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Biotin: Haircuts Plus Health Advice?

A friend asked me, “What do you know about biotin?”

I said, “Not much. Why do you ask?”

She explained that the woman who cuts her hair at the hair salon recommended she take biotin to strengthen her nails and improve hair growth. She tried it, and within a couple of months, her nails looked better than they ever had in her whole life: the ridging was gone and they were no longer splitting or bending. And her hair, which had begun to thin, was noticeably thicker again.

I know what you’re going to say: this is nothing but a testimonial, and she could have been mistaken: post hoc ergo propter hoc and all that. Hair salons are not reliable sources of health advice, and perhaps not even a very reliable source of hair advice. I am leery of their recommendations for expensive shampoos and gimmicky conditioners. They offer things I don’t want, like hair coloring (I consider my gray hairs hard-earned badges of honor), waxing, eyebrow arch threading, scalp massage, and facials. Some of them have tanning beds in a back room. Incredibly, several of them in my area even offer ear candling!

I’m frequently asked to look into the evidence for various diet supplement products, and I’m almost always disappointed. The company websites offer little but claims and testimonials. There may not be a tab for “scientific studies” and if there is, the studies gathered there are often a farce, and may not even pertain to the product in question.

This time I was pleasantly surprised. The trustworthy Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rated biotin “likely effective” for biotin deficiency and described preliminary evidence that biotin might increase the thickness of fingernails and toenails in people with brittle nails, although it considered that the evidence was insufficient to rate.

What is biotin?

Biotin is one of the B complex vitamins, sometimes known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H. The B complex vitamins are needed for healthy skin and hair. Biotin is produced in the intestines by bacteria and is also found in the diet. The mechanism of action and metabolism have been studied. Biotin is water soluble and its elimination half-life is slightly less than 2 hours, so you can’t build up a store of it. Biotin deficiency in humans is rare, but it can cause thinning of the hair, frequently with loss of hair color, and red scaly rash around the eyes, nose, and mouth. It can even lead to depression, lethargy, hallucinations, and paresthesias of the extremities. Deficiency is most likely in congenital biotinidase enzyme deficiency, malabsorption syndromes, and in long term parenteral nutrition. Other things that can deplete biotin are eating two or more raw egg whites daily over long periods, excess alcohol consumption, certain anti-seizure medications, and possibly diabetes and cigarette smoking.

The NMCD rates it as “likely safe.” It is well tolerated in doses of 10 mg per day. Only one severe reaction has been reported, and it has not been definitely linked to biotin. A dermatologist writing in the Huffington Post argues that the role of biotin is not totally clear, and users should avoid overdosing. He recommends 2.5 mg (2500 mcg) a day, but that isn’t based on hard evidence. Some supplements contain as much as 5000 or 10,000 mcg.

The evidence

On to PubMed…where I actually found 3 positive human clinical studies of subjects with brittle nails and no negative ones. A study of 35 patients who took daily biotin found that 22 showed clinical improvement and 13 reported no change in their condition. A small study in Switzerland used scanning electron microscopy to study whether favorable clinical results could be corroborated. Indeed, they were able to measure a 25% increase in the thickness of nails with biotin supplementation. In another study 45 patients were evaluated: 91% showed definite improvement and none of the patients considered the treatment altogether ineffective. At least one website calls the evidence “very weak.” Others consider it to be stronger.

There is good evidence from animal studies: biotin has been shown to improve hoof health, prevent lameness, and improve milk production in dairy cows. It has also been shown effective in Lipizzaner horses, ponies, and swine.

Is it worth trying?

If you have brittle nails, it might be worth a try. The evidence is consistently positive, albeit only from three small preliminary trials that have not been replicated. I don’t usually recommend using a medication until the evidence is much stronger than that. However, in this case I think there are good arguments for trying it:

  • There is a plausible mechanism.
  • There is supporting evidence from animal studies.
  • The human studies are not just based on subjective reports of improvement: one of them used objective measurements with electron microscopy and demonstrated a 25% increase in nail thickness.
  • It is safe.
  • There are no other good evidence-based treatment options. Horsetail, moisturizers, nail protection, gelatin and other remedies have been tried, but they haven’t been proven effective. So with the existing evidence, biotin is probably the treatment of choice.
  • I think the existing evidence justifies a therapeutic trial of biotin for brittle nails. If you haven’t improved after 6 months, you can stop taking it. A 3 month supply can cost as little as $4.19, so there is little to lose.

Conclusion

Brittle nails are a relatively minor item in the general scheme of things; but I’m glad I looked into biotin, and I think my experience offered a lesson applicable to other questions. The fact that Dr. Oz recommends biotin for hair loss made me very suspicious (what is the opposite of the “appeal to authority” fallacy?), and I was prejudiced against using a hair salon as a source of information. I was predisposed to reject biotin. But I was aware of that and I made an effort not to let my bias interfere with my judgment about the evidence. Even if a source is untrustworthy, it would be foolish to reject a claim before examining the evidence just as carefully as we would for any other claim. I certainly don’t recommend going to a hair salon for your medical advice, any more than I would recommend going to a doctor for a haircut; but it would be a mistake to assume that everything you hear there is wrong. In this case, the beautician got it right; you might say she nailed it. (pun intended)

Posted in: Herbs & Supplements

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64 thoughts on “Biotin: Haircuts Plus Health Advice?

  1. mousethatroared says:

    Thanks Harriet Hall, Sometimes my hair falls out at an alarming rate, not sure if it’s another gift from perimenopause or something else. Although I can only see a small difference on my scalp. My nails are also annoyingly thin and soft. I’ve seen biotin a lot online, but pretty much dismissed it as one of the cosmetic industries many “clinically proven” disappointments.

    Maybe, if it’s not too expensive I’ll give it a try. Even a bit of nail improvement might be nice.

    On nail salons, when I had grey hair I immediately left the stylist who suggested that grey was not a lovely color. If I asked about color or highlights fine, give me a suggestion, but don’t try to sell me something by trying to make me feel unattractive. It was pretty easy to find another excellent stylist, who is much more pleasant to spend the time with.

  2. Rork says:

    Anecdote: My nails get much stronger in summer, and my theory is that is from using them more. I garden too much, almost always without gloves, and use them as tools. So I propose fingernail workouts. Check out the nails on classical guitarists.

    My grey hair makes me look more extinguished.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Are you often aflame?

      1. mousethatroared says:

        Well, no, because they’ve been extinguished.

        Personally, I got tired of people asking me if I got a serious discount. I’m like, “Gee I’m 47. Don’t rush me.”

    2. mousethatroared says:

      If weight breaking activities build stronger bones, then I would guess it would be plausible that stressing the nails makes them stronger, although mine tear a lot when I’m gardening, unless they are short enough to be out of the way.

      1. mousethatroared says:

        weight bearing, not breaking…

      2. DugganSC says:

        My impulse would be that, nails being the ever-replaced substance that they are, it’s less likely than with muscles, although perhaps damage to the nail-beds? My mind conjures up romantic visions of feral children found with tough horny nails built up from years of use, but I don’t know how true that is. I know that nails are supposed to get harder to cut (although perhaps more brittle) as you get older, although I don’t know how much of that is from repeated use, how much of that is due to hormonal changes, and how much is due to eventual replication error.

        My wife suffers from easily chipped and broken nails, so I will be sure to forward this on to her. Mine own tend to grow strong, much to her chagrin, other than one fingernail that is noticeably ridged and has split lengthwise at least once along a prominent ridge.

  3. goodnightirenei says:

    I don’t disagree with anything you’ve discussed, but wouldn’t it be better to emphasize foods that contain biotin?

    From Wikipedia: (This article seems thorough and well-sourced)

    “Biotin is consumed from a wide range of food sources in the diet, but few are particularly rich sources. Foods with a relatively high biotin content include Swiss chard, raw egg yolk (however, the consumption of avidin-containing egg whites with egg yolks minimizes the effectiveness of egg yolk’s biotin in one’s body), liver, Saskatoon berries, and leafy green vegetables.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biotin

    I don’t know where to get Saskatoon berries, but I grow a lot of Swiss chard, kale, and other leafy things–and I would do so even if I had to do it in a pot in a sunny window. Also, most decent markets have chard and curly kale if not the nicer Lacinato variety. I also like liver! Especially liver and caramelized onions! I don’t have it often because it’s a big load of cholesterol, but I consider it a treat when I do have it.

    All right, all right, I’m not going to convince many of you to eat more kale and liver, so take your biotin pill. I’ve always had exceptionally good nails and hair, so it must be the kale and liver! (I even liked liver as a child–and spinach).

    I will continue to be wary of the large majority of “advice” I have received from hair salons over the years. I think this case is definitely an exception.

    @Mouse

    My gynecologist once explained to me (when my own hair seemed to be coming out in handfuls) why peri- and menopausal women think their hair is falling out. Something about the synching of the hormones and more that I can’t recall, but the result is apparently only a PERCEPTION because regular hair loss happens all at once instead of more gradually, and so you think you’ll soon be bald. I’m pretty sure I’m not explaining this properly, so maybe one of the docs will help out. :-)
    ——
    Also, I’ve never, ever, been pressured to color my hair at a salon, although I did so to some extent (highlighting) for many years. To the contrary, I was advised more than once in the later years of coloring to abandon it or to at least “let the gray blend in more”. I finally acquiesced and am surprisingly happy with the result–and save a lot of money.

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      “wouldn’t it be better to emphasize foods that contain biotin?”
      It’s almost always better to get nutrients from the diet rather than from pills. It might be cumbersome to try to figure out how much biotin each food contained, how large a serving you were eating, and keep track of your total intake. Is there an app for that? :-)

      1. stanmrak says:

        A one cup serving of cooked chard (easily the most abundant source) contains about 10mcg. of biotin.

        http://www.worldshealthiestfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=42

        The Adequate Intake levels for biotin, set in 1998 by the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences is about 30mcg. How you’re supposed to get this, I don’t know. 3 cups of chard EVERY day?

        Supplements contain anywhere from 300-5000 mcg. per dose; apparently the amounts needed for therapeutic purposes.

        1. stanmrak says:

          Well, liver and eggs too – but readers here, I’m sure, are terrified of cholesterol and would never eat liver or 3 eggs every day.

          1. Nashira says:

            I wouldn’t eat anything every single day. it gets quite boring, plus we only shop once or twice a week and fresh offal does not improve with age.

            I could go for a plate of wilted chard, though, with a soft cooked egg or two oozing gently onto it. (I am so glad it’s almost time for dinner.)

      2. Luara says:

        Harriet,
        There’s a free nutrition tracking program at http://cronometer.com which looks like it will give you biotin content if that is available.
        I wrote a nutrition tracking C program for myself, that is available at http://camoo.freeshell.org/nutrients.html One advantage is a decaying-exponential smoothing of your nutrient intake, which gives you an average over several days. If you are conversant with C, this program might be useful.
        I use this nutrition program, it helps me to eat light and also gives me a idea of what my thyroid is doing (my thyroid function can vary because I have Hashimoto’s). I can tell if my calorie needs are going up or down by 100 calories or so.

    2. Nashira says:

      Roast that kale with a hit of sweet light colored vinegar and salt, and I bet we could convert a few folks. It is extra tasty on top of a garlicky white pizza with chicken.

      Too bad we’re having Nepalese veg soup and Smitten Kitchen’s frico grilled cheese for dinner this week… mmmmm crispy kale.

      1. windriven says:

        Mmmmm … rice wine vinegar

    3. mousethatroared says:

      @goodnightirene – Possibly your hair color is prettier than mine was. :) To be fair, I think I only had one stylist harp on my hair color. She was big into the upsell. Another hinted a bit, but wasn’t that great a stylist so I moved on.

      As to the hair fall, not sure, I had something similar in my 30′s before I was diagnosed with thyroid disease. It’s not devastating, just slightly more scalp at the part than before. I’m sure it’s more noticeable to me than anyone else.

  4. Nick Theodorakis says:

    As an aside, the reason that raw egg whites interfere with biotin absorption is that they contain a protein called avidin, which binds biotin extremely tightly; indeed, it’s one of the strongest non-covalent bindings known. Cooking largely denatures avidin (although it may not completely do so, depending on how long the eggs are cooked).

  5. Young CC Prof says:

    “Even if a source is untrustworthy, it would be foolish to reject a claim before examining the evidence just as carefully as we would for any other claim.”

    I believe the old saying is, “Even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then.”

    Interesting about biotin!

  6. Cholerajoe says:

    How about eating better as a source of biotin? Carrots, nuts, berries, cucumbers, onions and cauliflower are all rich in biotin.

    1. Carl says:

      I’ll take the hamburger and the pill, thanks.

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        Since biotin is synthesized directly in the gut like vitamin K is, I would wonder about non-source factors that are preventing the person from getting enough. If you lack or have somehow impaired the enzymes that transport biotin from the gut to the bloodstream, increased supplementation is unlikely to help (i.e. if your front door lock is broken, getting an extra set of keys isn’t going to help). I would also question whether brittle nails and hair is a sign of biotin deficiency rather than the effect of an unnecessary surplus (nail strength is not a likely evolutionary driver) having useful fringe benefits.

        Though a bit of digging suggests that the whole “synthesized in the gut” thing does happen but is of uncertain utility overall.

    2. TL says:

      If it’s not a common deficiency, in all likelihood most people are getting enough through their diet (in the Western diet) and thus the problem with people who are deficient is probably not due to their diet. That is what supplements are designed for – people whose bodies don’t process and/or make enough on a normal diet. You can’t always lifestyle change a deficiency away – i.e., my vitamin D is low even when I’m averaging an hour or two of sunshine a day. Supplements were definitely the answer.

      1. DugganSC says:

        My wife has a Vitamin D deficiency too, mildly complicated by very fair skin and a history of skin cancer in her family which means that her doctors basically tell her to get more sun and less sun in turn. Of course, the uptake from supplements isn’t always great either. There was an article here not so long ago about how most calcium supplements were shown to have almost no effect on bone loss, and a negative effect on heart health. As I remember it, dietary calcium fared better, and there was some question as to whether some forms of calcium supplementation worked better than others (the most common form is calcium carbonate, made from crushed shells due to the cheapness of the ingredient).

    3. stanmrak says:

      When you say ‘rich’, what do you mean? These foods you mention have only a couple of mcg. per serving., which means you’d want about 10 or 20 servings of these per day.

  7. jb says:

    The opposite of the appeal to authority would be an ‘ad hominem’ fallacy – the person is attacked instead of the idea – while Dr. Oz may have done some questionable things in the past, each new idea/topic/argument should be examined objectively for its own merit.

    1. qetzal says:

      I disagree. If someone (like Dr. Oz) has a well-established history of promoting incorrect, junk science, it’s perfectly reasonable to be more skeptical of their latest claim. Similarly, if some person or group has a well-established history of objectively assessing scientific claims (e.g. SBM!), it’s also perfectly reasonable to give some benefit of the doubt to their latest claim.

      Ad hominem doesn’t mean you can’t factor in a person’s relevant expertise and track record. It just means you shouldn’t base your argument on unrelated factors. E.g. it’s reasonable to distrust Oz’s claims about biotin because he has a history of making dubious nutritional claims. It’s not reasonable to distrust his claims about biotin because he’s of Turkish descent.

      1. Harriet Hall says:

        In other words, don’t distrust Oz because he’s Turkish; distrust him because he’s a turkey. :-)
        (Apologies to our feathered friends.)

      2. DugganSC says:

        And, to give them credit, the science field never seems to discount Dr. Oz’s declarations outright. Rather, they count them as turning out wrong. Dr. Oz hasn’t quite become the ignored “boy who cried wolf”, merely the one where people sigh and just send one person out to check for wolves, ready to call in others if it turns out there are lupines present.

    2. windriven says:

      @jb

      I would think of the Oz situation as akin to prior plausibility – or in his case, the lack.

      Reminds me of the old joke about how do you know if a salesman is lying?

      1. ebohlman says:

        Yep, that’s how I interpret it. His history doesn’t make his statements evidence against his claims, but it seriously weakens their role as evidence for them. In other words, you can’t learn an awful lot from what he says. The specific form of ad hominem known as the genetic fallacy would be assuming his claims are false simply because they come from him. I don’t do that; it’s just that in a Bayesian sense his claims don’t update my priors a whole lot.

  8. Alia says:

    Well, this might be the reason why my friends claim that their fancy “hair-and-nails” supplements with a long list of ingredients do work – they all contain biotin (as well as various plant extracts, vitamins and minerals). And of course, they are nicely packaged and cost a lot, certainly more than $5 for three months’ supply.

    1. Nashira says:

      And if overpriced vitamins aren’t enough, some of the wooier brands offer shampood and conditioners with biotin in. Not quite sure it works topically, but there you go.

  9. TBruce says:

    I don’t know where to get Saskatoon berries

    They’re native to Western Canada and parts of the Northwest US. They are now cultivated in Canada and widely available here. I don’t know if they are being farmed in the US.
    Anyway, they are good eating (similar to blueberries) and high in a number of nutrients. Saskatoon berry pie makes a better dessert than liver pie, too.

    1. goodnightirene says:

      Thanks for the follow-up on Saskatoon berries! I live in Wisconsin and will see if they grow them “up North” as we call anything north of Milwaukee.
      :-)
      I’m from the Pacific NW, but never heard of them (unless they go by another name, as is often the case with berries).

  10. davidrlogan says:

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Very interesting…

  11. NYUDDS says:

    Off-topic, but this is really interesting, not only for Dr. Offit’s book, but the many opinions from professional health care providers (MD’s, RN’s, pharmacists etc.) I have read all the comments following the 6-page article. We have a lot of work to do.

    http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/811569?nlid=35303_1521&src=wnl_edit_medp_wir&uac=71548MZ&spon=17

  12. Eclair says:

    My nails break because I do stupid things with my hands, like work on my car. There’s nobody else to do it… It’s easier to cut them.

  13. Vicki says:

    Can you point me at a more detailed list of which drugs may cause biotin deficiency? “Anticonvulsants” is a very large category.

    1. Chris says:

      I found this:
      http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/biotin/#safety

      It might mean you need to talk to a doctor. Though it seems they will often consult a some reference, which are now online. Like when our family doctor wanted to know if he could prescribe Imitrex (or whatever) for my son’s migraines. He had me ask my son’s cardiologist, who walked out of the room, looked up something on a computer terminal that was next to the door, and then back came in and said: “Absolutely not.”

    2. Harriet Hall says:

      The NMCD cites reports showing that depletion of plasma levels of biotin (as much as 50% lower than in controls) has been found in patients taking Carbamazepine (Tegretol, Carbatrol) , phenobarbital, phenytoin (Dilantin), primidone (Mysoline). It isn’t clear whether this is clinically significant, although it may contribute to both anticonvulsant effects and side effects. It recommends monitoring patients on those drugs for biotin depletion and says that a supplement is needed in some patients.

      1. MitchK says:

        I take phenobarbital as a seizure-preventive precaution, since having brain surgery some years ago. I also take atorvastatin/lipitor. I was very interested in your comment that phenobarbital can reduce blood plasma levels of biotin. Recently, my GP told me I had a deficiency of Vitamin-D. In doing some research, I discovered that both phenobarb and lipitor can increase the metabolism of Vitamin-D, resulting in a deficiency. Where can I go to find out what other needs I may have due to the meds I’m taking?

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          Heh, you may not like this, but I’m going to suggest the drug companies. Their black box warnings are usually pretty comprehensive. Another place to look could be pubmed. But in either case I strongly suggest talking it over with your doctor so they can interpret the text in a meaningful way.

        2. Harriet Hall says:

          I tried to answer this, but I don’t see my answer, so apparently something went wrong. I’m trying again; apologies if this is a duplication.

          This review: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23307906 says that Lipitor INCREASES the level of vitamin D; and conversely, that taking vitamin D supplements decreases the levels of Lipitor and might make it less effective.

          All kinds of drug/nutrient interactions have been reported, but the question is whether they are clinically significant interactions or just theoretical ones. The package insert is a good place to start: if there are any clinically significant interactions, I would expect them to be listed there. Other sources of information: the doctor who prescribed the drugs, your pharmacist, PubMed, and the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (for each vitamin, it lists all the drugs that have been reported to interact with it, the strength of the evidence, and whether caution is indicated).

          1. MitchK says:

            Thanks very much. I’ve looked at the insert, and it’s not that comprehensive. Sounds like the NMCD is the place to go.

          2. MitchK says:

            Dr, Hall, I don’t belong to PubMed, but I located a similar article on Medline. Although you are correct that Vitamin D appears to lower Lipitor levels, it does not seem to have a negative effect on cholesterol levels: “The conclusion of the study is that vitamin D supplementation lowers atorvastatin and active metabolite concentrations yet has synergistic effects on cholesterol concentrations.” (Sorry for the off-topic nature of this conversation). I’ve been taking Vitamin-D3 supplements (1000 IU daily) for about a year, and my cholesterol levels haven’t gotten worse. Maybe the phenobarb and Vitamin-D are cancelling each other out? I realize that phenobarb lowers levels of Biotin, but I wonder what effect increasing levels of Biotin has on phenobarb levels (not to mention Lipitor, cholesterol, and Vitamin-D)!

            1. Harriet Hall says:

              You don’t have to “belong” to PubMed. It is free for everyone. The idea that Vitamin D lowers Lipitor levels but doesn’t affect cholesterol levels just reinforces the point I was trying to make: a reported effect is not necessarily clinically significant.

          3. Chris says:

            PubMed is and index run by the National Institutes of Health, and is essentially “owned” by the American tax payers. The problem is that they index papers published by private journals that sometimes require payment to read them, which in this case is Sage Journals.

            You might try to see if you can see copy through a library. I have been told that I can access any paper of journals that the local medical school library has a subscription to, by just being a member of the public. Or you can ask if your doctor can get a copy.

          4. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            You can also try simply googling the title of the paper, sometimes you get lucky and a copy shows up (google scholar is also a good option, I would definitely try both) and you might have surprising amounts of success if you simply e-mail the lead or corresponding author to request a reprint. As a courtesy, and as an expression of good manners, I would suggest not reposting it.

  14. Neil J says:

    I don’t know where to get Saskatoon berries

    Saskatoon, perhaps?

    1. goodnightirene says:

      Well, of course! Why didn’t I think of that!

  15. I don’t know where to get Saskatoon berries, but I grow a lot of Swiss chard, kale, and other leafy things–and I would do so even if I had to do it in a pot in a sunny window. Also, most decent markets have chard and curly kale if not the nicer Lacinato variety. I also like liver! Especially liver and caramelized onions! I don’t have it often because it’s a big load of cholesterol, but I consider it a treat when I do have it.

    1. stanmrak says:

      I was joking about the cholesterol. We know that eating cholesterol and saturated fat is not bad for you.

      1. angorarabbit says:

        Eating moderate cholesterol and saturated fatty acids is unlikely to be bad for you. I like bacon. But eating excessive quantities may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease.

        Get it right, Stan. Biology is a game of percentages, not absolutes. I wonder if this is why you have trouble “getting it”? I am looking at the language of your statement, and in reality there are very few absolutes in biology and medicine, apart from the Inheritance Pattern of Death.*

        * One of my favorite papers in the Journal of Irreproducible Results.

    2. goodnightirene says:

      Hey, who are you–that was from my comment???

  16. Angora Rabbit says:

    I thought of the five mammalian biotin reactions and thought, that can’t be right, because biotin is used for carboxylation of organic acids. So I love it that I still have much to learn – thank you, Dr. Hall!

    Biotin is cool (to paraphrase my favorite Doctor). Marginal biotin insufficiency has been noted in at least one-third of normal pregnancies, enough to cause metabolic changes (organic aciduria). I like this endpoint because it is a functional endpoint and not just a measure of biotin content. I couldn’t read the papers (no e-version) but I wonder what % of the study participants were women or post-partum?

    Biotin is also problematic because it is expensive relative to other vitamins. This is a real concern among nutritionists, because the cost means that most supplements contain some fraction of the DRI, rather than meeting the full requirement. Also, the expense means that animal producers (cattle, hog, poultry) do not add the full requirement to foods. That didn’t used to be a concern, because the animals were rumbling about outdoors and were getting biotin from all the microbes and plants in their diets. But with the shift to factory farming, and the movement of production animals indoors, plus the more processed food they are being fed during production, we are seeing a drop in the biotin content of meats and eggs. It’s the sort of thing where we look at each other and say, “Hmm, wonder if we should worry about this.”

    It’s also true that it’s been very difficult to get a clear handle on the biotin requirement because there are likely gut microbe contributions, and there’s likely individual variance in gut constituency. We do know that certain antibiotics can thus increase needs, as as mentioned certain anti-convulsants and anti-depressives. All these factors could play into the % of population responding to biotin supplementation for dermal growth (which is a classic biotin deficiency symptom, but also imprecise ).

    Human mutations in the ability to use biotin also exist. This manifests as homozygote recessives, and it is possible that heterozygotic carriers might be at greater risk for deficiency, especially if they have behaviors that reduce biotin intake or availability. So I think it is possible that there’s a subset of people who might benefit from additional intake, but I wouldn’t stretch it to the population as a whole. Remember we set the requirement to meet 95% of the population within that sex/age group, meaning the DRI exceeds the requirements of nearly 95% of people.

    So I haven’t a clue why some people would exhibit impaired cutaneous growth that responds to biotin, because it isn’t very explainable from the known biotin reactions. It would have been nice if the investigators had correlated nail responsiveness with a known marker of biotin status, like 3-hydroxylisovalerate, because we could have been more definitive about whether the responders really were biotin inadequate or if something else is going on.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      to paraphrase my favorite doctor

      Goldacre?

      1. Angora Rabbit says:

        Who?

        That would be Who, my friend.

        1. mousethatroared says:

          Oh my lord, bacon AND Doctor Who references – that almost all my favorite things.

          angorarabbit”We do know that certain antibiotics can thus increase needs, as as mentioned certain anti-convulsants and anti-depressives. ”

          Anyone know if anti-malarials (DMRAs) are on this list? One of the side effects I’ve seen listed is hair loss, but not sure what the mechanism is.

          1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            They have bacon jerky now. It might just be the best thing ever – all the smoke and sweetness of bacon, but with the concentrated flavour, shelf life* and intact fat of jerky.

            *Yeah, right, as if bacon jerky ever reaches its experiation date…

          2. mousethatroared says:

            @WLU – Bacon Jerky…not sure – one of my favorite things about bacon is the crispy, crunch texture. Is the texture more like jerky or more like bacon?

          3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            The stuff I tried was closer to jerky than crispy bacon, but closer to noncrispy bacon than jerky. It was more chewy than crunchy and had significant ribbons of fat running through it while most jerky is considerably drier.

            Made Mrs. Utridge gag and refuse to feed it to me while driving. Something about the smell forcibly intruding into her nose like the face hugger from Alien. But then again, she has always hated fun.

  17. Robert S says:

    There can only be one Vitamin H and Biotin is NOT it.

  18. Stephen says:

    The is an artical trying to bash something good! “Another expensive way to buy water.”Who is this person. What a cynical “www.amazingmolecules.com
    watch ASEA The Genesis. Go to testimonials at. http://www.yesitsamazing.com.” person. well I will tell you I’m living proof.
    No one ever calmed to be effective for disease. Jess does this person?REALLY! to poo poo any thing that is good. Boy this person I got to ask one question. why then why did one the biggest pharmaceutical company’s come to the founders in 2006 to say that they knew that this product had significant value to health were going to wright the biggest check to asea to shut down the project?redox singling molucules. By the way this product has been researched for 17 years and millions of dollars to the research of this product. This person has no facts to back up there claims just talking out of there ass the person hasn’t even taken the product. how can some one wright something that they haven’t even tried? they want to tell all about how it does not work when there are to many testaments to the fact what this product has done for so many including me. I am living proof that it works. I’m just appaled at the irony of a person to talk out of there ass you know there was a a ass that spoke in the bible.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Does that page have a set of testimonials from people for whom it didn’t work?

      Also, if you look into the comments of that ASEA article, you’ll see that the claims of “redox signalling molecules” are nonsense, and the “millions of dollars in research” resulted in exactly zero proof that ASEA (A Saline, Expensive Actually?) has any effect on human health. If a thousand people try it, and ten manage to have something good happen right after, and they write in about it – you’ve got ten testimonials of benefit, and 990 antitestimonials that the company isn’t putting on their website.

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