Biotin is also known as vitamin H or vitamin B7 and is a water-soluble vitamin from the complex of B vitamins. It has an important role in the metabolism of the human body, as it is a component of certain enzymes as a so-called prosthetic group. But it also plays a central role in the regulation of gene function in the cell nucleus.
Biotin is a substance that crystallizes into colorless needles and is solid at room temperature. The compound is not soluble in most organic solvents, but it dissolves in hot water and alkalis.
At atmospheric oxygen and higher temperatures biotin is stable, the melting point is 232-233 °C. Decomposition of the compound occurs by the action of strong bases, strong acids, oxidizing agents and UV light. Biotin is an important product of the chemical industry, and there are various methods for its chemical synthesis. The starting materials are usually fumaric acid, cysteine or tetronic acid.
A large number of foodstuffs contain biotin, but usually only in very small amounts, such as in the single-digit microgram range. For example, dried yeast (200 μg) or beef liver (103 μg) contain a lot of biotin, while little biotin is found in cow’s milk (3 μg) or apples (1 μg).
Intestinal bacteria in the intestinal flora of humans are also capable of producing biotin and enriching their environment with the compound. Accordingly, it is assumed that the human organism also absorbs and utilizes this bacterially synthesized biotin to a certain extent. In general, the German Nutrition Society recommends a biotin amount of 30-60 μg per day as sufficient intake for healthy adults. During pregnancy and lactation, the same amount of biotin should be taken in.
A deficiency of biotin in the body affects the entire metabolism. Sometimes such a deficiency is also genetically determined, which makes special therapy necessary.In general, a biotin deficiency in humans can cause a large number of different and non-specific symptoms. These range from changes in the blood count and gastrointestinal complaints to hair loss, brittle nails and metabolic disorders.
In general, biotin is commercially available as a dietary supplement in the form of tablets, capsules and powder. As a preventive measure against deficiency symptoms, a dose of 0.2 micrograms per day is sufficient, but in the case of acute biotin deficiency or certain rare metabolic disorders, much higher doses and even lifelong treatment may be necessary.