Also known as Vitamin H, biotin is one of the B-complex vitamins and one of the most commonly used nutritional supplements, such as Younique, for a variety of uses. Cancer victims around the nation are finding faster results in hair growth after chemotherapy treatments. The vitamin plays the role of a co-factor in a number of important physiological processes and is necessary for energy production.
While biotin deficiency occurs rarely, it leads to a number of symptoms, including fatigue, hair loss, skin rash, dermatitis, and more serious symptoms of seizures, ataxia, and neurologic dysfunction. Generally, biotin deficiency occurs in individuals who are on parenteral nutrition devoid of biotin for a long time or who suffer from a rare hereditary condition that impairs biotin absorption and recycling.
This article comprises of a fact-based analysis of how biotin acts, what contributes to biotin deficiency, and scientific evidence that supports its use in hair loss and other hair problems.
How Does Biotin Act?
Biotin itself doesn’t influence hair growth or hair structure; instead, it acts as a co-factor in various enzymatic processes that are important for hair growth and hair strength. Research suggests that three different Biotin-dependent enzymes are found in hair roots, including propionyl-CoA carboxylase, pyruvate carboxylase, and beta-methylcrotonyl-CoA carboxylase. Therefore, deficiency of biotin can impact the proper functioning of these enzymes and lead to poor hair health.
Biotin Deficiency — Reasons and Solutions
Biotin deficiency is very rare considering the fact that it’s found in several foods in abundant amounts. However, there are some special conditions in which biotin deficiency can occur. These include:
- Prolonged intravenous feeding without biotin supplementation
- A rare condition in which biotin absorption and recycling is inhibited
- Use of raw egg white for years. Raw egg white contains and antimicrobial protein that prevents biotin absorption and leads to biotin deficiency.
The signs and symptoms of biotin deficiency vary greatly, ranging from mild rash to seizures and suppressed immunity. Other symptoms include depression, lethargy, tingling in the body extremities, seizures, and hair loss.
Can Biotin Help Prevent or Treat Hair Loss? — Evidence from Scientific Research
While the scientific evidence available regarding the usefulness of biotin in hair loss and other hair problems is inconclusive, there are several research studies that provide us an insight into the potential of biotin supplementation for the prevention and management of hair loss in biotin-deficient individuals.
A research study used biotin supplementation as a possible solution for drug-induced alopecia in rats. The study concluded that the dermatological disorder was reversed on supplementation of biotin. The same findings were observed in another study that inducted children using valproic acid as an anti-epileptic drug and experienced alopecia due to its prolonged intake. In 3 children, alopecia was completely reversed on oral biotin supplementation for three months.
Another study tested the same hypothesis on 75 children using valproic acid and carbamazepine as anti-epileptic drugs. The baseline analysis showed that biotinidase activity was not significantly different in children taking valproic acid and carbamazepine compared to the control group. On oral administration of 10mg of biotin per day, the biotinidase activity was improved and alopecia was revered in 3 female patients. The findings of these three studies suggest that biotin may have a role in the treatment of drug-induced alopecia in patients with low biotinidase activity at the baseline.
Another research study also tested biotin as a possible treatment of androgenetic alopecia in adult patients. Since the FDA-approved drugs for the condition, finasteride and minoxidil, have several side effects associated with them, using biotin can prove to be a viable option to treat the condition and avoid the side effects of the conventional drugs simultaneously.
A reputable research journal, International Journal of Women’s Health, also advocated biotin as a possible treatment for female pattern alopecia, but it mentions that the evidence available for its effectiveness in alopecia is anecdotal.
Biotin Supplements — Dosing Recommendations and Possible Side Effects
While scientific studies suggest that biotin supplementation can prove to be useful in alopecia resulting from biotin deficiency or reduced biotinidase activity, caution should be taken in order to avoid over dosage of the vitamin as some experts believe that too much biotin can also lead to hair loss.
Here is a precise list of biotin-rich foods which can be consumed to overcome the health issues caused by biotin deficiency:
- Eggs — While prolonged use of egg white can lead to biotin deficiency, eggs are still considered to be a good source of biotin and proteins.
- Nuts and Legumes — Almonds, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, and peanuts are also good sources of vitamin B7.
- Whole Grains — Taking whole grains, such as rice, oats, and bulgar can help fulfill the biotin needs of the body.
- Meat — Chicken, chicken liver, and oily fish are rich in biotin.
- Milk — Dairy products contain high concentrations of biotin and are suitable for individuals experiencing hair loss due to biotin deficiency.
While Biotin is an extremely safe vitamin, it is recommended not to exceed the recommended daily allowance of the vitamin as suggested by the FDA. Since the vitamin is water-soluble, it is excreted from the body rapidly and, therefore, the side effects of high doses of biotin are not clearly understood.
In adults aged 18 years or older, biotin supplements can be taken in the doses of 30 microgram per day. However, depending on an individual’s health status and specific health condition, a health care provider may suggest a higher or lower dose for treating biotin deficiency and reducing hair loss. For pregnant and nursing mothers, the dose may need to be increased to 35 micrograms.