This time we turn our attention to the supplement Biotin.
Biotin has increased in popularity quite significantly over recent years and will undoubtedly be on the top of peoples searches for ‘Improved hair growth’, ‘Improved Skin Condition’ or Improved Nail Health’. So let’s start at the top.
What Is Biotin?
Biotin is a water soluble B Vitamin and also goes under the names vitamin H or coenzyme R.
It is found naturally in a range of food sources but unfortunately in relatively low amounts.
These foods include leafy green Vegetables, Peanuts, Swiss Chard and raw Egg Yolk. For the record, raw egg whites contain a protein known as Avidin, which binds with the biotin in your intestines and prevents your body from using it.
Biotin is not stored in the body and therefore, you can become low on biotin if you don't get enough in your diet. Most adults need about 30mcg of biotin per day to maintain normal metabolic functions, which translates into healthy nails, skin and hair. Experts usually recommend a starting dose of about 700mcg of biotin per day and sometimes as high as 1000mcg.
What Does Biotin Do?
Biotin is essential for cell growth. It has been proven to supply energy because it is a critical nutrient for producing fuel for cells. It helps to produce fatty acids and also metabolises fats into amino acids.
Biotin assists in various metabolic reactions and contributes to normal functioning of the nervous system, psychological function, macro-nutrient metabolism and the maintenance of normal skin, hair and nails. It may also be helpful in maintaining a steady blood sugar level.
Is Biotin Effective?
Many people take Biotin to help improve the condition of their thinning hair, poor skin condition and brittle nails. We will take a look at the key benefits for each condition and highlight any related studies or evidence.
Biotin Effectiveness on Hair
There is limited evidence to suggest that Biotin will regrow hair or increase thickness, however there are many reviews and testimonials online that indicate Biotin is responsible for full, healthy and shiny hair - including many YouTube reviews.
One recent Placebo controlled study evaluated the efficiency of an oral supplement in women with self-perceived thinning hair concluded that the “nutritional supplement significantly increased hair growth after 90 and 180 days. Self-perceived improvements after 90 days were increased after 180 days of additional treatment, suggesting continued improvements may occur with ongoing treatment.” This is certainly an encouraging study and indicates it may take time to see the effects.
Linked to this, there is strong evidence to suggest that Biotin deficiency will cause hair loss and also a number of hair care companies are now including biotin directly in their products.
It is recommended though that oral supplementation will provide optimum results.
There is better evidence to suggest that Biotin is effective in strengthening brittle finger nails in humans.
Three uncontrolled trials examining the effects of biotin supplementation (2.5 mg/day for up to six months) in women with brittle fingernails have been published[3-5]. In two of the trials, subjective evidence of clinical improvement was reported in 67-91% of the participants [3, 4]. In the same study  45 patients were evaluated: 91% showed definite improvement and none of the patients considered the treatment altogether ineffective.
One trial that used scanning electron microscopy to assess fingernail thickness and splitting found that fingernail thickness increased by 25% and splitting decreased after biotin supplementation . The evidence from these trials indicates that biotin is consistently effective to improve nail health, yet larger controlled studies are needed in this area for more concrete evidence.
Again there is limited evidence that Biotin can help to achieve healthy glowing skin.
A biotin deficiency can lead to a variety of skin problems including rashes, acne, psoriasis, dermatitis and overall itchiness. “B vitamins play a key role in the function of the nervous system and do affect hormone function, which suggests why depleting biotin levels can in turn play a significant role in skin health,” says Fyshe 
Online reviews are mixed, some reporting great results especially for relief of very dry and itchy skin, while others reported minimal effects. It is definitely worth noting that higher doses of biotin (between 5000 and 1000ug per day) may contribute to oily skin and outbreaks of acne.
Are there any other benefits?
There is evidence to suggest that Biotin can assist with weight loss. Metabolic rate is elevated and food breaks down faster when consuming biotin, which is why there’s a link to biotin and accelerating weight loss. However, much more research is needed and in no way does biotin act as a weight loss pill.
Biotin has shown to play a role in lowering cholesterol, which when too high, can lead to heart disease including heart attack and stroke. Preliminary research has shown biotin can help reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.
Biotin intake has been associated with helping to fight and preventing diabetes, particularly type 2 by regulating blood sugar. Pairing biotin with chromium has been shown to have an even greater effect.
Is Biotin Safe?
Biotin is a safe and nontoxic vitamin. It has not been associated with any serious side effects, even in large doses.
The FDA reports that biotin is safe and well tolerated when taken orally in recommended doses.
Biotin is likely safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
You should, however always let your doctor know about any supplements you are taking if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or may become pregnant.
Although the evidence is somewhat limited, if you have thinning hair and spilt ends, a poor or dry complexion and suffer from brittle nails, you should definitely give Biotin a try.
It is a safe and affordable supplement that appears to deliver some of the desired results. It may even be beneficial for those looking to lose weight by increasing metabolism. We definitely agree, however that more human research is needed in this field for conclusive evidence.
 Romero-Navarro G, Cabrera-Valladares G, German MS, et al. Biotin regulation of pancreatic glucokinase and insulin in primary cultured rat islets and in biotin-deficient rats. Endocrinology. 1999;140(10):4595-4600. (PubMed)
 Floersheim GL. [Treatment of brittle fingernails with biotin]. Z Hautkr. 1989;64(1):41-. (PubMed)
 Hochman LG, Scher RK, Meyerson MS. Brittle nails: response to daily biotin supplementation. Cutis. 1993;51(4):303-305. (PubMed)