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Biotin is a B vitamin which is critical to overall health and appearance, especially healthy hair and nails. To find out more about it, the Wellness Advisor spoke to Food and Nutrition Expert, Rachel Agnew, RD.

What is biotin?

Rachel Agnew: Biotin is an essential B vitamin. Biotin-dependent enzymes are involved in the metabolism and utilization of sugar, fat, and amino acids. Without biotin, the body's metabolism would be severely impaired. Biotin may have glucose-modulating effects and help in the management of brittle fingernails and hair health.

How does biotin help hair and nails?

Agnew: Past research has demonstrated the possible link between B vitamin deficiencies and nail brittleness. Early animal research showed biotin supplementation increased the strength and hardness of hooves in pigs and horses. Human studies have since suggested that high dose biotin (2500 mcg/day) may be helpful in the management of brittle fingernails of an unknown cause. High-dose biotin supplementation may increase nail plate thickness in some. The mechanism of the possible effect of biotin in the management of brittle nails is unknown.

The beneficial effects of biotin on hair may be linked to its ability to improve the metabolism of scalp oils. Biotin is sometimes used to treat cradle cap in infants. However, all B vitamins may be required for adult seborrheic dermatitis, since biotin alone has shown little value. Biotin may help tame uncombable hair syndrome, a rare disorder in children characterized by hair loss, hair fragility and uncombability. Except in the cases of biotin deficiency, there is no scientific support that biotin can reverse hair loss.

Where can I find biotin?

Agnew: The best dietary sources of biotin are cheese, liver, and soybeans. Other good sources are cauliflower, mushrooms, nuts, peanuts, whole wheat, and egg yolk.

Are there supplements that contain biotin and how much biotin should I consume daily?

Agnew: Biotin is available in multivitamin/mineral supplements such as B complex supplements or as a single ingredient offered as lozenges, tablets, and capsules. Adequate intake of biotin set by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine for healthy adults is 30 micrograms (mcg) daily. Higher doses are given for biotin's role in brittle nails and hair health. Therapeutic intakes generally range from 30 to 1000 mcg/day.

Source: Naturemade