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What is it and where does it come from?

Also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H, biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin that can be found in trace amounts in a variety of foods including meat, poultry, mushrooms, and fruits such as dates, strawberries and watermelon. It is also produced by intestinal bacteria.

How does it work on the cellular level?

Biotin is a coenzyme (a 'helper enzyme' for other enzymes) and plays an important role as such, in the citric acid cycle. This is the process whereby production of biochemical energy occurs during aerobic respiration. Biotin is also involved in a variety of important physiologic functions including the synthesis of fatty acids, the metabolism of fats and proteins (amino acids), and maintaining healthy cell division (including in the hair follicle, one of the most actively dividing cellular areas in the body). It also functions as a carrier of carbon dioxide during gluconeogenesis (the formation of glucose) which helps maintain steady blood glucose levels.

Biotin deficiency is extremely rare, as only very minute amounts are required by the body and it is widely available in most diets. Additionally, many foods are fortified with it.

What are the usual deficiency symptoms?

The most common symptoms of deficiency may include thinning of hair, alopecia (hair loss), dry and flaky scalp, eczema and skin rashes, fungal infections, and brittle nails. As mentioned above, however, biotin deficiency is extremely rare.

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