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Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

Vitamin B5, also called pantothenic acid, is one of eight nutrients in the B vitamin family. The primary role of all B vitamins is to convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose) for energy. They have other functions in the body as well, and each vitamin serves specific purposes that make it essential for human health. Since B-complex vitamins are water-soluble, the body does not store them so they must be obtained through diet on a daily basis.

How do I get pantothenic acid?

Pantothenic acid is present in many of the foods we consume on a daily basis, including protein sources such as eggs, meat, poultry, and oily fish. It is also found in high quantities in whole-grain cereals, sunflower seeds, sun-dried tomatoes, yogurt, broccoli and more. The scientific name comes from the Greek word “panthos” meaning “everywhere” because the nutrient can be found in a wide variety of foods and it is essential to the diets of nearly every organism. Other nutrients support the absorption of pantothenic acid, such as B-complex vitamins (i.e. B1, B2, B3 and B12), vitamin C, and minerals like potassium and zinc. Vitamin B5 is unstable in heat, which means it can be destroyed in the cooking process. This is the reason that processed foods are not usually a good source of vitamin B5. Due to the high prevalence of vitamin B5 in common foods, it’s rare for people to have a deficiency.

What is pantothenic acid used for?

Essential for the production of red blood cells, vitamin B5 helps jumpstart the process that ensures our bodies receive enough oxygen. It also helps produce hormones released from the adrenal glands, including ones that allow our bodies to deal with stress, which is why vitamin B5 is often referred to as the “anti-stress” vitamin. Additionally, pantothenic acid is critical for maintaining a healthy digestive system and is required to synthesize coenzyme-A (CoA), an enzyme that initiates hundreds of metabolic processes in the body, including the breakdown of macronutrients. Furthermore, it supports the body’s ability to synthesize cholesterol. One particular form of pantothenic acid (called pantethine) may lower cholesterol levels. As you can see, vitamin B5 does a great job at supporting overall health, and it even enables the body to use other vitamins like vitamin B2 (riboflavin).

Pantothenic Acid Deficiency

Due to its presence in many common foods, vitamin B5 deficiency is very rare. Symptoms associated with the deficiency may impair energy production and cause fatigue, headaches, irritability and insomnia. A deficiency may also be accompanied by muscle cramps, numbness, and burning sensations in the hands and feet. Other common symptoms are nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. Symptoms can easily be relieved by adding vitamin B5 into the diet through food or supplements.

Promising Research

May Lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides

Three forms of pantothenic acid known as panthenol, phosphopantethine and pantethine have been shown to lower LDL "bad" cholesterol levels, improve HDL “good” cholesterol levels and reduce triglycerides, a fat in the blood that can increase the risk of heart disease. Several studies point to the benefits of pantothenic acid in people with diabetes because it lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which is beneficial for people with high blood sugar levels.

Skin and Hair Care

Pantothenic acid is a necessity for the proper regeneration and growth of various skin cells. It helps skin maintain a youthful appearance by fighting signs of premature aging, such as wrinkles and age spots. Pantothenic acid has also been used to treat acne because its impact on the metabolism of oil is thought to control oil production in the skin. When applied topically, vitamin B5 has been shown to promote wound healing. Other studies indicate that it can help restore hair pigmentation so that your locks maintain their color as you age. This is the reason that pantothenic acid is an additive in many shampoos.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Preliminary research found that pantothenic acid may help improve the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Compared to healthy individuals, those with RA tend to have lower levels of vitamin B5 in their blood, and extremely low levels are linked to the most severe symptoms. Certain studies showed that vitamin B5 can relieve symptoms such as morning stiffness and pain. Additional studies are needed to confirm if vitamin B5 offers real benefits for patients with arthritis.

Pantothenic Acid Overdose

Just as vitamin B5 deficiency is rare, an overdose of this nutrient is also rare due to its water-soluble nature. This means that the body is able to dispose of excess vitamin B5, making it difficult to overdose. Nonetheless, it is not impossible and it's best to be aware of pantothenic acid toxicity. Large doses of the vitamin may cause diarrhea, nausea or heartburn. Dehydration is another accompanying side effect. Consistent overdosing on the vitamin can cause edema, a condition characterized by water retention in the body. Edema causes swelling, which can increase itchiness and sensitivity. This may be accompanied by poor blood circulation and joint pain. Too much pantothenic acid can also impair the body's ability to metabolize protein.

*This page is for informational purposes only and shouldn't replace medical advice.

Try some Vitamin B5-Rich Foods!