Vitamin B7 (I will call it by its scientific name biotin) is one of the 9 water soluble vitamins. By now, I have covered all but 2 water soluble vitamins before I touch on fat soluble vitamins. In the United States, biotin supplement is readily available over the counter with the label stated “hair, nail, skin”. However, not many consumers are aware that medically, biotin has the first and foremost role as a blood glucose regulator.
1/ Functions of biotin: (hate to do it, but functions of biotin is applicable and I need to explain in details why it’s that way)
A-Blood glucose control:
As I just stated above, biotin helps control blood glucose. How does biotin do so? Biotin has a huge role in insulin production. Most foods contain some sort of carbohydrates, which ultimately will be broken down into the smallest unit which is GLUCOSE. This glucose will rush into the blood, hence, your morning fast blood test determines how much these glucose molecules shows up in the blood stream. So when glucose is shown up in the blood, the pancreas will release insulin to “neutralize” glucose by storing the glucose into energy (glycogen in the liver and the muscles). So….when you suffer biotin deficiency in long term and you’re diabetic type 2 patient, your pancreas is likely not able to supply enough insulin to work on this glucose flood.
However, if your body, for some reason, fails to produce enough insulin to deal with all these glucose molecules, your body exhibits “insulin resistant” which ultimately turns you into diabetic patient (type 2). Diabetics can be congenital (fated to be diabetic by BIRTH), but signs and symptoms are usually shown up by adolescent years, which is called diabetes type 1. To this group, biotin and its role in producing insulin does not do much to the patients. Why? Because DIABETES TYPE 1 patients fail to produce ANY insulin by the time the disease is in full blown, whereas diabetes type 2 patients still manage to produce some insulin-just not enough insulin to combat with the flux of glucose from foods.
Oh, besides, biotin happens to be available among many vegetables and nuts/seeds that are rich in fibers. What does fiber have anything to do with diabetes at all (we already know that fiber prevents colon cancer)? Fiber helps slow down the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Plus, fibers (soluble fiber) also lowers total cholesterol level-most diabetic type 2 patients at some point will develop high cholesterol because these diseases belong in the same group of diseases so called “metabolic syndrome”. That’s like hitting two bird with one stone. SO go grab something rich in fiber
B-Maintaining healthy hair, skin, and nails
Alright, to me this is a much more significant application for diabetes type 2. In other words, I strongly suggest people diagnosed with diabetes type 2 to ingest foods rich in biotin. Now, we move on to the second function of biotin: maintaining healthy nail, hair, and skin. When we suffer biotin deficiency in the long run (like 3 months, because it takes much less time for water soluble vitamins to do damage than fat soluble vitamins) we may experience unhealthy skin (rash or dermatitis), brittle nails, and hair loss.
Why does biotin deficiency cause these issues? We all should know that fats provide certain health benefits: shiny hair, smooth and supple skin, and nails with luster. And this is where biotin comes in to play: it helps produce the precious fat right under your skin to maintain those functions. So if there is a shortage of biotin, not enough fat is built.
You can argue that you just need body lotion and hair care products. Well, while I agree these treatments will mask the ugliness by being the cover, but hey beauty radiant comes from the inside. Plus, the crap in the cosmetic products are NOT NATURAL deposits bits of trash that just tax your liver some more on top of all other functions the liver has to perform. (Have you ever notice how long the ingredient list on these bottle looks?) You bet I don’t wear any make up and use skin lotion only in the winter (well I’m too lazy and impatient to do these “rituals”).
2/ RECOMMENDED DAILY INTAKE (RDI)
Biotin is needed in very small amount, measured by micro-grams (even smaller than milligram). Because biotin does not affect the growth and the healing processes in an individual, you will not see a difference between the amount for males and females. However, lactating women will need more biotin than non pregnant women
- 0-6 months old: 5 mcg/day
- 7-12 months old: 6 mcg/day
- 1-3 years old: 8 mcg/day
- 4-8 years old: 12 mcg/day
- 9-14 years old: 20 mcg/day
- 14-18 years old: 25 mcg/day
- 19 years and older: 30 mcg/day
- Lactating women: 35 mcg/day
Toxicity: There is no record of toxicity due to overdose biotin FROM FOOD. It’s observed that diets with 300,000 mcg biotin per day still does not cause any toxicity to humans as long as biotin comes from food. It’s unknown whether high doses of biotin supplement will cause any toxicity over long term. Biotin supplement in the U.S markets is not tested on human. So…consumers, you’re going to be the lab rats for your own good (or bad). I don’t know about you, but I’ll stick to foods as my source of nutrient (one pill of multi-vitamin supplement and calcium supplement are what I take daily as “health insurance”. )
3/ Deficiency: who’s at risk?
Signs and symptoms of biotin deficiency:
- Dry and/or flaky skin
- Skin rash or dermatitis
- Brittle nails
- Mild to severe hair loss
Who’s at risk?
People with eating disorders: anorexia, binge eaters, some athletes: these people simply restrict the total caloric intake too much to get enough nutrients (not just biotin)
People who consume raw egg whites daily for long term: a man is known to develop biotin deficiency after 3 months eating 2 raw eggs every day. The protein called avidin in raw egg whites inhibits the absorption of biotin. Avidin is not stable to heat so when you cook your egg, avidin is destroyed. It’s important to know that if you plan on eatting raw eggs, please do not eat it along with foods rich in biotin. Digestive system takes about 2-6 hours to complete its absorption job. During this window, you should not consume food rich in biotin if you already have some raw eggs earlier. After all, it’s not safe to eat raw eggs for the sake of one’s own health.
People who take drugs for epilepsy: These drugs also inhibit biotin absorption. These patients just need to increase the daily intake of biotin. However, it’s like playing a game: you just experiment for a while to make sure you don’t exhibit signs of biotin deficiency.
4/ Foods rich in biotin:
It’s the best source of biotin. A portion of 35 grams of roasted peanuts provides 200 calories and approximately 85% of daily value of biotin. Please do not select the roasted peanuts with oil added or flavor added because these foods are the hidden source of added fat, sugar and/salt that you do not need. The majority of calories from any nuts or seeds is already in the form of fat. I don’t hate fat, but I am very picky with the type of fat I eat: I try to follow a certain ration between omega 3 and omega 6 (by the way, excessive omega 6 causes inflammation which is, man, the beginning of many health issue-after all, heart diseases are the complication of chronic inflammation). So…you bet I don’t consume almonds or peanuts, I stick to flaxseed oil only-the rest of omega 6 and 9 come from the 20 mL cooking oil throughout the day.
Almonds are rated the second best source of biotin: Every 25-gram-portion provides 135 calories with 50% of daily value of biotin. If I must choose between peanuts and almonds, almonds is the way to go. It’s because almonds beat peanuts when it comes “which one has more magnesium?”.
A portion of 200 g of RAW tomatoes contains 26% daily value of biotin, 35% daily value of vitamin C, and not enough calories to worry about (really).
Again, I don’t like raw tomatoes. Yep, sometimes I don’t sound like a nutritionist at all when I keep saying “I don’t eat this that and the other”. But I drink tomato juice and tomato smoothie, and eat a lot of tomatoes when it’s in soup or braised form.
Red or yellow is just as good: A plate of 200 g of sauteed onions provides 27% daily value of biotin. I love onions (second after garlic) in all forms: green onions or bulbs. My salad can be done in 5 minutes with just a pound of green leafy stuff and a head of onion, sauteed for a few minutes. I’m lazy so I prefer food with minimal process if I am the cook. Maybe it’s a good thing because minimal process means more nutrient retention.
5. Sweet Potatoes:
A portion 200 g of sweet potato provides 200 calories (no fat added in cooking) and 30% daily value of biotin. All varieties of sweet potatoes provide tons of other nutrients: 30% daily value of potassium (people with hypertension should get as much these as possible), 35% vitamin B6, 35% vitamin B5, and 50% manganese (along with a bunch of other minerals).
Here is my star (yep I’m a proponent of Okinawa purple sweet potatoes): purple sweet potatoes (anthocyanins viva forever). In fact, I run for purple sweet potatoes if they’re around because of their anthocaynins, but I’m also okay with orange fleshed sweet potatoes (it’s the most common type I believe) because these orange sweet potatoes have all health benefits of sweet potatoes, except for the antioxidant property of anthocyanin. In case you wonder, anthocyanins are the same antioxidants found in blueberries. So why do I go for purple sweet potatoes instead of blueberries? First, purple sweet potatoes provide greater amount of nutrients than blueberries. Second, anthocyanins in purple sweet potatoes are 3 times more active than that in blueberries. And, last but not least, blueberries are more expensive.
In recent years, people have viewed purple sweet potatoes as a supplement for those with cancer because of its antioxidant property. That’s not the only reasons I eat half a kilo of these cuties every day, though it’s the primary reason. Sweet potatoes are great for people with blood pressure (due to its potassium level) and high blood glucose (because its high fiber contain slows down release of glucose into blood stream its ability to increase ADIPONECTIN (people with blood glucose issue have low level of adiponectin).
So…even if you’re diabetes type 2, you can still incorporate sweet potatoes in your diet as long as you COUNT your carbohydrates
Good old carrots provide also great nutrition: 100 g raw carrots give us 15% daily value of biotin and just 40 calories (when you cook carrots, though, it will provide more calories….because the cooked carrot has far more sugar content than the same amount in raw form). Nutrition is not as straight forwards as you may think. Well… there’s nothing in a human body is considered simple. Maybe that’s why I love nutrition so much and can’t get bored with talking, reading, and learning this topic.
Okay, to demonstrate that, I’ll say juicing carrots is way better than eating raw carrots. Carrots contain lots of minerals and vitamins that are better absorbed when it’s raw. The juicing process breaks down cell walls and thus making absorption much faster and easier. Second, to picky eaters, drinking carrot juice is way more convincing than forcing them chewing on a tough and crunchy root.
7/ (Cooked) eggs:
Whether it’s duck eggs or chicken egg, the egg just gives you great amount of biotin and other nutrient (though the nutrition profiles of the two species are certainly not equal). One cooked egg provides about 80 calories and 27% daily value of biotin. Besides, eggs are great sources of vitamin B12, vitamin B2, vitamin D, and other minerals (phosphorus, selenium, choline, and molybdenum).
8/ Salmon (no canned salmon for the sake of biotin)
One of the most nutrient dense food you can get from non-plant based foods: 100 g of cooked salmon provides just 150 calories and 11% biotin, 200% vitamin B12, 45% omega 3, 110% vitamin D, 30% vitamin B6, 11% potassium, and 20 g protein. You can’t expect to get all that good stuff from some other animal foods such as pork. That’s why they say not every calorie is equal.
A portion of 125 g of yogurt provides 75 calories, just 7% of daily value of biotin…however it’s packed with some other good nutrients: 19% vitamin B12, 15% calcium, 13% vitamin B2, 7% zinc…Nonetheless, I’m not for dairy products. I admit I love all dairy products, but I believe dairy provides you nutrients that you can gather from other foods. Say, I’d go eat 100 g of salmon and some kale to get even more nutrient than what dairy products have to offer. We are just all flooded and misguided by advertisement by the dairy industry. To human, the only “milk” that is essential is breast milk. Adults and young children are far too old to need nutrients from breast milk. It may be just a correlation, but there is a trend in dairy consumption and diabetes type 1 (destined to develop diabetes by birth-think you can blame your mother and her mother for that?)
One large banana provides about 110 calories, 10% biotin, 25% vitamin B6, 15% calcium, 11% potassium, and 12% fiber (particular soluble fiber-good for people with high cholesterol). I will not speak at length about bananas…rather than finishing your meal with a banana is a smart thing to do (I’m not smart in that case because I don’t like bananas).
5/ Factors impacting biotin retention
CANNING PROCESS DESTROYS biotin.
Well, biotin is the toughest of all water soluble vitamins: it withstands heat, water solubility, and storage time much better than any B vitamins.
If you boil foods rich in biotin, you lose about 10% of the original biotin content. However, I would not recommend boiling because most foods contain a wide range of nutrient…In other words, you may lose just 10% of biotin, but you may lose up to 50% of, say, vitamin B1. So I still recommend steaming method or blanching over boiling.
However, canning process will strip off 80% of the foods’ biotin content. So…don’t expect to get much biotin in canned salmon.