Biotin is found in many hair, nail, and skin formulas, and is taken on its own as a tool to help nails grow stronger, longer, and faster. Does this specific B vitamin really help nails grow?

What is Biotin?

Biotin is a water-soluble B-complex vitamin. B-complex vitamins help the body to convert food into fuel to produce energy, and are needed for the nervous system to function properly. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, B-complex vitamins are also needed for healthy hair, skin, eyes, and liver. Biotin is needed by the body to metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and amino acids, the building blocks for protein.

Biotin Deficiencies

Deficiencies in biotin can affect hair, nails, and skin, which may be why many people increase their biotin intake to support healthy nails. Symptoms of biotin deficiency can include hair loss, dry scaly skin, rash around the mouth, eyes, and nose, and brittle fingernails.

True deficiencies of biotin are rare, and are usually found only in a few situations. Prolonged consumption of raw egg whites can interfere with biotin absorption. Prolonged intravenous feeding can lead to nutritional deficiencies, including a shortage of biotin. Those taking anti-seizure medication or antibiotics long-term, and those with conditions like Crohn's disease, may also be more likely to have a biotin deficiency.

Increased Need for Biotin During Pregnancy

According to the Linus Pauling  Institute, the biotin requirement is likely to increase during pregnancy. "Research suggests that a substantial number of women develop marginal or subclinical biotin deficiency during normal pregnancy." Biotin appears to be broken down more rapidly douring pregnancy, and subclinical biotin deficiency has been linked to birth defects such as teratogenesis (abnormal development of the embryo or fetus). Most prenatal supplements will have an increased amount of supplemental biotin for this reason. The appearance of longer, stronger nails during pregnancy and the increased amounts of biotin in prenatal vitamins may be another reason that biotin is thought of as a supplement that improves nails.

Food Sources of Biotin

Cooked liver is a rich source of biotin, with a 3 oz serving providing 27-35 mcg of biotin, approximately 100% RDV for adults. Another one of the best sources of biotin is found in egg yolks. One egg yolk can provide anywhere from 13-25 mcg of biotin, or roughly one third of an adult's daily requirement. Eating three egg yolks would provide 100% RDV of biotin. Remember to cook your eggs, as uncooked egg whites can actually interfere with biotin absorption.

Biotin and Nail Health

Biotin supplements given to horses and pigs were found to be effective in treating hoof abnormalities, and this finding led to speculation that biotin supplements may also be beneficial for brittle fingernails in humans. Three uncontrolled trials on women with brittle fingernails found that participants experienced increased fingernail thickness and decreased nail splitting after biotin supplementation. The trials performed were small and uncontrolled, and larger placebo-controlled trials are needed to confirm the efficacy of biotin for the treatment of brittle fingernails.

Does Biotin Make Nails Grow Faster?

"You can't hurry your nails, which grow at a fixed rate of about a millimeter a month," says dermatologist Bruce Robinson, MD, of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. However, if biotin can decrease nail splitting and increase nail thickness, it might appear that nails are growing faster because they are not breaking off as quickly.

Biotin and other B-complex vitamins are not the only supplements linked to healthy nails. Deficiencies in a number of essential minerals can also lead to unhealthy nails that may be brittle, dry, or break easily. A good multivitamin with adequate amounts of B vitamins (including Biotin), plus minerals may help nails to be stronger. If you think your fingernails appear unhealthy, be sure to ask a dermatologist or doctor to look at them. Unhealthy nails may be an indication of an underlying health condition that needs to be addressed.

Melissa Zimmerman, Healthy Goods


References:

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-h-biotin

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/biotin/

http://www.webmd.com/beauty/nails/can-you-make-fingernails-grow-faster

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