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.
Women with PCOS may want to take biotin if they have any of these goals:
Insulin resistance, the inability to efficiently utilize the hormone insulin, is thought to be a main cause of PCOS.
Several animal studies have shown that biotin can reduce insulin resistance in muscle tissues. This reduction is likely to improve your ability to burn off fat in muscle cells. Remember, the only place in your body where you can burn and get rid of fat is in your muscles. So, to the extent you can reduce insulin resistance in these cells, you can lose weight. Other factors that help muscles burn fat are increased exercise and improved diet.
One of the consequences of polycystic ovarian syndrome is a higher risk of developing diabetes.
It's well known that a large percentage of women who have polycystic ovary syndrome also have impaired glucose tolerance (IGT).
IGT is a pre-diabetic state of disturbed blood sugar that is associated with insulin resistance and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. IGT may precede type 2 diabetes by many years. IGT is also a risk factor for mortality. Biotin appears to improve glucose tolerance in both humans and lab animals.
An interesting study from Tohoku University in Japan showed that high amounts of supplemental biotin helped rats to significantly reduce their IGT. The researchers also noted that the rats consuming the highest amount of supplemental biotin lost weight even though their food intake increased.
Also, 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.
There is some evidence that diabetes may produce a biotin-deficient state, 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%.
Also, medical research has shown that a combination of biotin and chromium can lower blood sugar (glucose) in diabetics.
Women with PCOS frequently have unhealthy elevations of cholesterol or triglycerides.
We're all familiar with a waxy substance called cholesterol, which circulates in the bloodstream.
What is less known is that little globs of fat also circulate in the blood. These fats are called triglycerides. A chronically higher than optimal level of triglycerides indicates something is metabolically not working correctly, and is suggestive of increased cardiovascular disease risk.
High triglycerides are a sign of trouble. Part of the reason for these high blood fats is thought to be an unhealthy diet containing high amounts of processed fructose.
Several studies have shown that biotin is effective for helping to reduce triglycerides. The Universidad Nacional in Mexico City recently reported that a biotin supplement given to mice reduced their triglycerides. One group of mice was given supplemental biotin for 8 weeks. The other group did not. After 8 weeks, the biotin-supplemented mice had triglycerides 35% lower than the other mice. In addition, the biotin mice lost fat weight while the other mice did not.
High doses of biotin reduce triglycerides as well as a "bad" form for cholesterol called "VLDL", according to a study from the Mexican Institute of Social Security. The researchers said: "We conclude that pharmacological doses of biotin decrease hypertriglyceridemia. The triglyceride-lowering effect of biotin suggests that biotin could be used in the treatment of hypertriglyceridemia."
In another study, from the Chicago Research Center, biotin was used in combination with chromium on a group of moderately overweight diabetics, while another group took a placebo. At the end of one month, the researchers assessed the participant's blood with a measurement called the "atherogenic index of plasma" (AIP), which is associated with cardiovascular disease. The AIP was significantly improved in the biotin + chromium group vs. the placebo group. In other words, the folks taking biotin + chromium lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease.
There are no studies of using biotin for hair loss in PCOS.
There is some evidence that biotin given orally in combination with zinc and topical clobetasol propionate (Olux, Temovate) may be helpful for alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.
PCOS women who have hair loss usually have androgenetic alopecia, not alopecia areata.
But if biotin can help reduce alopecia areata, one could imagine it might help with androgenetic hair loss too.
Some clinicians have reported anecdotally to us they've had some success with biotin for restoring lost hair. A dosage range of 5-8 grams daily is what they appear to be using, with no known side effects.
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.
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.
The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has reported that "a substantial proportion of pregnant women are marginally biotin deficient."
In mice, a similar degree of biotin deficiency leads to birth defects.
It appears that biotin could be involved in the baby's developmental process. In other words, a pregnancy may increase the use of biotin.
In conclusion, the researchers say: "These observations further raise concerns that biotin deficiency does occur and does cause human birth defects."
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.
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
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.
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.
PCOS Supplements Page
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Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline (2000). Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000
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