BIOTIN (ALSO KNOWN AS VITAMIN B7)
Biotin in Spectrum Needs
Biotin is added in order to provide a wide basis of nutrition, especially given the important role of pantothenic acid in energy metabolism and the preliminary data regarding its use as a food supplement in ASD. Side effects are unexpected.
What Is Biotin? Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, is one of the eight B-complex vitamins. Biotin cannot be manufactured by humans and is thus a true vitamin, obtained exclusively from the diet.
What Does Biotin Do? Biotin is an enzyme cofactor, which means that it is a necessary component for enzyme function. Biotin is the cofactor for several carboxylase enzymes that are important for metabolism, specifically involving in fatty acid synthesis, branched-chain amino acid catabolism, and gluconeogenesis.
What Does a Biotin Deficiency Appear as? Biotin deficiency can develop in certain conditions, especially in severe gastrointestinal disease, or with the consumption over time of large quantities of raw egg white. Findings of biotin deficiency can include mental health-related issues such as depression, lethargy, and psychosis, as well as numbness and tingling of the extremities. Biotin deficiency can also cause abnormalities to the skin (rash), mucous membranes (eye redness), hair (loss), and nails (brittle).
What About Biotin‘s Use in Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD)? The role of biotin in the treatment of autism is not well studied. Children with ASD often have diets that are relatively deficient in many nutrients, and low levels of biotin in blood have been observed in children with ASD (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3135510/pdf/1743-7075-8-34.pdf). In one study, 12 out of 187 ASD patients (7%) revealed increased urine levels of 3-hydroxyisovaleric acid (a biochemical sign consistent with biotin deficiency), and 7 of those 12 had “minor to significant improvement in autistic features” following biotin supplementation (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3871708). Severe biotin deficiency occurs with biotinidase deficiency, a metabolic disorder involving biotin recycling, and ASD has been reported in this condition (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13680408?dopt=Abstract; http://www.epilepsybehavior.com/article/S1525-5050(14)00412-0/pdf).
What About Biotin‘s Use in Other Conditions? Biotin is often taken for the health of the skin, hair, and nails. Other situations for which biotin is sometimes recommended include diabetes, depression, and pregnancy, the latter of which low biotin levels are often identified.
What Are the Common and/or Important Side Effects of Biotin? Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin and thus considered to be generally non-toxic. Doses as high as 10 mg a day are frequently given in infants and children with biotinidase deficiency. Side effects are rare even at these extremely high doses.
Is There Any Laboratory Testing for a Biotin Deficiency? Laboratory testing can reveal the presence of a deficiency of this nutrient, but is generally not likely to have clinically utility.