Biotin is an essential B vitamin, also known as vitamin H. It’s a water-soluble vitamin that’s not stored in the body and must be continually replaced. Supports the breakdown of fatty acids into energy for the body.
Supports the action of enzymes that affect the skin and intestinal tract. May help strengthen brittle nails.
Biotin, also known as vitamin H or coenzyme R, is a water-soluble B-vitamin (vitamin B7). It is composed of a ureido (tetrahydroimidizalone) ring fused with a tetrahydrothiophene ring. A valeric acid substituent is attached to one of the carbon atoms of the tetrahydrothiophene ring. Biotin is a coenzyme for carboxylase enzymes, involved in the synthesis of fatty acids, isoleucine, and valine, and in gluconeogenesis.
Biotin is necessary for cell growth, the production of fatty acids, and the metabolism of fats and amino acids. It plays a role in the citric acid cycle, which is the process by which biochemical energy is generated during aerobic respiration. Biotin not only assists in various metabolic reactions, but also helps to transfer carbon dioxide. It may also be helpful in maintaining a steady blood sugar level. Biotin is often recommended as a dietary supplement for strengthening hair and nails, though scientific data supporting this usage are weak. Nevertheless, biotin is found in many cosmetics and health products for the hair and skin.
Biotin deficiency is rare because, in general, intestinal bacteria produce biotin in excess of the body's daily requirements. For that reason, statutory agencies in many countries, for example the USA and Australia, do not prescribe a recommended daily intake of biotin. However, a number of metabolic disorders exist in which an individual's metabolism of biotin is abnormal, such as deficiency in the holocarboxylase synthetase enzyme which covalently links biotin onto the carboxylase, where the biotin acts as a cofactor.
Sources of biotin
Biotin is consumed from a wide range of food sources in the diet, but few are particularly rich sources. Foods with a relatively high biotin content include Swiss chard, raw egg yolk (however, the consumption of avidin-containing egg whites with egg yolks minimizes the effectiveness of egg yolk's biotin in one's body), liver, Saskatoon berries, leafy green vegetables, and peanuts. The dietary biotin intake in Western populations has been estimated to be 35 to 70 μg/d (143–287 nmol/d).
Biotin is also available in supplement form and can be found in most pharmacies. The synthetic process developed by Leo Sternbach and Moses Wolf Goldberg in the 1940s uses fumaric acid as a starting material.
Factors that affect biotin requirements
The frequency of marginal biotin status is not known, but the incidence of low circulating biotin levels in alcoholics has been found to be much greater than in the general population. Also, relatively low levels of biotin have been reported in the urine or plasma of patients who have had a partial gastrectomy or have other causes of achlorhydria, burn patients, epileptics, elderly individuals, and athletes. Pregnancy and lactation may be associated with an increased demand for biotin. In pregnancy, this may be due to a possible acceleration of biotin catabolism, whereas, in lactation, the higher demand has yet to be elucidated. Recent studies have shown marginal biotin deficiency can be present in human gestation, as evidenced by increased urinary excretion of 3-hydroxyisovaleric acid, decreased urinary excretion of biotin and bisnorbiotin, and decreased plasma concentration of biotin. Additionally, smoking may further accelerate biotin catabolism in women.
Biotin deficiency is rare and mild, and can be addressed with supplementation. It is caused by the consumption of raw egg whites (two or more daily for several months) due the avidin they contain, a protein which binds extremely strongly with biotin, making it unavailable. Such regimens have produced the only examples of biotin deficiency serious enough to produce symptoms.
The first demonstration of biotin deficiency in animals was observed in animals fed raw egg white. Rats fed egg white protein were found to develop dermatitis, alopecia, and neuromuscular dysfunction. This syndrome, called egg white injury, was discovered to be caused by a glycoprotein found in egg white, avidin. Avidin denatures upon heating (cooking), while the biotin remains intact.
Symptoms of biotin deficiency include:
-Hair loss (alopecia)
-Dermatitis in the form of a scaly, red rash around the eyes, nose, mouth, and genital area.
-Neurological symptoms in adults, such as depression, lethargy, hallucination, and numbness and tingling of the extremities
The characteristic facial rash, together with an unusual facial fat distribution, has been termed the "biotin-deficient face" by some experts. Individuals with hereditary disorders of biotin deficiency have evidence of impaired immune system function, including increased susceptibility to bacterial and fungal infections.
Pregnant women tend to have a high risk of biotin deficiency. Nearly half of pregnant women have abnormal increases of 3-hydroxyisovaleric acid, which reflects reduced status of biotin. Several studies have reported this possible biotin deficiency during the pregnancy may cause infants' congenital malformations, such as cleft palate. Mice fed with dried raw egg to induce biotin deficiency during the gestation resulted in up to 100% incidence of the infants' malnourishment. Infants and embryos are more sensitive to the biotin deficiency. Therefore, even a mild level of the mother's biotin deficiency that does not reach the appearance of physiological deficiency signs may cause a serious consequence in the infants.
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