There are many supplements that supposedly help you lose weight. What about the essential vitamin biotin (B7), does it play a role in weight loss?
The relationship between vitamins and minerals and weight loss is often interesting. If there is any relationship, weight loss usually comes from resolving an insufficiency or avoiding an excess intake of the vitamin or mineral.
This is the case with biotin, also known as vitamin B7. Resolving a biotin insufficiency may slightly benefit weight loss but more biotin will not always lead to weight loss.
Besides very specific groups of people like people with undernutrition, individuals with chronic alcohol exposure, individuals that eat a lot of raw egg whites, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and individuals with biotinidase deficiency a biotin insufficiency is not very likely.
If you think you think your levels of biotin may be insufficient you can calculate your daily intake and get your levels measured. This way you can see if you should actively work on increasing your biotin intake.
Relatively high biotin intake is generally considered safe. In some cases of heavy biotin supplementation the accuracy of other lab tests suffers which can lead to misdiagnoses.
How biotin may help you lose weight
Vitamins and minerals play important roles in all kinds of processes inside of your body. If you don’t consume enough of these vitamins and minerals many of these processes take place in lesser or even zero amounts. This is usually bad for your health.
The opposite is also sometimes the case. Consuming too much of certain vitamins and minerals can cause negative side effects too.
Biotin has some downstream influence on reactions that transfer the potential energy in carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to ATP (1, 2, 3). If and just how much this influence matters for weight loss is not entirely clear.
More indirectly related to weight loss is that low biotin intake may lead to lethargy and depression. These are likely not helpful when trying to lose weight which often involves working out and using some willpower.
In short, you want your biotin levels to be at the right level. If this is already the case consuming more biotin will likely not lead to weight loss. If your biotin levels are low, consuming more biotin may help slightly with weight loss.
However, in the developed world biotin deficiencies and insufficiencies are not very common. There are likely other things you want to focus on when trying to lose weight.
It is hard to put resolving a biotin insufficiency into a certain number of extra calories burned. For most people this will not be the lifestyle change that instantly gets them to their dream weight. However, together with the health benefits, making sure that your biotin intake is sufficient may be worth it.
Biotin daily recommendations
Below you can find a table with adequate intakes for adults, infants, and children (1).
An adequate intake is a dietary recommendation used when there isn’t enough data to calculate an average requirement. An adequate intake is the average nutrient level consumed daily by a typical healthy population that is assumed to be adequate for the population’s needs (4).
Since healthy people are generally able to deal with biotin from food in higher amounts you may want to aim for higher intakes than these numbers.
Obviously, not all people have the same body weight, body composition, and activity levels. Hopefully one day there will be more specific dosage recommendations available. For now, these are some general intake numbers you can aim at.
|0-6 months||5 mcg||5 mcg|
|7-12 months||6 mcg||6 mcg|
|1-3 years||8 mcg||8 mcg|
|4-8 years||12 mcg||12 mcg|
|9-13 years||20 mcg||20 mcg|
|14-18 years||25 mcg||25 mcg||30 mcg||35 mcg|
|19+ years||30 mcg||30 mcg||30 mcg||35 mcg|
As a first food example, salmon (canned) contains about 5 mcg of biotin per 3 ounces (85 grams). A healthy individual with a normal diet is not likely to be insufficient in biotin.
People at risk of biotin inadequacy
Some groups of people are more at risk of a biotin inadequacy than others. Examples include (1):
- Individuals with chronic alcohol exposure
- Individuals that eat a lot of raw egg whites
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Individuals with biotinidase deficiency
If you are in one of these groups you may need to pay more attention to get an adequate biotin intake.
Other people may want to talk to their doctors and get their levels checked first before heavily supplementing with biotin to see if there is any need for it.
Biotin deficiency symptoms
There are some symptoms that are associated with a biotin deficiency. Experiencing these on a regular basis may be a sign that your biotin levels are not optimal. A biotin deficiency is rare but possible.
Some biotin deficiency symptoms include (1):
- Hair thinning/loss
- Red rash around body openings
- Brittle nails
Avoiding the biotin deficiency symptoms alone may be reason enough to ensure that you are getting enough of this vitamin.
Ways to get enough biotin
In many cases it is luckily not that hard to increase your biotin levels. This can be done both naturally with whole foods and supplementing.
Eating whole foods with biotin in them is usually the most recommended way to increase your intake. The reason for this is the wide variety of additional nutrients you get.
Some examples of foods with relatively high amounts of biotin include (1):
- Beef liver (cooked): about 30.8 mcg per 3 ounces (85 grams)
- Whole egg (cooked): about 10 mcg per 100 grams
- Salmon (canned): about 5 mcg per 3 ounces (85 grams)
- Porkchop (cooked): about 3.8 mcg per 3 ounces (85 grams)
- Hamburger patty (cooked): about 3.8 mcg per 3 ounces (85 grams)
- Sunflower seeds (roasted): about 2.6 mcg per 1/4 cup (32 grams)
When you know what foods to focus on it becomes easier to reach your daily recommended intake for biotin. Besides these examples, you can find biotin in most other whole foods in varying amounts.
The next option to increase your biotin intake is by taking dietary supplements. These are pills, capsules, tablets, or liquids with concentrated quantities of biotin.
While biotin supplements are generally considered safe, getting your nutrients from whole foods is often better. This way you get a wide variety of other important nutrients too.
Can you consume too much biotin?
One thing you do have to keep in mind is that you can also consume too much of certain vitamins and minerals. This is called the tolerable upper intake level, the highest level of nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects for almost all individuals in the general population (5).
At the moment there is no tolerable upper intake level established for biotin. This means that it is unlikely for healthy individuals to see negative health effects from consuming more biotin than the daily adequate intakes with dietary biotin sources (1).
One indirect consequence of consuming high amounts of biotin is that it can influence other lab results. This can in turn can lead to inaccurate diagnosis including regarding thyroid hormone levels.
With these things in mind it may be smart to talk to your doctor before heavily supplementing biotin.
Implementing more biotin into your diet or supplementing may slightly help weight loss if your biotin levels are currently too low. If your biotin levels are already normal, adding more biotin will likely not help weight loss.
Since biotin insufficiencies are not very common, most people will not lose weight by consuming more biotin.
Because there are no tolerable upper intake levels consuming above-average levels of biotin is considered safe. However in some cases heavy biotin supplementation can lead to inaccuracy of other lab tests which can lead to misdiagnoses.
Exactly how many extra calories you will burn by resolving a biotin insufficiency is not clear. This will likely not be the thing that gets you to your dream weight. Even so, together with the other health benefits making sure that your biotin intake is sufficient may be worth it.