Vitamin B7, also known as Biotin is one of the water-soluble and highly essential B-complex vitamins. Termed as Vitamin H where the letter ‘H’ represents’ Haar und Haut’, which are German words for "hair and skin", it is pivotal for a wide range of metabolic processes in the body including enzyme synthesis for several crucial metabolic pathways’ metabolism of fats and carbohydrates, as well as synthesis of amino acids which are necessary for protein synthesis.

Primarily, Biotin is a type of co-enzyme that is required for the synthesis of fatty acids which are molecules found in fats and oils; glucogenesis, i.e. synthesis of glucose from amino acids and fatty acids; and synthesis of leucine, a quintessential amino acid that the human body cannot generate on its own.

Also Read: Vitamin B6: Functions, Food Sources, Deficiencies and Toxicity

Biotin is synthesized by only bacteria, molds, yeasts, algae, and certain plants. The human body cannot synthesise biotin on its own and has to depend on outer dietary sources to replenish the required amount. It is extremely essential in maintaining good hair, skin, and nails. It improves neural functioning and helps in the metabolism of nutrients.

Biotin was discovered in the year 1931 by German scientist Paul Gyorgy when he extracted the compound from the liver and named in Vitamin H. It is also listed as one of the safest and effective medicines in the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines.

Vitamin B7

Functions

Although Biotin cannot be absorbed by hair or skin, it contributes towards healthy nails, skin and hair, and hence plays a key role and feature in many cosmetic and health products used for enhancing the skin and hair quality.

Biotin is extremely essential for hair, skin and nails. It improves the texture of the skin by preventing oxidative damage. It also rejuvenates and moisturises the skin, reduces various signs of ageing like wrinkles, fine lines, spots, dark circles etc, making it crystal clear. In case of the hair, biotin is pivotal for strengthening the hair from the root to the tips. It retains the natural colour of the hair and prevents breakage and hair fall. It locks the moisture in the hair strands and prevents the hair from turning brittle. Daily intake of food and supplements containing biotin is also beneficial for nails. It is also extremely beneficial in improving nail quality and preventing brittle nails.

Also Read: 7 Ultimate Vitamins To Nourish Your Skin And Hair

Several kinds of scientific researches conclude that biotin holds high significance in controlling the release of insulin from the beta-pancreatic cells, thereby reducing blood sugar levels in the body and keeping diabetes under control and therefore helpful for people suffering from Type 1 or Type 2 forms of diabetes or diabetic neuropathy.

Also Read: Diabetic Neuropathy: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Vitamin B7 is also essential in improving the cognitive functioning of the brain. It helps in repairing the brain cells and in turn, is used for treating symptoms associated with psychotic conditions like brain fog, depression, schizophrenia, hallucinations, etc. it also treats biotin responsive basal ganglia disease and hence promotes healthy functioning of the nervous system.

Biotin is helpful in the case of people suffering from kidney problems. It also effectively reduces muscle cramps and pain during dialysis. It is also beneficial for improving vision and treating conditions like seborrheic dermatitis, cradle cap in children and auto-immune diseases like multiple sclerosis in adults. It is also extremely crucial in promoting the health of the baby in pregnant women and even after birth.

Vitamin B7, also known as biotin, plays a key role in maintaining the operations of various organs in the body such as the eyes, kidneys and even in pregnancy, besides its major function of uplifting skin, hair and nail health.

The B complex vitamins, which include B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, as well as folic acid and biotin, significantly lower chronic inflammation in the system and preserve optimal concentrations of the vital amino acid – homocysteine. This helps prevent health complications in blood vessels, retina damage and also lowers the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Biotin thus enhances eye wellness and promotes healthy vision in the later years.

Biotin, along with the other vitamins in the B complex group, are all water-soluble and hence do not accumulate in the system and induce damage to the renal tissues. They also facilitate optimal metabolism and smooth digestion processes. In this manner, ensuring sufficient intake of biotin and other B vitamins helps in detoxifying the body and augments kidney health.

While folic acid is the foremost B vitamin pivotal for pregnant women, biotin is also essential to ensure requisite nutrition for expecting mothers. Since the body breaks down biotin more rapidly during the gestation phase, doctors and medical experts have established that pregnant women need a minimum of 30 mcg (micrograms) of biotin per day, to avert birth defects in the developing foetus as well as to alleviate fatigue and depression in the expecting mother.



Food Sources

Like any other water-soluble vitamins, this vitamin biotin is not prepared within the body and gets washed away, hence one should consume a diet rich in vitamin B7 food options to prevent the deficiency syndromes. Hence to fulfil the dietary needs one has to strictly depend on external food sources and supplements. And much to our respite, Mother Nature has blessed us with bountiful amounts of natural food sources laden with vitamin B1 that suffices our daily requirements.

Following are the food sources high in vitamin B7:

Vegetables include carrot, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, and sweet potato.

Fruits include bananas, avocados and raspberries.

Nuts and seeds include almonds, peanuts, walnuts and seeds such as sunflowers seeds.

Whole cereals like rice, wheat and oats.

Dairy sources - milk and cheddar cheese.

Animal sources include fish varieties like salmon, tuna, sardines, oysters, eggs and meat.

Deficiencies

Although quite rare, biotin deficiency mostly occurs due to a lack of this quintessential ingredient in the daily diet. Regular consumption of egg white for several months can lead to biotin deficiency due to the avidin content in eggs. Avidin is a type of protein found in eggs, which binds tightly with the biotin in the intestines and prevents them to get absorbed by the body or functioning properly.

Some of the signs of biotin deficiency are characterized by loss of hair, dry brittle nails, scaly, red rash around the eyes, nose, and mouth, dry eyes, scaly dry skin causing dermatitis, conjunctivitis, sore tongue, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. Other symptoms are related to psychological or neurological problems, which include depression, insomnia, hallucinations, lethargy, numbness and tingling sensation in the arms and legs. 

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People who are suffering from hereditary biotin deficiency have a weakened immune system, and increased susceptibility to bacterial and fungal infections. Pregnant women are at higher risk of suffering from biotin deficiency, hence should have a well-balanced diet to evade the deficiency syndromes.

Toxicity

Although, an extremely quintessential ingredient, it is found that high doses of biotin through supplements or food sources can have adverse effects on health. There is no official recommended daily allowance guidelines for B7. Nevertheless, several studies suggest that adults should take 30 mcg of biotin per day. Anything more than that can cause skin allergies characterized by rashes, flushing and itchiness. which when reaches the chest can also lead to anaphylaxis. Other symptoms of overdosage due to biotin include excessive thirst, urination, insomnia and alarmingly low level of vitamin B6 and vitamin C. Since it is useful for the metabolism of glucose, people suffering from diabetes should consult a doctor before taking any biotin supplements as overdosage can be harmful. 

In certain cases, excessive intake of supplements can also cause eosinophilic pleuropericardial effusion, which occurs when blood and air enter the pleural cavity space around the lungs resulting in chronic pulmonary infection.

Conclusion

An extremely beneficial nutrient, this water-soluble vitamin is highly significant for a host of health benefits like metabolising fat, improving skin and eyesight, maintaining a healthy nervous system and managing diabetes. When taken with prior consultation with a doctor one can steer clear of toxic effects and reap the benefits.