Biotin is an essential nutrient with a big job. A part of the B vitamin family, biotin is required by many different metabolic processes in the body. You may recognize it as part of women's multivitamin formulas or hair and nail products. If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, your doctor may have recommended a vitamin that contains biotin, but you might not know why. Research has shown that biotin supplementation can be an important part of a developing baby's growth.
Biotin is part of the B vitamin family, although it is technically referred to as vitamin H, states UMM.edu. B vitamins are water soluble, meaning the body does not store them. They have to be assimilated from outside sources like food, supplements, or drinks on a daily basis. However, according to UMM.edu, biotin is made by bacteria in the intestines. All B vitamins, including biotin, work to fuel the body's metabolism, or the conversion of food into energy. Thus, biotin is important for breaking down proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and amino acids.
Biotin and Pregnancy
Biotin is often included in pre-natal multivitamins for good reason. According to UMM.edu, biotin is a critical nutrient for embryonic growth. Some studies have shown that biotin is important in palate and digit development. The journal "Congenital Anomalies" featured a study in April 2010 that investigated the effects of biotin on fetal development in mice. Dr. T. Watanabe and colleagues found that the growth of the palate, or upper jaw, was inhibited in pregnant mice fed a biotin deficient diet. Similarly, a study in "Teratology" in September of 1990 discovered that stunted growth in both digits and palates of mice fetuses were a consequence of a low-biotin diet. The researchers also concluded that the biotin deficiency was related to later development of cleft palate.
A deficiency in biotinidase, a congenital disorder, can also lead to problems from birth. UMM.edu states that this rare condition is mostly found in Saudi Arabia; however, it can lead to developmental delay, seizures, skin disorders, bald spots, and hearing loss. Fortunately, biotin supplementation may help reverse some of the symptoms associated with this disorder.
Dry, splitting, and thin nails may benefit from biotin supplementation. An article by M.W. Cashman and S.B. Sloan entitled "Nutrition and Nail Disease" was published in the journal of "Clinical Dermatology" in July 2010. In the article they discussed various diseases of the nails, commenting that biotin showed promise in the amelioration of nail disorders.
Hair and Skin
Like nails, hair and skin also need biotin for healthy formation and growth. In fact, according to UMM.edu, biotin combined with zinc and topical clobetasol propionate, has been used in the treatment of hair loss in both children and adults. Cradle cap may be caused by a deficiency in the vitamin, creating the scaly, flaky scalp in infants. A study featured in the "Seminars of Dermatology" in December 1991 discussed the skin manifestations of biotin deficiency. Dr. D.M. mock states in the article that "deficiency of biotin causes alopecia and a characteristic scaly, erythematous dermatitis distributed around body orifices."
Talk to your doctor about biotin, and how much is right for you. According to UMM.edu, needs vary with age. Infants up to six months of age are recommended to have five micrograms per day. Seven to 12 month olds need six micrograms, while toddlers up to three require 8 micrograms. Children ages four to eight and nine to 13 need 12 and 20 micrograms, respectively. Adolescents require 25 while adults 19 and older should get 30 micrograms per day. If you are breastfeeding, the site recommends 35 micrograms per day.