Biotin (vitamin B7)
Biotin (or vitamin B7) is a colorless, water-soluble member of the B vitamin group.
Due to its beneficial effects on hair, skin and nails, biotin is also known as the ‘beauty vitamin’ – and DSM is one of its leading producers
Biotin can only be synthesized by bacteria, molds, yeasts or algae, and by certain plant species.
The richest sources of biotin are yeast, liver and kidney. Egg yolk, soybeans, nuts and cereals are also good sources (for example 100g of liver contains circa 100 micrograms (mcg) of biotin; whereas most other meats, vegetables and fruits only contain circa 1mcg biotin/100g).
Health functions of Biotin (Vitamin B7)
Biotin enables the body to:
- Convert food into glucose, which is used to produce energy
- Produce fatty acids and amino acids (the building blocks of protein)
- Activate protein/amino acid metabolism in the hair roots and fingernail cells.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which provides scientific advice to policy makers, has confirmed that clear health benefits have been established for the dietary intake of biotin (vitamin B7) in contributing to:
- Normal macronutrient metabolism
- Normal energy yielding metabolism
- The maintenance of normal skin and mucous membranes
- The normal function of the nervous system
- The maintenance of normal hair
- Normal psychological functions.
Vitamin B7 deficiency is extremely rare, mainly due to the fact that biotin is synthesized by beneficial bacteria in the human digestive tract.
Groups at risk of biotin deficiency include patients maintained on total intravenous nutrition, hemodialysis patients, diabetes mellitus patients, and patients with an impaired uptake of vitamins from food. In addition, pregnancy may be associated with marginal biotin deficiency.
Symptoms include hair loss, dry scaly skin, cracking in the corners of the mouth, swollen and painful tongue, dry eyes, loss of appetite, fatigue, insomnia, and depression.
Supplements and food fortification
Biotin can be added to many dietary supplements, infant milk formulas and baby foods - as well as various dietetic products.
This is usually done either in the form of crystalline D-biotin or brewer’s yeast. As a supplement, biotin is often included in combinations of the B vitamins.