Biotin: A Taste of What Supplements Can Do

Biotin: A Taste of What Supplements Can Do
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Juvenon Health Journal volume 10 number 9 september 2011
By Benjamin V. Treadwell, Ph.D.

Biotin: A Taste of What Supplements Can DoMany people, including some medical doctors, advise against supplementing our diets with vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients. The most common reason given? We can obtain all the nutrients our bodies require from healthy eating.

Is this true? Or is supplementing the key to maintaining sufficient levels of vitamins and nutrients for a balanced metabolism and optimum health? A large group of medical/health professionals has come to this conclusion. Let’s take a closer look at one essential nutrient, biotin, as an example of how and why.

Biotin Basics
Our bodies cannot make biotin, the more common name for vitamin B-7. It serves key functions in the production of energy in our cells, including metabolizing glucose, amino acids and fat. More recent research supports a role for biotin in regulating gene expression as well.

The micronutrient biotin is present, at varying concentrations, in cow’s milk, liver, other meats, fish and many vegetables, fruits and grains. Cooked eggs are also a good source of this nutrient.

“Biotin is the more common name for vitamin B-7”

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for biotin is 300 micrograms (mcg). Even though many multivitamins on the market contain less per dose, biotin has actually been shown to be safe at amounts much higher than the RDA. In fact, the upper safe limit remains to be established.

How do you know if your cells aren’t getting enough biotin? A rash can be an early warning sign. Almost 10 years ago, it was also part of what led scientists at Juvenon to better understand biotin uptake.

Decade of Discoveries
Pilot studies during the development of the Juvenon Cellular Health Supplement yielded primarily positive feedback (more energy, sharper mind, shinier hair…). But there were a very few people (less than 1 in 1,000) who reported a skin rash, a metallic/salty taste or losing their normal sense of taste.

The Juvenon scientists were somewhat puzzled. The two primary nutrients in the formula — acetyl-L-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid — had shown no adverse effects, even at much higher than the supplement’s recommended dose.

One of the investigators, however, remembered previous studies that might apply. An expert in the field of biotin research had conducted an experiment that demonstrated lower biotin levels in the tissues of some animals fed large amounts of lipoic acid.

Later work had shown that lipoic acid, biotin and another B-vitamin, pantothenic acid (B5) share structural similarities and the same Multivitamin Transporter (MTV). The MTV moves the nutrients of more than one vitamin from the blood into the cell to perform their functions.

“The richest dietary sources for biotin are cows milk and liver”

The Juvenon researchers theorized the MTVs of the few individuals reporting side effects might not function efficiently. This small group remained side-effect-free until Juvenon elevated their metabolism. The Cellular Health Supplement provided more lipoic acid, increasing the need for pantothenic acid and biotin.

Pantothenic acid is present at high levels in many foods and most multivitamins (5x RDA). But biotin, from food or multivitamins (low RDA), is not as readily available. If the MTV were not functioning efficiently and the levels of the three nutrients were not balanced, more of one nutrient would be absorbed into the cell at the expense of another.

So, conditions like a rash or loss of taste might actually be a warning of an under-performing MTV that could result in a biotin imbalance.

Biotin Balancing
Based on this research and biotin’s safety record, the solution seemed to be adding the vitamin to the Cellular Health formula. The adjustment resulted in a dramatic decrease in reports of side effects: from one in 1,000 users to less than one in 7,000.

The “less than one” led the Juvenon scientists to another important discovery. Suspecting that low biotin might still be producing the symptoms, they recommended that this smaller minority take 5 milligrams (mg) of biotin (17x RDA), along with the Cellular Health Supplement, per day. Over 70% of those following this protocol reported becoming side-effect-free.

The conclusion from these results? Biotin requirements for maximum health vary from person to person, perhaps determined by how well their MTVs function, a genetic predisposition, or both. The case studies that follow seem to support this conclusion.

More Please
In a recent Juvenon Cellular Health clinical trial (designed to evaluate its benefits for human cognition), a female participant experienced loss of taste after a few weeks. A research team documented her condition and were the first to report how this “unexplained loss of taste” was resolved.

“Biotin serves key functions in the production of energy in our cells.”

Confirming that this development had been previously reported and successfully reversed, the team initially recommended the same protocol, using the 5 mg biotin dose. Surprisingly, this approach produced little change in the subject’s symptoms. The investigators suggested increasing the daily dosage to 10 mg (33x RDA). After a few days, the woman regained her normal sense of taste.

Who Needs More and Why?
Did this response to the 10mg dose demonstrate a more individualized (and perhaps pharmacological) need for biotin? The investigators examined another case to find out.

A male patient, unconnected to Juvenon, awoke from abdominal surgery with no sense of taste. Like the first case study subject, he was asked to begin by taking 5 mg of biotin per day and showed no apparent positive response after several days.

Unlike the female patient, however, increasing the daily dosage to 10 mg also had no effect. The researchers continued to give incrementally larger doses to the male participant, eventually reaching 20 mg per day (67 times RDA). It took this mega-dose to fully restore his sense of taste.

Beyond Biotin
The two case studies seem to support the concepts of variable MVT efficiency from one person to another and differences in individual needs for/responses to biotin. Perhaps more importantly, this research suggests that requirements for other nutrients, and the need for supplementing, will vary.

“The biotin case studies suggest individual requirements for other nutrients will vary.”

Factors like gene composition, diet, weight, general health, level of stress and age could account for the variations. Speaking of age, studies have also shown a general need for more nutrients as we get older. (The case study subjects were 67 and 60 years old, respectively.) Higher intake compensates for age-associated decreases in absorption from the digestive tract and uptake into the body’s cells and tissues (older, inefficient nutrient transporters).

We may require higher concentrations for one more reason. Recent studies are uncovering new tasks performed by other nutrients, similar to biotin’s broader function with loss of taste. In view of these findings, a healthy diet alone (fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes), although important, may simply not be sufficient, particularly as we age.

In other words, taking supplements (with the guidance of a health professional, of course) seems to be the best option for protecting and promoting optimum health.

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Ask Ben
Dr. Treadwell answers your questions.

Note to readers: I always appreciate hearing that my answers have been helpful.

question: A satisfied Juvenon customer myself, I introduced my wife to your product. After two weeks or so, she broke out in a rash that kept recurring, even 48 hours after discontinuing the Juvenon. Do you have a suggestion for treatment and for solving this problem if she takes it in the future? Thanking you in advance for your prompt response — 
answer: Your wife seems to be among the small group (1 in 7,000) who reported side effects when taking Juvenon. Her rash may be associated with under-performing Multivitamin Transporters (MTV), which could result in a biotin imbalance. (Please see main article.)

Although we’ve included some biotin in the formula to counteract this effect, recent case studies have shown individual needs for/responses to biotin can vary. It’s always a good idea to check with your health professional first, but, specifically, here’s what I’d suggest for your wife.

Take one 5 milligram (mg) capsule of biotin per day for a week and no Juvenon. Then begin taking half a Juvenon tablet (or one of the new capsules) per day along with the biotin. If there’s no evidence of a rash developing after another week, up the dose of Juvenon to one tablet (two capsules) per day, while continuing to take the biotin. (There are no reported negative effects of taking 5 mg of biotin daily.)

Please let me know how it goes.

Update from J: Four days of daily 5 mg dosage of biotin have already been a great help in reducing rash and itching. My wife’s blood sugar has also dropped 20 points on average.

Note to readers: The lower blood sugar seems to indicate J’s wife is getting enough biotin. The vitamin helps the cell metabolize glucose.

Dr. Benjamin V. Treadwell is a former Harvard Medical School professor.

A group of investigators recently published two interesting case studies that suggest an important role for biotin (vitamin B-7) in our bodies’ biological processes.The authors — from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center (Louisiana State University System) and the Surgical Specialty Group in Baton Rouge, LA, and Juvenon’s Scientific Advisory Board (Dr. Treadwell) — discuss their findings in “Loss of Taste Responds to High-Dose Biotin Treatment.” Their article appeared in theJournal of the American College of Nutrition.

In the first case study, a female patient complained of loss of taste during an experiment designed to examine the effects of Juvenon Cellular Health on cognition and glucose transport in the brain. The research team knew of a connection between two of the supplement’s ingredients — lipoic acid and biotin — observed in an earlier study.

Specifically, lipoic acid, at high levels, can compete with biotin for a transporter for its uptake into cells. Prompted by this interaction, the team wanted to determine whether a lipoic acid-influenced biotin imbalance might be responsible for the patient’s loss of taste.

They asked the patient to discontinue the Juvenon supplement and begin taking 5 milligram (mg) of biotin per day. When the patient reported no change, the researchers asked her to increase her dose to 10 mg per day. (They were aware that, in other work, up to 40 mg biotin per day produced no ill effects.) She regained her normal sense of taste in a few days.

Had the experiment simply corrected the vitamin imbalance or was this a pharmacologic effect? Based on the much lower current RDA of 300 microgram (mcg) biotin (contained in Juvenon) and no evidence of biotin deficiency in the patient’s blood work, the researchers concluded the 10mg per day dose was pharmacologic.

The second case study yielded similar results, although the circumstances were different and lipoic acid was not a potentially contributing factor. A male patient reported no sense of taste when he awoke from anesthesia after abdominal surgery. He received incremental doses of biotin, starting at 5 mg per day. At 20 mg per day, the patient’s sense of taste returned to normal.

The authors note that loss of taste had not previously been reported as a symptom of biotin imbalance. Although their research did not suggest the mechanism behind restoring taste with pharmacological doses of biotin, the team does recommend this treatment as a safe therapy. They also call for more research and, perhaps, re-evaluating the optimal nutritional intake of biotin considering its importance to biological processes and genetic regulation.

This Research Update column highlights articles related to recent scientific inquiry into the process of human aging. It is not intended to promote any specific ingredient, regimen, or use and should not be construed as evidence of the safety, effectiveness, or intended uses of the Juvenon product. The Juvenon label should be consulted for intended uses and appropriate directions for use of the product.