Biotin deficiency - signs, effects and prevention

Biotin deficiency - signs, effects and prevention

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Biotin is a B vitamin, more precisely vitamin B7, also called vitamin H. It is bound by the streptavidin and avidin proteins and dissolves in water. This substance is essential for the fat metabolism and for the protein and carbohydrate balance in the body as well as for the balance of blood sugar. Biotin deficiency manifests itself in cracked skin, muscle pain and constant exhaustion. Serious symptoms such as hearing loss or mental disorders can follow. The essentials in brief:

  • The body cannot produce biotin itself, but we take it in through food.
  • Biotin is necessary for various body functions such as the nervous system, metabolism, skin and hair.
  • A lack of biotin therefore leads to a variety of symptoms.
  • A lack of biotin can be cured by adding vitamin B 7.

How does biotin work?

Without biotin, we can hardly convert fatty acids, amino acids and glucose. So if we ingest fat, proteins and carbohydrates with our food, they cannot be converted into "fuel" for the body and the brain without biotin. Biotin also plays an essential role in building hair and skin. Hence the old name: Vitamin H.

Biotin dissolves in the water, it flows with the blood, and we excrete the excess amounts with the urine. So there is no biotin store in the body and we have to get the vitamin again and again.

Who is at risk of biotin deficiency?

Biotin deficiency rarely occurs. There is an increased risk in people who take permanent medication for cramps or antibiotics and people who suffer from digestive diseases such as Crohn's disease or Leaky Gut syndrome. It also often affects people who generally suffer from malnutrition and lack enough nutrients through inadequate or one-sided diet.


Older people often eat less. You should therefore take special care to ingest enough biotin. Older people in particular often do not notice a lack of biotin, because its key symptoms such as dry skin and hair loss or physical exhaustion are also typical symptoms of the aging body.


Those who exercise a lot and / or are stressed need more biotin to repair the cells. If there is now a lack of sleep and psychological stress, the need increases even more and the vitamin is easily deficient.

Cigarettes and alcohol

Smoking lowers the biotin level, alcohol disturbs the digestion. So both drugs lead to a higher need for biotin.


The first external symptoms of a biotin deficiency are dry skin, brittle hair, hair loss and thin hair. Hair changes color. In addition, there are problems with digestion, poor performance, cognitive complaints, anemia, mental instability and a lack of appetite. Increased infections as a result of the weakened immune system can also indicate a lack of biotin. Those affected often suffer from depression combined with insomnia. A red rash can form around the eyes, mouth and genitals. Visual disturbances occur and the urine changes its smell. As proteins are no longer transformed, muscle pain like muscle soreness, muscle spasms, nerve damage and neuronal pain, tingling in the limbs, often accompanied by feelings of numbness.

Longer-term biotin deficiency is serious: permanent psychological damage can result, as can permanent hearing loss. Developmental disorders sometimes occur in children, birth defects of the newborn are possible in pregnant women.

In adults, physical development is complete, but the organism must regenerate and protect the cells and the metabolism must work. Because biotin affects the entire organism, the symptoms described affect various areas of the body: blood, tissue, brain, skin, hair and nerves.

Blood pressure

A lack of biotin leads to low blood pressure. If your blood pressure is already too low, the drop can result in the brain not being supplied with oxygen: you lose consciousness.

Body tissue

Vitamin B 7 controls cell growth. Without biotin, the tissue becomes weaker and / or changes.


Biotin plays an essential role in building and growing hair and nails. If it is missing, the hair structure crumbles, hair becomes brittle, thin and falls out. Nails become brittle and tear. The hair fades.


Biotin is the vitamin for skin and hair. Without vitamin B 7, the skin becomes pale, red and scaly, swells, itches and can hardly fight off infections. Wounds heal more slowly. The mucous membranes also dry out and ignite.

Immune system

A lack of biotin has a negative impact on the immune system. Fungi and bacteria can easily penetrate and cause disease.


A lack of biotin leads to a general decrease in performance, both physically and mentally: those affected feel chronically exhausted, beaten and demotivated. Psychologically, this is often associated with depressive moods.

The nervous system

With a long-term lack of biotin, the nervous system suffers - paralysis and seizure-like cramps occur.

Metabolic activity

Biotin contributes to the formation of metabolic enzymes. If it is missing, nutrients will no longer be adequately implemented. The result is a sudden and rapid weight loss.

Symptoms in children

The symptoms in children are different from those in adults because biotin participates in cell division and thus influences the development of the body. A lack of biotin is far more dangerous in embryos, infants and toddlers than in adults. A genetically caused lack of biotin is closely related to autistic behavior. Young children who suffer from a severe lack of biotin can hardly develop mentally or physically.

Like adults, children get metabolic disorders when they lack biotin. Nervous system disorders also cause cramps in children, but can also delay development in the growing body. Hair and skin show the same symptoms as in adults.

Caution: In embryos and small children, a lack of biotin can also lead to permanent hearing loss and poor eyesight.

The Egg White Injury

Biotin was discovered when researchers investigated a disease that occurred after eating raw eggs. The sufferers suffered from hair loss, rash and nerve disorders. The scientists found the substance known today as biotin in the liver. In uncooked eggs, avidin, one of the proteins in protein, binds vitamin B 7 and the body is left empty-handed.

Biotin deficiency in pregnant women

Every second pregnant woman has low biotin levels. This is because the growing fetus has a high need for vitamin B 7 because it is necessary for the division of the cells. Most of the women with low values ​​show no symptoms of biotin deficiency. But be careful: birth defects can occur. With a supply of vitamin preparations, the level rises again quickly.

Biotin for prevention

A balanced biotin level prevents brittle nails, at least if we use the effective therapies for hoof diseases in horses as a basis. It reduces the risk of diabetes, hair loss and heart diseases, promotes wound healing and strengthens the nervous system.

When do we speak of biotin deficiency?

A lack of the "skin and hair vitamin" is gradual and therefore often goes unnoticed. With less than 0.1 micrograms per liter of body fluid, we speak of a biotin deficiency that needs medical help. At less than 0.199 micrograms there is an undersupply that may need treatment, at around 0.6 micrograms the biotin level is good.

How does biotin deficiency occur?

Decisive for the biotin level are the content in the food, the individual requirement, the absorption by the body and possible diseases. The body doesn't produce biotin, so we have to get it. Biotin deficiency is often the result of one-sided diets, eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia and it occurs in bodybuilders who swallow raw eggs and thus bind the vitamin.

The daily requirement for adults is 30 to 60 micrograms, but increases due to pregnancy, breastfeeding, exercise, physical activity, stress or smoking. In the case of digestive complaints, the body does not take in enough vitamin B 7; in the case of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases or a genetically caused lack of biotinidase, the biotin is either poorly absorbed or insufficiently transported. Kidney weakness and excessive urge to urinate cause the body to excrete more biotin.

Unintended consequences after pregnancy

Some women complain that after childbirth and breastfeeding, their hair becomes thinner. The cause is often an undersupply of biotin during this time. The good news: Even if the hair becomes thinner or even falls out, this can be reversed by balancing the biotin level.

Detect biotin deficiency yourself?

You can hardly recognize a biotin deficiency yourself. The symptoms can have various other causes, especially other deficiencies in minerals and vital substances. If you suspect an undersupply of biotin or other substances, then get a medical examination. As a rule, both the blood and the urine are examined. If biotin levels are too low in both body fluids, this is a sure sign.


Biotin deficiency can be remedied by adding biotin. For this, the doctor administers capsules, tablets or injections. Injections are only necessary if there is a severe shortage.

Prevent biotin deficiency

Biotin deficiency is relatively rare because people who eat a balanced diet and do not suffer from specific diseases get enough vitamin B 7 with their food. Nuts, whole grain cereals, vegetables, yeast, seafood and offal are cheap. Avoid raw eggs, including egg white. Reduce smoking. With cigarette smoke, you excrete more biotin in your urine. A healthy lifestyle also prevents biotin deficiency. Relax, sleep well and don't overwork yourself.
Unlike other vitamins, with biotin you have no problems with overdoses, since B 7 leaves the body with the urine when there is no need. In this respect, there are no problems if you take biotin supplements as a preventative measure.

Which foods contain a lot of biotin?

Biotin is particularly present in dry yeast, soybeans, oatmeal, walnuts, wild rice, spinach, cauliflower, avocado, mushrooms, tomatoes, raspberries, bananas, milk, beef liver and kidneys and egg yolk.

Biotin capsules for beauty?

In recent years, the market for biotin capsules has been booming to make hair shine and strengthen nails. This is not wrong: biotin helps when the hair becomes brittle and loses or shines. But don't believe in the quack promise of the miracle cure. Your hair does not shine beyond normal with additional biotin - for one simple reason: with biotin capsules you compensate for an existing lack of biotin. Excess vitamin B 7 does not make your hair look even more beautiful or your nails look better, but leaves your body in the toilet. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


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  • German Green Cross: Biotin (vitamin B7, formerly vitamin H) (accessed: July 15, 2019),
  • Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline, National Academy Press, 1998,
  • Weißenborn, Anke / Bakhiya, Nadiya / Demuth, Irmela / u.a .: Maximum levels for vitamins and minerals in food supplements, Journal of Consumer Protection and Food Safety, Volume 13, Issue 1, 2018,
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  • National Institutes of Health: Biotin Fact Sheet for Health Professionals (accessed: July 15, 2019),
  • Food and Drug Administration: Food Labeling: Revision of the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels (accessed: July 15, 2019),
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine: Biotinidase deficiency (access: July 15, 2019),

ICD codes for this disease: E53ICD codes are internationally valid encodings for medical diagnoses. You can find yourself e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.

Video: Vitamin B7 Biotin (August 2022).