Biotin and PCOS
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome should be aware of biotin, a member of the B-vitamin family.
Biotin has been used for hair loss, brittle nails, diabetes, and mild depression. It is also an essential co-factor for a number of important metabolic reactions. For example, it helps your liver and pancreas gland to manage your blood sugar.
Studies have also indicated that biotin is supportive of nervous system health and function, and it may promote healthy blood fat metabolism.
Biotin, Diabetes and Blood Sugar
As you know, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome have a higher risk of developing diabetes.
Since blood sugar problems and insulin resistance are common in both PCOS and diabetes, we might assume that if biotin is helpful for diabetes, it may also be helpful for PCOS.
Research indicates that blood sugar concentrations decrease as concentrations of biotin increase in people whether or not they have diabetes. However, this effect is far more dramatic in people with diabetes.(1)
There is some evidence that diabetes may produce a biotin-deficient state(2), although there are no studies that we know of to suggest that women with polycystic ovary syndrome may be biotin-deficient.
In one study, blood biotin levels were significantly lower in 43 patients with diabetes than in non-diabetics, and lower blood sugar levels were associated with higher blood biotin levels. After one month of biotin supplementation (9 mg/day) blood sugar levels decreased by an average of 45%(3).
Also, medical research has shown that a combination of biotin and chromium can lower blood sugar (glucose) in diabetics.(4)
Biotin and Blood Fats
It's not uncommon for women with PCOS to have unhealthy elevations of triglycerides, which is a fat in the blood.
High doses of biotin have been shown to reduce triglycerides as well as a "bad" form for cholesterol called "VLDL".(5)
Biotin and Hair Loss
There is some preliminary evidence that biotin given orally in combination with zinc and topical clobetasol propionate (Olux, Temovate) may be helpful for alopecia areata.(6) Alopecia areata is a condition where your immune system attacks your hair follicles and causes hair loss.
Although most PCOS women don't have alopecia areata, can biotin help to stop their hair loss? We haven't seen any studies of biotin regarding hair loss in polycystic ovarian syndrome.
However, some health professionals have reported success with biotin for restoring lost hair. A dosage range of 5-8 grams daily of biotin can be effective in restoring head hair growth, with no known side effects. Some specialty shampoos feature biotin for this reason.
From women who have used biotin for hair loss, we have heard comments like these:
- "Biotin has done wonders for my hair growth." -- Stephanie
- "Ditto!! Biotin has done wonders for my hair as well. I take 300 mcg/day…" -- Winna
Biotin and Nail Health
Clinical studies have indicated that biotin may improve the cellular arrangement of the nail bed, helping to reinforce the keratin structure, promote strength and thickness, and reduce splitting.
Brittle nails. Preliminary evidence shows that biotin might increase the thickness of fingernails and toenails in people with brittle nails (7)
Biotin is a vitamin found in small amounts in numerous foods. It is also synthesized in the intestines.
B-vitamin deficiencies are common. Some people, especially people who are blood type A, do not absorb B vitamins very well from food.
Biotin deficiency is thought to be uncommon, but is difficult to detect because of the lack of techniques to determine biotin concentrations in blood.
Symptoms of deficiency include thinning of the hair, frequently with loss of hair color, and red scaly rash around the eyes, nose, and mouth. Neurological symptoms may include depression, lethargy, hallucinations, and abnormal sensations in the extremities.
Safety and Interactions
Biotin is considered safe and well tolerated when used at recommended dosages.
Biotin is not known to interact with any drugs.
However, some drugs can adversely affect biotin levels, including: antibiotics, carbamezepine (Carbatrol,Tegretol), phenobarbital, phenytoin (Dilantin), and primidone (Mysoline).
Smoking increases biotin needs and might cause marginal biotin deficiency.
Raw egg white contains avidin, a protein that binds biotin in the intestine and prevents its absorption. Consumption of the equivalent of 2 or more uncooked egg whites daily for several months has caused symptomatic biotin deficiency.
How Much Should You Take?
There is no recommended dietary allowance (RDA) established for biotin. The "adequate intakes" for biotin are 25 micrograms for adolescents 14-18 years, 30 micrograms for adults over 18 years and pregnant women, and 35 micrograms for lactating women (8)
Biotin in doses of 10 milligrams per day have been taken without adverse effects.(8)
In the treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, 5 milligrams of biotin daily has been used for up to 130 weeks. (9)
There are no studies to indicate the "right" dosage of biotin for PCOS. However, if you have hair loss, poor blood sugar control, or are diabetic, you can consider a dose of up to 5 milligrams per day.
Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin, so any that is unneeded will be excreted.
Note: There are 1,000 micrograms in one milligram.
Where Can You Get It?
High quality biotin in 8 milligram capsules is available from our online PCOS Supplements Store.
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