Biotin is a member of the B-complex group of water-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins are stored in the body in very limited amounts and are excreted through the urine. Biotin is present naturally in a wide variety of foods. It is also made by the bacteria that normally live in our intestines.
FunctionsBiotin's main function is to help your body's cells produce energy. It does this by working with four essential enzymes that break down fat, carbohydrate, and protein to yield energy. Biotin also plays a role in the synthesis and function of DNA.
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Biotin DeficiencyA biotin deficiency is rare in healthy people who eat a healthful diet, since we usually get enough from the bacteria living in our digestive tracts.However, certain conditions and life stages can increase the risk of a deficiency. For example, an enzyme called biotinidase is essential to convert biocytin into biotin. Though both biocytin and biotin are easily absorbed in the small intestines, the body can only use the biotin form. If biotinidase is lacking or not working properly, a biotin deficiency can result. Some people who may be at risk for a biotin deficiency include the following:
- Infants with low biotinidase levels—Infants who are born with low levels of this enzyme may develop a deficiency. There is some debate among doctors about whether infants should be screened at birth for a deficiency of biotinidase.
- People who smoke—Smoking accelerates biotin metabolism, thus leading to a deficiency state.
- People taking anticonvulsant drugs—These medications can inhibit the absorption of biotin or block the action of biotinidase.
- People who eat a lot of raw eggs—A protein called avidin found in raw egg whites can bind biotin and inhibit its absorption. Cooked eggs do not present this problem. (Note: Eating raw eggs increases the risk of food-borne infection.)
- Pregnant women—There is some preliminary evidence that biotin deficiency can occur during a normal pregnancy, so women may consider taking a multi-vitamin that contains biotin.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hair loss
- Numbness of the extremities
- Dry skin and seborrheic dermatitis
- Red scaly rash in face