Supplement struggle: Could biotin affect your medical test results?
Posted: December 10, 2019 | Word Count: 805
If you’ve heard of biotin, you may know that it's growing in popularity due to the thought that it can help improve a person’s hair, skin and nails. In fact, retail sales of supplements containing high doses of biotin climbed 58% between 2014 and 2018, according to Nielsen.[i]
Also known as vitamin H or B7, biotin can be found in everyday vitamins and supplements, like multivitamins, prenatal vitamins and supplements for hair, skin and nails. Many of the dietary supplements promoted for hair, skin and nail growth contain as much as 650 times the recommended daily intake of biotin.[ii]
Yet, few people are aware that biotin may interfere with the accuracy of several lab test results. According to a recent survey by Abbott, 17% of respondents in the U.S. said that they take biotin, but only 3% of people taking the supplement were aware of the potential interaction.[iii]
In some cases, people may not even know they’re taking biotin since it’s sold under different brand names and may be just an ingredient in other products.
Why are lab results impacted? Biotin is actually a key component in a testing method widely used in laboratories.[iv] Bottom line: If your biotin levels are elevated in the blood, your test results may need further examination.
Today, many medical professionals remain unaware of the problem, which can become an issue when people taking the supplement are tested for heart disease, thyroid disease and certain fertility hormone conditions, among others.[v], [vi], [vii] The same survey found that only 35% of healthcare providers in the U.S. were somewhat familiar or very familiar that biotin could interfere with lab tests.iii
Dr. Saleh Aldasouqi is a leading endocrinologist, with an endocrine certification in neck ultrasound (ECNU), and is a fellow of the American College of Endocrinology (FACE). He has worked with industry groups as well as healthcare companies, such as Abbott, to raise awareness on the impact biotin interference can have.
“When someone receives a blood test – whether it’s in the ER to detect a heart attack or to help diagnose an underlying thyroid condition – physicians and their patients want to know that the results are accurate and not being interfered with,” says Dr. Aldasouqi, MD, FACE, ECNU. “People are counting on us for answers. It’s imperative that we as physicians are well-versed on what supplements our patients are taking and how test results could be impacted.”
The FDA highlighted the problem by issuing a safety alert for biotin in 2017, following up in 2019 with draft guidance to companies that use biotin in their lab tests. Most recently, the FDA issued an updated safety alert reminding the public, health care providers, lab personnel and lab test developers that biotin can significantly interfere with certain lab tests and cause incorrect results that may go undetected, placing emphasis on troponin tests where the risk of interference has not been addressed.
Fortunately, not all tests are impacted by biotin interference. In certain circumstances, a doctor may be able to request a test that is biotin-interference-free, like those offered by Abbott.
Regardless of the reason you’re taking biotin, the fact that biotin can interfere with lab results may cause unnecessary stress, testing or treatments if misdiagnosed. So, before your next doctor visit, arm yourself with information, questions and take proactive steps to manage your health.
Some tips from the FDA include:ii
- Talk to your doctor if you are currently taking biotin or are considering adding biotin, or a supplement containing biotin, to your diet
- Know that biotin is found in multivitamins, including prenatal multivitamins, biotin supplements and supplements for hair, skin and nail growth in levels that may interfere with laboratory tests
- If you have had a lab test done and are concerned about the results, talk to your health care provider about the possibility of biotin interference
If your doctor is unaware of biotin interference, speak up and share your concerns. Doing so is one way to help ensure you get accurate test results. For more information on how biotin may interfere with laboratory testing, check out FDA.gov.
[i] Nielsen data. 2014-2018.
[iii] Abbott diagnostics business quantitative study of biotin consumption. 2017.
[v] Chun K. Biotin interference in diagnostic tests. Clinical Chemistry. 2017;63, 619-620.
[vi] Colon P, & Greene D. Biotin interference in clinical immunoassays. Journal of Applied Laboratory Medicine. 2018;2, 941-951. http://jalm.aaccjnls.org/content/jalm/2/6/941.full.pdf
[vii] Stieglitz H, Korpi-Steiner N, Katzman B, Mersereau J, & Styner M. Suspected testosterone-producing tumor in a patient taking biotin supplements. Journal of the Endocrine Society. 2018;2, 563-569.