©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Raw egg whites can neutralize biotin, so always cook your eggs.

What Is Biotin?

Biotin is one of the agents that converts our food into energy. Fortunately, most people's diets contain foods that provide more than enough biotin to keep us healthy. However, if you're on certain medications or if you drink too much alcohol, it's possible to develop a biotin deficiency, although this condition is very rare.

In the 1930s, an investigator at the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine in London, England, found that after feeding rats raw egg whites for several weeks they developed an eczemalike skin condition, lost their hair, became paralyzed, and hemorrhaged under the skin. It was 1940 before scientist Paul Gyorgy identified the vitamin that could help. Soon after, scientists realized it was another member of the B complex and named it biotin.

Biotin acts as a coenzyme in several metabolic reactions. It functions in the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates, the breakdown of proteins to urea, and the conversion of amino acids from protein into blood sugar for energy.

Milk, liver, egg yolk, yeast, and dried peas and beans are good sources of biotin. Nuts and mushrooms contain smaller amounts of the vitamin. Bacteria in the intestinal tract can also make biotin.

The RDA for biotin is 30 micrograms (mcg) per day. The typical varied diet of Americans provides about 100 to 300 mcg. This is plenty for healthy people, especially when added to that produced by intestinal bacteria. The elderly, athletes, and burn victims may need more biotin than the general population.

A deficiency of biotin occurs only in unusual circumstances, such as when eating large amounts of raw egg whites. Raw egg whites contain a substance called avidin that ties up biotin, preventing its absorption. Cooking egg whites deactivates the avidin.

A biotin deficiency can also result from prolonged use of antibiotic medications that destroy intestinal bacteria, but this only leads to true deficiency when combined with a diet that lacks sufficient biotin. Alcoholics may become deficient in this and other B vitamins since alcohol inhibits absorption and interferes with metabolism.

Some people are born with an inherited disorder that increases their need for biotin. In this situation, a supplement may be necessary to prevent a biotin deficiency.

On the next page you'll learn some of the ways that biotin can also keep people healthy, especially newborns and diabetics.

Biotin is just one of the many vitamins that are part of a healthy diet. Check out the following links to learn more:
  • Vitamin A plays an essential role in eyesight. Learn how it helps us to see, even in the dark, at How Vitamin A Works.
  • Vitamin B1, or thiamin, is one of the essentil vitamins added back to "enriched" foods. Learn about it at How Vitamin B1 Works.
  • When teamed with other B vitamins, B2 helps in metabolism. Find out what it does at How Vitamin B2 Works.
  • Found mostly in protein, Vitamin B3 keeps us strong. How Vitamin B3 Works explains what happens if you don't get enough of it.
  • Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which keeps the blood clean. Separate truth from fiction at How Vitamin E Works.
  • To learn about the many vitamins in our diet, how much you should be eating, and where to find them, go to our general Vitamins page.
  • If you were looking for the best prices on B vitamin supplements, click here.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.