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What is Biotin and what does it do?

Biotin is a B-vitamin found in many foods. Biotin helps turn the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in the food you eat into the energy you need.

Biotin, a B vitamin, is an essential nutrient that is naturally present in some foods and available as a dietary supplement. This water-soluble vitamin is a cofactor for five carboxylases (propionyl-CoA carboxylase, pyruvate carboxylase, methylcrotonyl-CoA carboxylase [MCC], acetyl-CoA carboxylase 1, and acetyl-CoA carboxylase 2) that catalyze critical steps in the metabolism of fatty acids, glucose, and amino acids [1-5]. Biotin also plays key roles in histone modifications, gene regulation (by modifying the activity of transcription factors), and cell signaling [3].

Most biotin in foods is bound to protein, although some dietary biotin is in the free form [1,3,4,6]. Gastrointestinal proteases and peptidases break down the protein-bound forms of ingested biotin into biocytin and biotin-oligopeptides, which undergo further processing by biotinidase, an enzyme, in the intestinal lumen to release free biotin [6]. The free biotin is then absorbed in the small intestine, and most biotin is stored in the liver [1,3,6].

How much Biotin do I need?

The amount of biotin you need each day depends on your age. Average daily recommended amounts are listed below in micrograms (mcg).



  Birth to 6 months

5 mcg  

  Infants 7–12 months

6 mcg  

  Children 1–3 years

8 mcg  

  Children 4–8 years

12 mcg  

  Children 9–13 years

20 mcg  

  Teens 14–18 years

25 mcg  

  Adults 19+ years

30 mcg  

  Pregnant teens and women

30 mcg  

  Breastfeeding teens and women

35 mcg  

What happens if I don’t get enough Biotin?

Biotin deficiency is very rare in the United States. Biotin deficiency can cause thinning hair and loss of body hair; a rash around the eyes, nose, mouth, and anal area; pinkeye; high levels of acid in the blood and urine; seizures; skin infection; brittle nails; and nervous system disorders. Symptoms of biotin deficiency in infants include weak muscle tone, sluggishness, and delayed development.

What are some effects of Biotin on health?

Scientists are studying biotin to understand how it affects health. Here is an example of what this research has shown.

Hair, nail, and skin health

Dietary supplements that contain biotin are often promoted to improve the health of your hair, skin, and nails, but there is little scientific evidence to support these claims. In a few small studies, some people with thin and brittle nails who took high doses of biotin had harder nails. Doctors have also reported that in a few cases, high doses of biotin have improved a rare hair disorder in children and skin rash in infants. More research is needed before biotin supplements can be recommended for any of these conditions.

Can Biotin be harmful?

Biotin has not been shown to cause any harm. However, supplements that contain biotin above recommended amounts may cause false results in some lab tests, including those that measure levels of certain hormones, like thyroid hormone.

Where can I find out more about Biotin?

For general information about biotin:
o Office of Dietary SupplementsHealth Professional Fact Sheet on Biotin
For more information on food sources of biotin:
o Office of Dietary Supplements Health Professional Fact Sheet on Biotin
For more advice on choosing dietary supplements:
• For information about building a healthy dietary pattern:


1. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1998.

2. Mock DM. Biotin. In: Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ, Tucker KL, Ziegler TR, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 11th ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014:390-8.

3. Zempleni J, Wijeratne SSK, Kuroishi T. Biotin. In: Erdman JW, Macdonald IA, Zeisel SH, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. 10th ed. Washington, DC: Wiley-Blackwell; 2012:359-74.

4. Pacheco-Alvarez D, Solórzano-Vargas RS, Del Río AL. Biotin in metabolism and its relationship to human disease. Arch Med Res 2002;33:439-47. [PubMed abstract]

5. Staggs CG, Sealey WM, McCabe BJ, Teague AM, Mock DM. Determination of the biotin content of select foods using accurate and sensitive HPLC/avidin binding. Journal of food composition and analysis: an official publication of the United Nations University, International Network of Food Data Systems 2004;17:767-76. [PubMed abstract]

6. Said HM. Biotin: biochemical, physiological and clinical aspects. Subcell Biochem 2012;56:1-19. [PubMed abstract]

7. Health information data from U.S. National Institutes of Health

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