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Vitamin H (Biotin)

Vitamin H, more commonly known as biotin, enables the body to use the energy in food. Biotin is also important to cell health and reproduction. People with diabetes may improve their blood sugar control with biotin. Hair and nails also need biotin to be healthy.


Here is a partial list of the health problems biotin helps treat.


bulletDiabetes. Biotin supplements may help improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes by improving insulin usage and increasing blood sugar usage.
bulletHair and nails. Biotin supplements may improve thin or splitting toenails or fingernails and improve hair health. Biotin has also been used to combat premature graying of hair, though it is likely to be useful only for those with a low biotin level.
bulletGenetic problems. Some babies cannot use biotin well and need biotin supplements.
bulletSkin problems. Some skin disorders, such as "cradle cap," improve with biotin supplements.
bulletMuscular dystrophy. Biotin has been used as part of the treatment for certain types of this muscle-related illness.
bulletNutritional health. Biotin has been used for people in weight-loss programs to help them metabolize fat more efficiently.
bulletInfections. Biotin has been used to treat intestinal candidiasis (a yeast infection).


Dietary Sources

These foods contain a significant amount of biotin.


bulletEgg yolks
bulletBrewer's yeast
bulletWhole grain products


Food-processing techniques can destroy biotin. Less-processed versions of the foods listed above will contain more biotin.

Other Forms

Biotin is available in multivitamin and B-vitamin complexes, and as individual supplements.

Standard preparations are available in 10 mcg, 50 mcg, and 100 mcg tablets and contain either simple biotin or a complex with brewer's yeast.

How to Take It

Your body makes biotin in the intestines, so a recommended dietary requirement (RDA) has not been set. An adequate amount of biotin is about 30 to 100 mcg daily. Most Americans get 28 to 42 mcg daily. Doses of up to 2,500 mcg have been used safely to treat hair and nail problems.

As with all medicines and supplements, check with your health care provider before giving biotin supplements to a child.


Biotin is nontoxic. No side effects have been noted, even with high doses.

Possible Interactions

Long-term use of anticonvulsant medications such as phenytoin, primidone, carbamezepine, and phenobarbital reduce blood levels of biotin. While this interaction is responsible for the anti-seizure activity of these medications, it is also responsible for their side effects.

Supporting Research

Bendich A, Deckelbaum R. Preventive Nutrition: The Comprehensive Guide for Health Professionals. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press; 1997.

Benton D, Haller J, Fordy J. The vitamin status of young British adults. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1997;67(1):34-40.

Houchman LG, et al. Brittle nails: response to biotin supplementation. Cutis. 1993;51:303307.

Jung U, Helbich-Endermann M, Bitsch R, et al. Are patients with chronic renal failure (CRF) deficient in biotin and is regular biotin supplementation required? Z Ernahrungswiss. 1998;37:363367.

Koutsikos D, Agroyannis B, Tzanatos-Exarchou H. Biotin for diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Biomed Pharmacother. 1990;44:511514.

Koutsikos D, Fourtounas C, Kapetanaki A, et al. Oral glucose tolerance test after high-dose i.v. biotin administration in normoglucemic hemodialysis patients. Ren Fail. 1996;18:131137.

Krause KH, Berlit P, Bonjour JP. Impaired biotin status in anticonvulsant therapy. Ann Neurol. 1982;12(5):485-486.

Krause KH, Kochen W, Berlit P, Bonjour JP. Excretion of organic acids associated with biotin deficiency in chronic anticonvulsant therapy. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1984;54(2-3):217-222.

Messina M. The Dietitian's Guide to Vegetarian Diets: Issues and Applications. Gaithersburg, Md: Aspen Publishers, Inc; 1996.

Murray M. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Rocklin, Calif: Prima Publishing; 1997.

Reavley N. Vitamins etc. Melbourne, Australia: Bookman Press; 1998.

Ringer DL. Physicians Guide to Nutraceuticals. Omaha, Neb: Nutritional Data Resources; 1998.

Schulpis KH, Nyalala JO, Papakonstantinou ED, et al. Biotin recycling impairment in phenylketonuric children with seborrheic dermatitis. Int J Dermatol. 1998;37:918921.

Zempleni J, Mock DM. Advanced analysis of biotin metabolites in body fluids allows a more accurate measurement of biotin bioavailability and metabolism in humans. J Nutr. 1999;129:494497.

Copyright 2000 Integrative Medicine Communications

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings