Biotin has long been popular for its healthy hair, skin, and nails claim. But what about the disclaimer that the effects haven’t been evaluated by the FDA? If you have weak nails and thinning hair, you’re likely willing to try anything once, assuming it’s safe. So what are the chances biotin supplements can actually help you achieve healthier hair, skin, and nails? And how badly do we need biotin? Experts say there is a possibility, you just have to accept the likelihood that it also may not do anything at all.
Vitamin B7 is a water-soluble nutrient found in foods. It is commonly found in egg yolks, nuts, and avocados. Jason Ewoldt, RDN, LD, is the wellness director of the Healthy Living Program at the Mayo Clinic; he weighed in on the biotin craze: “[It] is critical for the metabolism of fatty acids and carbs, but that’s not what people are using it for.” While Ewoldt admits it probably isn’t bad for people to take it as religiously as they do, it likely isn’t benefiting them either. People who are deficient in biotin can exhibit certain symptoms such as facial rashes and pink eye. However, Ewoldt states, a “true biotin deficiency is rare.” Arielle Levitan, M.D., is a physician in Highland Park, IL; she admits that “many people have trouble getting enough biotin via diet and should supplement…” Pregnant women are at risk of not getting enough biotin, as are alcoholics. Without a reliable blood test for biotin, it can sometimes be helpful to supplement and is rarely harmful.
So, How Badly Do We Need Biotin?
The jury is still out on hair health. Without much evidence to support major hair growth and repair, biotin does not seem to be important for hair health. However, there might be a legitimate argument for nail health. Some studies found that adding a biotin supplement to your daily intake slightly improved nail thickness. Still, Ewoldt says, “it’s hard to pin the effects down to this one nutrient.” While there is no recommended daily amount, some say 30 mcg each day is probably best. It would be difficult to take in a toxic amount as even 200,000 mcg a day is not thought to be toxic. Still, you should try to keep your intake in the low 30’s. Some of the only known negative side effects include skewed blood test results and interference with the absorption of other essential B vitamins. Taken in moderation, it’s certainly safe to try it out for nail repair. Experts urge you to check that the brand you choose actually includes biotin in their supplement. Many brands do not include the levels of vitamins they claim to. Look for NSF or USP labels on the bottle to ensure it has been tested and contains what the brand says it does. As always, consult your doctor before adding new supplements into your diet. He/she might be able to tell you why you have brittle nails or thinning hair, and may suggest a better alternative.
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