Biotin: The Benefits and Side Effects of Vitamin H

Photo credit: Bigstockphoto
Photo credit: Bigstockphoto

Biotin, or vitamin H, is a type of B vitamin that helps the body convert carbohydrates into glucose. Complex vitamin B is needed by the body to break down fat and protein from food. This leads to healthy skin, hair, and eyes. Vitamin B also helps normalize nervous system functions and repair joints.

Biotin is one of the more popular types of B vitamins because many cosmetic products contain this compound. Biotin is marketed as hair and nail strengthener. And just like all types of B vitamins, biotin is water soluble. This means the body does not store vitamin B. However, certain bacteria in the intestinal tract could produce biotin for the body. Pregnant women, in particular, will benefit from taking biotin because this compound promotes healthy embryonic growth during pregnancy.

Although it’s rare for people to be deficient in biotin, it does happen. Unfortunately, detecting biotin-deficiency in patients is very hard. People who are biotin deficient will exhibit symptoms such as scaly skin; dry, cracking lips; red, swollen tongue; and severe fatigue. Other serious biotin deficiency symptoms include depression.

According to several researchers, patients suffering from Crohn’s disease—as well as those who are getting their nutrition through IV or taking anti-seizure medications—have higher chances of being biotin deficient.

Benefits of Biotin

Improve Blood Sugar Control

Some researches show that taking a combination of biotin and chromium picolinate may result in better blood sugar control in patients suffering from diabetes.

A separate study in 2008 by scientists from the from Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews conclude that taking biotin and chromium picolinate in conjunction with anti-diabetes drugs may improve blood control in obese or overweight people suffering from type 2 diabetes. The study tracked 447 diabetes patients.

Some were given biotin and chromium picolinate meds and others were given placebo with anti-diabetes drugs for 90 days. Those who took biotin and chromium picolinate medication along with their anti-diabetes drugs saw an improvement in their glucose level compared to those who were fed with placebo and anti-diabetes drugs alone.

Another study by experts from the Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics found that after taking biotin and chromium picolinate meds for four weeks, patients suffering from diabetes saw remarkable improvement in their blood sugar level. This study included 43 patients with poorly controlled diabetes. The same study suggests that taking biotin and chromium picolinate meds could also help lower cholesterol levels in the body.

Healthy Hair and Nails

Again, because biotin is marketed as a nail and hair straightener, it’s a popular ingredient in many cosmetics and beauty products. Some studies suggest that biotin helps minimize the risk of developing brittle nails, prevents hair loss, and triggers the growth of new hair in balding people. In fact, biotin is being used to treat a severe type of hair loss condition called alopecia areata.

Alleviate Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms

Peripheral neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that affects the arms, feet, legs, and hands. It’s common among those suffering from severe diabetes or those undergoing dialysis for kidney failure. Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include muscle weakness, trouble walking, muscle pain, and tingling or burning sensation in the limbs.

Biotin is known to help alleviate symptoms of peripheral neuropathy for those undergoing dialysis for kidney failure as well as those suffering from diabetes. However, more research is needed to support this claim.

Photo credit: Bigstockphoto
Photo credit: Bigstockphoto

Side Effects of Biotin

Cystic Acne

Too much biotin could lead to severe acne around the jawline and chin. Cycstic acne triggered by too much biotin in the system is easily treated by ceasing the vitamin intake. The acne will go away on its own. To prevent breakouts from taking biotin, make sure you take less than the recommended dosage of biotin. For example, taking less than 2500 mcg of biotin and drinking plenty of water will help prevent acne breakout from biotin. However, you will need to experiment with different dosages to determine which amount will work best for your skin type.

Allergic Reaction

Some people are allergic to biotin. It’s rare but it does happen. As such, people who have known allergy to cobalt or B12 cobalamin could be allergic to biotin as well. Symptoms of biotin allergy include itchy rash, nausea, chest pain, and swelling of the face and throat. Seek medical attention immediately if you are exhibiting these symptoms!


Although biotin helps in healthy embryonic growth in pregnant women, it could also cause miscarriage in some women. There is no known reason for this and no tests have been performed on human subjects to find out why this happens. It’s important to check with your doctor first before taking any medication or vitamins when you’re expecting.

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