Vitamin B5, also called pantothenic acid and pantothenate, is vital to living a healthy life. Like all B complex vitamins, B5 helps the body convert food into energy. B5 is naturally found in many food sources. "Pantothenic," in fact, means "from everywhere," because the vitamin is available in so many food sources.
Vitamin B5 provides a multitude of benefits to the human body. It is found in living cells as a coenzyme A (CoA), which is vital to numerous chemical reactions, according to a study published in the journal Vitamins and Hormones.
"Pantothenic acid is typically used in combination with other B vitamins in the form of a vitamin B complex formulation," said Dr. Sherry Ross, OB/GYN and Women's Health Expert at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. The other vitamins in the vitamin B complex are vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin), and folic acid, she added.
B vitamins turn carbohydrates into glucose, which is the fuel that produces energy. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, B vitamins also help the body use fat and protein and are also important for maintaining a healthy nervous system, eyes, skin, hair and liver.
Specifically, B5 helps to:
- Create red blood cells
- Create stress-related and sex hormones
- Maintain a healthy digestive tract
- Process other vitamins, particularly B2 (riboflavin)
- Synthesize cholesterol
Vitamin B5, taken as a supplement, has also been found to help with lowering cholesterol. In a 2011 study published in the journal Nutrition Research, researchers at the Princeton Longevity Center in New Jersey found that supplements of pantethine, a derivative of vitamin B5, reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in subjects with low-to-moderate cardiovascular risk.
Another study at Asahikawa Medical College in Japan found that pantethine might be beneficial in the prevention of diabetic angiopathy. A study by the National Academy of Sciences of Grodno, Belarus also found that pantethine can be useful in the treatment of diabetes.
"Pantothenic acid is used in treating and preventing pantothenic acid deficiency and skin reactions from radiation therapy," Ross said. "Other health benefits of pantothenic acid that have been suggested but not scientifically proven include improve symptoms related to ADHD, arthritis, athletic performance, skin problems, alcoholism, allergies, hair loss, asthma, heart problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, lung disorders, nerve damage, colitis, eye infections, convulsions, kidney disorders, dandruff, depression, diabetic problems, immune function, headaches, hyperactivity, low blood pressure, insomnia, irritability, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and muscle cramps."
Some good sources of pantothenic acid include mushrooms, legumes and lentils, avocados, milk, eggs, cabbage, organ meats such as liver and kidneys, white and sweet potatoes, whole-grain cereals and yeast, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. In addition to those sources, the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University also lists egg yolks, broccoli, fish, shellfish, chicken and yogurt.
The University of Maryland Medical Center says the best sources of vitamin B5 include brewer's yeast, corn, cauliflower, kale, tomatoes, split peas, peanuts, soybeans, sunflower seeds, lobster and salmon.
How much B5 do you need?
There is very little information about B5 allowances and there is not a recommended daily allowance (RDA) set forth by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. The board has created a dietary reference intakes (DRIs) guide for B5, though. This is the DRI adequate intake recommendation, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine:
- Age 0-6 months: 1.7 milligrams per day
- Age 7-12 months 1.8 mg/day
- Age 1-3 years: 2 mg/day
- Age 4-8 years: 3 mg/day
- Age 9-13 years: 4 mg/day
- Age 14 and older: 5 mg/day
Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding may need higher amounts of pantothenic acid and should consult their doctors for more information.
A deficiency of B5 is very uncommon. In fact, according to Oregon State University, it has only been found in those with severe malnutrition. The most common side effect of pantothenic acid deficiency is generalized malaise. Side effects can also include irritability, insomnia, vomiting, depression, stomach pains, burning feet and upper respiratory infections, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Deficiency may also cause poor growth, nerve symptoms and anemia though it is uncommon, said Dr. Kristine Arthur, internist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California.
No diseases have been linked to a deficiency of B5 and cells do not seem to be affected by a deficiency. To replenish a lack of pantothenic acid, cells may be equipped to conserve their pantothenate content by possibly recycling pantothenate obtained from other degrading molecules, according to a 1991 article in Vitamins and Hormones.
Some studies have found that taking pantothenic acid supplements can aid in treating or preventing disease. Another example, published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutritional Research, found that higher quantities of pantothenate enhance wound healing. Even taking a multivitamin that contains B5 may be beneficial.
"The value of taking supplements is the subject of some controversy. However, a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2002 suggested that all Americans should take at least a daily multiple vitamin," Dr. Steve Kushner, founder and director of R&D, Victory Nutrition International, told Live Science.
"It is usually always better to get our vitamins from food than taking supplements when we can," said Dr. Linda Girgis, a family practice doctor in South River, New Jersey. "When we attain these vitamins from food, they are better absorbed and metabolized than when we take supplements."
Overdose and side effects
Since vitamin B5 is water soluble, excess is simply filtered by the body and flushed away by the urinary tract, there is very little concern about overdosing. "There is no known toxic level for B5," said Arthur.
Very high doses of vitamin B5, 10 to 20 grams per day, have been found to cause diarrhea, though, according to Oregon State University.