Biotin and Blood Glucose Levels in Diabetics: What You Should Know
The American Diabetes Association has found that 20.8 million American adults and children currently have diabetes; that's a full 7% of the population. The estimated cost of diabetes care (medical expenditures, complications, etc) in 2007 was $174 billion. This costly, and in many cases avoidable, disease is just one consequence of America's expanding waistlines. A new vitamin therapy offers hope for the millions of Americans battling with this time-consuming and expensive condition.
The Basics of Blood Sugar and Insulin
It is estimated that 90-95% of all diabetes cases are of the form type 2. Type 2 diabetes results when the body either doesn't produce enough insulin or cannot efficiently utilize the insulin it does produce. The hormone insulin is incredibly important to the process of glucose metabolism. The majority our energy comes from the breakdown of a simple sugar called glucose, which we get from the foods we ingest. Glucose travels from the intestines into the bloodstream where it is transported throughout the body. In order for glucose to be absorbed by cells throughout the body insulin must be present, which is released by cells located within the pancreas in response to increasing blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels.
The Pathology of Diabetes
Glucose that cannot enter cells with the help of insulin continues to circulate in the bloodstream. Because of this, those with type 2 diabetes have chronically high blood glucose levels. Not only are cells not receiving enough energy, but the excess glucose circulating in the bloodstream is left free to wreak havoc on other parts of the body. Glucose can bind to other proteins within the blood, preventing them from functioning correctly. It can also bind to the lining blood vessels, causing tissue damage. When the body attempts to fix tissue damage in the blood vessels it sets the stage for cholesterol accumulation. Tiny blood vessels, called capillaries, tend to suffer the greatest from high blood glucose levels as they are so thin and delicate. Organs like the kidneys and eyes are usually the first affected by capillary damage from high blood sugar.
Metabolism and Biotin
Glucokinase (GK) is an important enzyme in the process of glucose metabolism. It stimulates the release of insulin, helps liver cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream, and suppresses glucose production in the liver (a necessary process when ample glucose is present in the blood). The presence and activity of GK is below-normal in those with type 2 diabetes. Biotin, also known as Vitamin B7, binds to GK and increases its activity. Biotin has also been shown to increase insulin production in the rat pancreas (and therefore is likely to do the same in the human pancreas). Type 2 diabetics are often deficient in biotin, which is likely responsible for their below-normal GK activity. Several studies have shown that biotin supplementation regulated blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetics, as well as improved the symptoms of nerve damage in several patients.
Biotin in Foods and Supplements
There are many food sources rich in biotin, with cooked egg whites and liver topping the list. Other foods such as crude wheat bran, baker's yeast, avocado, and cauliflower also contain biotin. There have been no reported cases of biotin toxicity, even in supplementation as high as 200 mg/day. However many studies showed results with as little as 5 mg/day. If you struggle to control your blood sugar levels, try eating more biotin-rich foods or taking a supplement containing biotin.