Vitamin B5 is also called pantothenic acid. It belongs to the 8 vitamins group that make the vitamin B complex. These vitamins are chemically different but they all help in the conversion of carbohydrates to glucose that the body can use for the production of energy needed to run all life-sustaining processes. In addition to this, the vitamin also helps in the metabolism of fats and proteins. Other roles of this vitamin include:
- Supports the production of the red blood cells
- It is the precursor of a substance called coenzyme A. This coenzyme is needed for many body processes that support life. These processes include synthesis of heme (a component of hemoglobin), melatonin (a hormone that helps to regulate a healthy sleep pattern) and also the synthesis of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Other functions of coenzyme A are:
- Cell division
- Gene expression
- Cell signaling
- Supports the production of sex hormones
- Supports the production of the stress hormone (cortisol) from the adrenal gland
- Helps the body to utilize vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Supports the synthesis of cholesterol
- Supports the metabolism of medications and removal of toxins in the liver
Like the other members of this group, pantothenic acid is water soluble and so the body does not have it stored in. For the same reason, toxicity with the vitamin is unlikely when taken within the normal dosage as recommended and for the prescribed period of time. Diet sourced vitamin B5 cannot cause toxicity. Any surpluses of the vitamin in the body are excreted in urine.
Symptoms of vitamin B5 deficiency
Vitamin B5 is widely available in nature and deficiency is extremely rare. It is only observed in people suffering from extreme malnutrition. Such scenarios were last observed on a large scale during the Second World War. Some of the signs and symptoms of deficiency have been understood through human-induced deficiency in volunteers and test animals. These symptoms include:
- Persistent generalized tiredness
- Lack of sleep
- Digestive problems such as vomiting and abdominal pains
- Mental symptoms such as irritability and depression
- Neurological problems that may include burning sensation on the feet.
- Repeated respiratory tract infections
- Muscle cramps
- Skin disorders
- Some of the symptoms observed on test animals include adrenal gland damage, blood sugar disorders, convulsions, graying fur and reduced physical activity
Sources of vitamin B5
Pantothenic acid is widely available in many foods. Plant-based sources include:
- Leguminous foods such as beans, peas, soybeans, peanuts and lentils
- Whole grains
- Sweet potatoes
- Sunflower seeds
Pantothenic acid can also be found as part of a multi-mineral or multivitamin nutritional supplement. Friendly bacteria in the colon can also synthesize the vitamin.
How Vitamin B5 benefits your health
- Promotes wound healing
It is not yet clear how pantothenic acid hastens wound healing. This efficacy is further improved by combining it with vitamin C. this has been tested in and outside the lab. One animal study showed improved surgical wound healing as well as an increase in copper, iron and manganese. These minerals are needed in collagen synthesis which is important in wound repair.
- Supports better control of cholesterol
Pantethine is a derivative of pantothenic acid. When given to people who qualified for statin therapy (a medication for lowering cholesterol in the body), it was found that there was a decrease of up to 11% of the level of low-density lipoproteins (‘bad’ cholesterol). These results were achieved between weeks 8-12 while the placebo control group had only a 3% drop in the LDL at 16 weeks of using the placebo.
- Lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease
High cholesterol levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. A drop in the level of bad cholesterol means a drop in the risk of vascular disorders and heart problems such as high blood pressure and stroke. The study mentioned above concluded that patients with marked risk of heart disease can benefit from the vitamin as an addition to a wider approach to managing the problem.
- Supports weight-loss efforts
A study in Hong Kong reported in the Medical Hypothesis of May 1995 found that, giving 2.5gm of pantothenic acid four times per day led to a weight loss that averaged about 1.2kg a week. Interestingly there were no associated problems observed in other forms of aggressive weight-loss measures. There was no undue hunger and associated lack of energy or an accumulation of the toxic ketone bodies (results from enhanced breakdown of fats for energy).
- May be useful in types of anemia
Anemia improvement was observed when a terminally ill patient was put on intravenous multivitamin infusion and would improve whenever pantothenic acid was included or when it was given alone.
Other benefits of vitamin B5
- Supports skin health including a reduction of the severity of acne
- Improves eye health
- Supports healthy hair and may reduce the risk of early graying hair
- Supports good digestion and elimination
- Reduces inflammatory pain in rheumatoid arthritis
- Supports respiratory system health
Safety and precautions
Vitamin B5 is safe even in relatively high doses. It is however, advisable to stick to recommended dosages. When taken this way, it is safe for pregnant and lactating mothers as well as children. Taking a vitamin B5 supplement alone for long can create an imbalance of the other vitamins in this group. To avoid this, go for a supplement that has the vitamin and the other members of the B-complex group.
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Pantethine, a derivative of vitamin B(5) used as a nutritional supplement, favorably alters low-density lipoprotein cholesterol metabolism in low- to moderate-cardiovascular risk North American subjects: a triple-blinded placebo and diet-controlled investigation,” Rumberger JA, Napolitano J, et al, Nutr Res. 2011 Aug; 31(8): 608-15
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