Biotin is one of a handful of B vitamins that is specifically responsible for the catalysis of glucose, fatty acids, and amino acids that are converted into energy. Its water solubility makes it a crucial cofactor for five carboxylases namely acetyl-CoA carboxylase 2, pyruvate carboxylase, acetyl-CoA carboxylase 1, methylcrotonyl-CoA carboxylase, and propionyl-CoA carboxylase. Besides that, it helps in cell signalling, histone modifications and gene regulation. In gene regulation, it acts by positively altering the factors of transcription.
Biotin is naturally found in proteins like meat, fish, liver, and eggs, vegetables like spinach, broccoli and sweet potatoes, and seeds and nuts. It can also be synthesised in laboratories and used as dietary supplements. It can be found in B-complex supplements, multi-mineral and multi-vitamin supplements.
Biotin intake is low among people with alcohol dependence, expectant and breastfeeding women and biotin deficiency- a genetic disorder.
Biotin deficiency can only be determined by symptoms. The levels vary depending on the age of the subject and the fluid measured. For example, biotin concentration in adults is 133–329 pmol/L in serum while in urine, it’s 18–127 nmol/24 hours. These symptoms include thinning of hair, conjunctivitis, aciduria, depression, fatigue, red scale-esque rashes on prominent facial features such as nose and eyes, brittle nails, hypotonia, a tingling sensation on arms and feet, and hallucinations.
Both men and women above 14 years, for the purposes of biotin adequacy, i.e. Adequate Intake, in their bodies, should take 25mcg per day while those above 19 should take 30mcg per day. However, as a general precaution, consult your doctor before taking any supplement.
While it is safe for expectant and breast-feeding women to take biotin, it is highly recommended that they strictly adhere to the doctor’s recommended dose. Biotin has been proven to interfere with laboratory results. It’s best to avoid taking biotin before blood tests since it gives false results on both extremes.