As a complement to medical treatment, some people with multiple sclerosis (MS) turn to lifestyle changes like diet, vitamins, and supplements such as biotin to help manage their symptoms.
Biotin is a supplement that has been studied for its potential to help relieve the symptoms of progressive multiple sclerosis. Research suggests that certain properties of biotin may help produce myelin and fatty acid, leading to the theory that biotin may potentially slow down the demyelinating process caused by multiple sclerosis. Many MyMSTeam members have tried it and discussed their experiences, both positive and negative.
Biotin is an essential B vitamin found primarily in animal products, such as beef, eggs, and salmon. It is also found in smaller amounts in foods such as sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, spinach, almonds, and tuna. The recommended adequate intake for biotin in adults ages 19 and older is 30 micrograms. Sufficient biotin can be difficult to obtain in a vegetarian or vegan diet, which has made supplemental forms more popular over the years.
Biotin has a reputation for promoting hair, nail, and skin health, but recently, research has investigated its role in neurological and immune function as it relates to progressive MS.
Few clinical trials have been conducted to assess the mechanisms of high-dose biotin supplements and symptoms of progressive MS, with mixed results. When assessing the efficacy of a drug, supplement, or diet, it is important to have studies with large numbers of participants who are followed over a period of time. Confirmation from other studies is important to prove that high-dose biotin supplements may be either beneficial or harmful to individuals with primary progressive MS.
In one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, a high-dose, pharmacy-grade biotin supplement called MD1003 was evaluated for its efficacy in reversing the progression of disability. The study included 154 people with primary progressive multiple sclerosis and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. Participants took 100 milligrams of MD1003 three times a day — 10,000 times the daily recommended dose. The study found that 13 percent of people who received the MD1003 supplement (compared with zero percent of the placebo group) experienced improvements in MS-related disability, measured with the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) and a timed 25-foot walk.
Another pilot study of 23 participants — 14 with primary progressive MS and nine with secondary progressive MS — showed that 300 milligrams of biotin per day improved visual acuity and clinical examination of the spinal cord in people who had impairments. The findings suggest that biotin may affect the progression of disease and disability.
However, a third study found no benefit of taking biotin for progressive MS. It examined high-dose biotin in 43 people for one year. None of the individuals improved in EDSS scores, and a third of the participants’ symptoms worsened, with increased lower extremity weakness, decreased balance, and increased falls. It is unclear whether worsened symptoms were from disease progression or due to the body’s increased demand to metabolize high-dose biotin. Some people’s symptoms improved after they stopped taking the biotin supplement.
Most recently, a randomized, double-blind placebo study also failed to show improvements in people with primary progressive MS symptoms when taking a high-dose biotin supplement. The study was completed in 642 individuals across 90 clinics in 13 countries. The study showed that MD1003 did not show significant improvement in disability or walking speed for individuals with progressive MS.
Supplements such as biotin may help manage symptoms or improve overall health, but there has yet to be a clear and concise relationship between biotin and primary or secondary progressive MS.
Published data suggest that 300 milligrams of biotin per day was tolerated well and considered safe. However, consuming high doses of biotin has been shown to create false lab results, which could mask specific laboratory values, including thyroid function and troponin (the protein measured to detect a heart attack).
Dietary supplements like biotin are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so there may be concerns about accurate labeling, contaminants of heavy metals, and other harmful byproducts. Certain supplements are third-party tested to ensure their efficacy, so seek out supplements with the USP or NSF logo.
Talk with your doctor before taking biotin to ensure that it does not interfere with any prescribed medications, supplements, or health conditions.
Although evidence on the efficacy of biotin for MS is mixed, some members of MyMSTeam have found an improvement in their symptoms after taking biotin regularly. One member shared, “My doctor said it would take six months for the full effect, but I already see a difference with no leg spasms.” Another said, “I take it at night and it seems to help with leg cramps and leg spasms.”
However, some members find biotin doesn’t work as well as they had hoped. As one member shared, “I started my biotin regimen on June 27. That’s 100 milligrams of pure biotin three times a day. I see no beneficial effects to this point. Still hoping.”
Living with MS presents challenges. It can create a desire to search for new or alternative ways to help with the disease by either managing symptoms or slowing the progression of primary progressive MS. MyMSTeam is the social network for people with MS and their loved ones. On MyMSTeam, more than 165,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with MS.
Have you discussed dietary supplements with your doctor that may be beneficial for symptom management or disease progression? Share your tips and experiences in a comment below or on MyMSTeam.