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Biotin (vitamin H) health benefits

Siski Green / 02 February 2021

Biotin, also known as vitamin H or vitamin B7, is frequently taken for hair, skin and nail health. It's found in a wide range of foods, although cannot be stored by the body.

Cheese on a board with a grater
Small quantities of biotin can be found in dairy products

One of those confusing nutrients that has several names – biotin goes by the names of vitamin H and vitamin B7 too – this is one of the nutrients you need to ingest regularly to maintain optimum levels.

What is biotin used for?

Biotin is essential for health, keeping your eye, hair and skin in good shape, as well as being important for brain health and possibly liver function too. It has an important role in tissue growth, along with relieving inflammation in joints and muscles. Biotin is also often touted as being a useful supplement to take if you want to improve hair health.

What do we know about biotin?

Biotin deficiency is so rare that researchers haven’t been able to ascertain a RDA of biotin – people get enough of it via food, around 30mcg per day. It would be quite hard to have a diet that contained no biotin since it’s found in such a wide variety of foods, including eggs, legumes, fruits, vegetables and yeast.

What’s the best way to take biotin?

As biotin is water-soluble, if you ingest more than your body needs it will simply pass out of your body via your urine. For this reason, you can safely up your intake via supplements or drops.

Does biotin really work?

Biotin works really well at keeping you healthy – but it’s not a nutrient you can simply ‘take more of’ to see extra benefit. Most people get plenty in their diets already so won’t see a difference when taking a supplement.

However, while most people are unlikely to notice a big difference when upping their intake of biotin, mainly because they are likely getting enough already, there is some evidence that taking 2.5mg of biotin a day can help strengthen brittle nails.

Similarly, those who suffer with dry, damaged hair and skin might find that biotin supplements help, but research suggests that it works best in those who have a level of biotin deficiency – something that is not common in the general population. 

There has been research that suggests patients with diabetes may benefit from taking biotin – with it helping to lower blood sugar levels – but the benefits have only been seen when biotin is taken in conjunction with chromium, not biotin alone. 

Where can I get biotin?

Aside from getting biotin via food sources, which is the best and easiest way, you can also get biotin supplements from healthfood stores or supermarkets.

Food sources of biotin:

How long does biotin take to work?

As most people are not deficient in biotin you may not see any changes at all, but if your levels are low you can expect to see improvements within a year (thickening and strengthening of nails, for example).

What are the side effects of taking biotin?

Most people report no side effects, although in rare situations you may experience nausea or digestive problems.

Are there any contraindications when taking biotin?

Biotin can change the way your liver breaks down medications, so check with your doctor before upping your intake dramatically. Eating foods containing reasonably high levels of biotin should not be a concern, however.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.