The World's Healthiest Foods

Biotin-rich Foods Essential for a Healthy Pregnancy

Rich food sources of the B-vitamin, biotin—such as Swiss chard, romaine lettuce, cooked eggs, almonds, and walnuts—are vitally important for a healthy pregnancy. According to a study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, as many as 50% of pregnant women may be deficient in biotin, a deficiency that may increase the risk of birth defects.

In this study, laboratory evidence of biotin deficiency was found both in the early (first trimester) and late (third trimester) stages of pregnancy, and was corrected by supplementation with 300 micrograms of biotin per day for 14 days.

Prior to this study, it had been generally believed that biotin deficiency is rare because biotin is found in a wide variety of foods and is also manufactured by intestinal bacteria. Only a few cases of severe biotin deficiency have been reported, all of which were caused by the consumption of excessive amounts of raw egg white, which contains a compound called avidin that binds to and inhibits the absorption of biotin.

However, this new study suggests that a biotin deficiency may also occur during pregnancy when an increased demand for nutrients is placed upon the mother by the growing fetus.

Biotin, like the other B vitamins is water-soluble and cannot be stockpiled in the body’s fat stores. During pregnancy, the biotin from a woman’s diet is much more quickly used up, making daily consumption of biotin-rich foods especially important as animal studies have demonstrated that biotin deficiency can cause birth defects.

Biotin, which is involved in the metabolism of both fat and sugar, is essential for energy production and for the synthesis of fatty acids. Biotin is required for the functioning of an enzyme in the body called acetyl Co-A carboxylase, which puts together the building blocks for body’s production of fat. Fat production is critical for all cells in the body since the membranes of all cells must contain the correct fat components to function properly, so in a developing fetus, a biotin deficiency could result in birth defects.

Fat production is especially critical for skin cells since they die and must be replaced very rapidly and also because they are in contact with the outside environment and must serve as a selective barrier. When cellular fat components cannot be made properly due to biotin deficiency, skin cells are among the first cells to develop problems. In infants, the most common biotin-deficiency symptom is cradle cap— a dermatitis (skin condition) in which crusty yellowish/ whitish patches appear around the infant's scalp, head, eyebrows and the skin behind the ears. In adults, the equivalent skin condition is called seborrheic dermatitis, although it can occur in many different locations on the skin.

For these reasons, pregnant and breastfeeding women should be sure to include biotin-rich foods in their meals. Given the variety of the World’s Healthiest Foods rich in biotin, ensuring adequate intake of this critically important B vitamin can be easy. For example, a bowl of oatmeal or granola for breakfast, an omelet or egg salad sandwich for lunch, a handful of almonds or walnuts for a snack, and a dinner including halibut, a salad of romaine lettuce, cucumber and tomato, and some strawberries or raspberries for dessert would supply more than double the 30 micrograms of biotin per day recommended by the National Academy of Sciences for pregnant and lactating women.

To learn more about any of these biotin-rich foods, including quick and easy cooking and serving ideas for them, simply click on the highlighted name of the food in the above list.

To learn more about this essential B vitamin, click biotin.

For even more suggestions for ways to enjoy foods rich in biotin more frequently as part of your healthy way of eating, you can get a list of the World's Healthiest Foods' Recipes containing these foods. Simply, click on the Recipe Assistant, select the foods for which you’d like some recipes from the Healthy Foods List, and click on the Submit button. A list containing links to all our recipes containing the foods chosen will appear immediately below.

References: Mock DM, Quirk JG, Mock NI. Marginal biotin deficiency during normal pregnancy. Am J Clin Nutr 2002 Feb;75(2):295-9. Laz Bannock, PhD., HumanNutrition.com Technical Newsletter, July 7, 2002..

This page was updated on: 2004-11-22 15:14:28
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation