What is biotin?
Biotin (vitamin B7) is a vitamin that is essential for metabolic processes in the body that produce ATP – cellular energy. Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that is removed from the body via the kidneys; because of this, the body requires biotin in small, regular doses. There is no recommended daily allowance for biotin, however, the Institute of Medicine recommends 30mg per day for adults.
Biotin supplement review – What are the claims?
Although complete biotin deficiency is very rare, there is some evidence that ‘marginal biotin deficiency’ may occur, particularly during pregnancy. In addition, high-dose biotin has been studied as a potential treatment for some medical conditions.
Biotin deficiency during pregnancy
Not only has biotin deficiency been identified as a possibility during pregnancy, but research has found evidence to suggest that the biotin deficiency that occurs during pregnancy may be teratogenic. The results of a research study of pregnant women suggested that increasing biotin intake to 2-3 times the adequate intake amount may be necessary during pregnancy.
Biotin for Multiple Sclerosis
A clinical trial evaluating the effects of high-dose biotin in patients with multiple sclerosis reported clinical improvements in the majority of patients. In this study, patients were given 100-300mg doses of biotin per day. The study reported that these doses of biotin were associated with diarrhea in some patients, but that the treatment appeared to be safe. The researchers suggest that biotin might be beneficial for multiple sclerosis since it is involved in the processes necessary for the production of myelin.
To confirm these initial results, a larger, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial tested high-dose biotin in patients with progressive multiple sclerosis. This time, patients were treated for one year with 300mg of biotin per day (split into three separate doses), or a placebo control. This study reported disability reversal in 13 of the patients taking biotin. The study also reported improvements in disability scale rankings in patients taking biotin compared with the patients who were not taking biotin.
Conversely, one study reported that there were no improvements in patients taking biotin supplements for one year, and the researchers suggest that the biotin may have even caused some patients to worsen, which may have been a result of the increased metabolic demands placed on the nervous system due to increase biotin levels.
Biotin for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
As a direct result of the positive effects seen in clinical studies using biotin to treat patients with multiple sclerosis, researchers investigated whether these supplements might also be successful in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The rationale was that the involvement of the motor neurons in both of these conditions might be the common link since it is thought that the effect seen in MS patients occurs due to alterations to energy levels in the motor neurons.
A pilot study that included 30 ALS patients was carried out, during which patients were given either 300mg per day of the biotin supplement MD1003 or a placebo for six months. The results of the trial supported the safety and tolerability of the treatment, however, did not report any differences in ALSFRS-R (a rating of the severity of ALS) between the two groups. Since this was a small pilot study, the researchers suggest that larger studies are justified, as the treatment was found to be safe.
Biotin for hair and nail growth
Biotin supplements might be most known for the claim that they promote hair and nail growth. However, there is limited research that supports the use of biotin for this purpose. In fact, the studies that report improvements in hair and nail growth have been those that have investigated biotin supplements in patients who have a medical condition that results in poor hair or nail growth. In these cases, biotin supplementation was able to reverse these negative effects. Healthy people are most likely able to acquire enough biotin from their diet, and are therefore unlikely to require biotin supplements.
Are there any side effects of taking biotin supplements?
Taking regular doses of biotin supplements may cause nausea, stomach aches, or diarrhea. Taking supplements could pose a risk if you are taking any medications, have underlying health issues, or are taking the wrong amount. Always consult your doctor before taking vitamins or supplements.
Mock D. M. (2017). Biotin: From Nutrition to Therapeutics. The Journal of nutrition, 147(8), 1487–1492. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.116.238956
Institute of Medicine Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes and Its Panel on Folate OBV, and Choline. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. National Academies Press (US), Washington 1998
Czeizel AE, Dudás I. Prevention of the first occurrence of neural-tube defects by periconceptional vitamin supplementation. N Engl J Med 1992;327:1832–5.
Mock DM. Marginal biotin deficiency is common in normal human pregnancy and is highly teratogenic in the mouse. J Nutr 2009;139:154–7
Mock DM. Adequate intake of biotin in pregnancy: why bother? J Nutr 2014;144:1885–6.).
Mock DM, Quirk JG, Mock NI. Marginal biotin deficiency during normal pregnancy. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;75:295–9
Perry CA, West AA, Gayle A, Lucas LK, Yan J, Jiang X, Malysheva O, Caudill MA. Pregnancy and lactation alter biomarkers of biotin metabolism in women consuming a controlled diet. J Nutr 2014;144:1977–84.
Juntas-Morales R, Pageot N, Bendarraz A, et al. High-dose pharmaceutical grade biotin (MD1003) in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: A pilot study. EClinicalMedicine. 2020;19:100254. Published 2020 Jan 27. doi:10.1016/j.eclinm.2019.100254
Sedel F, Papeix C, Bellanger A, Touitou V, Lebrun-Frenay C, Galanaud D, Gout O, Lyon-Caen O, Tourbah A. High doses of biotin in chronic progressive multiple sclerosis: a pilot study. Mult Scler Relat Disord 2015;4:159–69
Tourbah A, Lebrun-Frenay C, Edan G, Clanet M, Papeix C, Vukusic S, De Seze J, Debouverie M, Gout O, Clavelou P, et al. . MD1003 (high-dose biotin) for the treatment of progressive multiple sclerosis: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Mult Scler 2016;22:1719–31
Birnbaum G, Stulc J. High dose biotin as treatment for progressive multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2017;18:141-143. doi:10.1016/j.msard.2017.09.030
Patel, D. P., Swink, S. M., & Castelo-Soccio, L. (2017). A Review of the Use of Biotin for Hair Loss. Skin appendage disorders, 3(3), 166–169. https://doi.org/10.1159/000462981
Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay