Biotin is a B-complex vitamin that has been identified as a necessary nutrient for a century but has only begun to be understood in the past two decades. It has also been previously referred to as coenzyme R, vitamin H, and vitamin B7, with the different names attesting to the confusion surrounding its role in normal metabolism.
Biotin first came to the attention of researchers for what is still its most famous characteristicâ€”that raw egg whites can interfere with biotin nutrition. More recently, we have learned about its central role in many pathways of metabolism. Most importantly, we see that biotin plays key roles in fat and sugar metabolism, roles that make deficiency of biotin show up in multiple and unrelated ways.
We also have only a partial understanding of how much biotin is found in commonly eaten foods.
Diets low in biotin impair the production of insulin, a key hormone in the balancing of blood sugar. More recently, researchers have shown that deficiency of biotin also affects the way insulin acts on cells, giving a second reason that low biotin intake potentially creates problems.
Happily, many of the biotin-rich foods we list are also strong sources of fiber, which make them great staples for people with blood sugar problems. Demonstrating this point, a Spanish research group reported that adding about an ounce of mixed nuts into the diet for 12 weeks led to significant improvement in blood sugar control in a group of people at high risk of developing diabetes.
Deficiency of biotin is also known to cause a skin rash. This symptom occurs because biotin is necessary to build healthy fats in the skin. These fats keep the skin supple and moist, and when they are gone, the skin becomes flaky and irritated.
Back in the 1940s, a researcher demonstrated that adding high biotin foods into the diet of a lactating mother reduced symptoms of cradle cap in nursing infants. Although this research hasn’t been followed up in more modern settings, we think that nursing moms could consider focusing on foods high in both biotin and omega-3 fatty acids , including salmon and eggs from pasture-raised chickens.
Nuts, root vegetables, and eggs are among our best sources of biotin. Each can contain more than a quarter of your daily biotin need in a single serving.
Other animal foods like milk and meat can make up another chunk of your biotin requirement.