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Biotin: What you should know about this popular supplement

BiotinBy Elizabeth Nolan Brown for

When I polled women last week on what vitamins and supplements they take, I was surprised how many folks were taking biotin. So was one of my cousins—who wrote me asking, “What is biotin? And should I be taking it?” Good questions!

Let’s explore …

What is biotin?
Biotin is one of the lesser-known of the B-Complex vitamins (it was originally known as ‘Vitamin H,’ and is also sometimes referred to as Vitamin B7). It’s water soluble, meaning the body doesn’t store it, and it’s found in small amounts in a variety of foods. Good dietary sources of biotin include egg yolks, swiss chard, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, carrots, almonds, brewer’s yeast, sardines, onions, cabbage, cucumber, cauliflower, mushrooms, goat’s milk, cow’s milk, raspberries, strawberries, halibut, oats and walnuts.

What does biotin do?
Biotin helps enzymes in the body that break down or metabolize fats, carbohydrates, sugars and amino acids. It helps your body make efficient use of sugar (by converting it into usable energy), and helps synthesize fat in cells, which is important for the skin. It’s also sometimes used to help treat intestinal problems (irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, chronic diarrhea), seizures, and skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis.

Most people I’ve talked to take biotin because they say it has a beneficial effect on their skin, hair and nails, helping skin shine and hair and nails grow faster and longer (though there’s little scientific evidence to support this).

What are the signs of biotin deficiency?  Keep reading to find out…

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