Biotin is a popular ingredient in beauty products. It’s also an essential vitamin for the digestion of fat and carbohydrates. Studies also suggest biotin may also be able to increase insulin sensitivity and control blood sugar levels. This potentially makes it an effective treatment for type 2 diabetes. In this post we take a look at the effects of biotin on blood sugar and ask whether it can be used to treat this metabolic disorder.
- Biotin is essential for the production of enzymes involved in digestion
- Multiple studies in rodents have found biotin improves insulin sensitivity and helps control blood sugar levels
- The effects of biotin may be improved further with chromium supplementation
- These studies suggest biotin is an effective adjunctive therapy for type 2 diabetes
Biotin (vitamin B7)
Biotin is another name for vitamin B7. It’s also known as vitamin H or coenzyme R.
Biotin is vital component for the production of many enzymes involved in the digestion of carbohydrates and fat.
It’s also believed to help the body form keratin – the main protein used to form hair, nails and the outer layer of skin. As such, many beauty products contain biotin. Biotin is also one of the most popular dietary supplements for hair loss.
And though it’s mostly known as a beauty supplement, a lesser-known effect of biotin is its ability to regulate blood sugar levels. This raises the possibility of using biotin to treat disorders such as type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes mellitus is often separated into two main forms: type 1 and 2. Common to both disorders are elevated blood sugar levels.
With type 1 diabetes, this high blood sugar is caused by an inability of the pancreas to produce enough insulin – the hormone that lowers blood sugar levels. Without insulin, the body’s cells do not absorb sugar from the blood, so it remains there.
With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas may be able to produce insulin normally. However, the body’s cells no longer respond to it in the usual way. Instead of triggering them to take on sugar from the blood, insulin has a diminished effect. This is sometimes referred to as insulin resistance.
Studies of biotin suggest it may help increase insulin sensitivity and in turn help control blood sugar levels. This may therefore make it an effective adjunctive therapy for type 2 diabetes.
Biotin and type 2 diabetes: studies
“Compared to controls, biotin treatment lowered post-prandial glucose levels, and improved tolerance to glucose and insulin resistance.”
Admittedly, all these studies were conducted on rats and mice rather than humans. But rodent biology shares many biological processes and genetic similarities with humans. Like humans, rats and mice also have a pancreas that produces insulin to control blood sugar levels.
And these rodent studies suggest biotin may be an effective treatment for humans with type 2 diabetes.
In this one, for example, 90 Wistar rats with streptozotocin-induced type 2 diabetes were divided into 3 groups: low dose, medium dose and high dose biotin. After 10 weeks of each diet, the researchers reported “significantly decreased” blood glucose levels in the high dose biotin group after being fed.
A similar study – this time in Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima Fatty (OLETF) rats – reported similar results.
This particular breed of rat displays impaired glucose tolerance similar to that of type 2 diabetes starting from around 16 weeks of age. Like the previous study, the OLETF rats were randomly given one of three different diets:
“An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) was performed four times between 13 and 22 weeks of age. The administration of a [high biotin diet] corrected the [impaired glucose tolerance] of OLETF rats. Upon further investigation, we found that insulin secretion in the [high biotin diet] rats was decreased to a significant extent, signaling that the hyperinsulinemia typical to the [high biotin diet] rats had clearly improved. Body weights were significantly lower in the [high biotin diet] group than in the other OLETF groups, even though the [high biotin diet] rats showed a significantly higher average daily food intake.”
If biotin has the same effects in humans, this would make it an effective supplement for diabetic and pre-diabetic individuals.
Biotin with chromium?
Most of the studies in humans test the effects of biotin in conjunction with another dietary supplement: chromium.
As discussed in a previous X2 Health article, individuals with type 2 diabetes are significantly more likely to be chromium deficient. Plus, chromium supplementation has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and control blood sugar levels.
“Fasting glucose levels were reduced in the entire chromium picolinate/biotin group versus placebo (-9.8 mg/dL vs 0.7 mg/dL; p = 0.02). Reductions in fasting glucose were also most marked in those subjects whose baseline HbA(1c) > or = 10.0%, and significant when compared to placebo (-35.8 mg/dL vs. 16.2 mg/dL; p = 0.01). […] These results suggest that the chromium picolinate/biotin combination, administered as an adjuvant to current prescription anti-diabetic medication, can improve glycaemic control in overweight to obese individuals with type 2 diabetes“
In all three studies, however, there were only two groups: chromium/biotin and placebo.
This makes it impossible to determine whether the positive effects on blood sugar levels should be attributed to biotin, chromium, or both.
But it seems likely that both the biotin and the chromium were effective. For one, chromium is perhaps the most well-studied dietary supplement for type 2 diabetes. And the rodent studies discussed above suggest biotin also helps improve insulin sensitivity and control blood sugar.
In all three of the biotin/chromium studies above, side effects were no different to placebo.
And because no adverse effects have been observed – even at very high doses – the US National Institute of Health has not set a tolerable upper intake level1.
However, it’s always possible that biotin supplements may interfere with prescription medications. As such, it is always advisable to consult with your doctor before taking supplements containing biotin.
Summary: biotin for blood sugar
The evidence discussed here suggests biotin really does have an effect on blood sugar levels.
We’ve seen numerous examples of improved insulin sensitivity – in the rodent model at least. And we’ve also seen similar effects in humans from biotin and chromium supplementation.
This all suggests biotin may be an effective adjunct for type 2 diabetes.
Unlike type 1 diabetes, it’s possible for individuals with type 2 diabetes to come off medication. The most effective ways to achieve this are aerobic exercise and a low sugar, low carbohydrate diet. When combined with these interventions, though, biotin supplementation may help get there quicker.