions occur.

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