Vitamin B5, also called pantothenic acid, is one of 8 B vitamins. All B vitamins help the body convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which is used to produce energy. These B vitamins, often referred to as B complex vitamins, also help the body use fats and protein. B complex vitamins are needed for healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver. They also help the nervous system function properly.
All B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning that the body does not store them.
In addition to playing a role in the breakdown of fats and carbohydrates for energy, vitamin B5 is critical to the manufacture of red blood cells, as well as sex and stress-related hormones produced in the adrenal glands, small glands that sit atop the kidneys. Vitamin B5 is also important in maintaining a healthy digestive tract, and it helps the body use other vitamins, particularly B2 or riboflavin. It is sometimes called the "anti-stress" vitamin, but there is no real evidence whether it helps the body withstand stress.
Your body needs pantothenic acid to synthesize cholesterol. A derivative of pantothenic acid called pantethine is being studied to see if it may help lower cholesterol levels in the body.
It is rare for anyone to be deficient in vitamin B5. Symptoms of a vitamin B5 deficiency may include fatigue, insomnia, depression, irritability, vomiting, stomach pains, burning feet, and upper respiratory infections.
High Cholesterol/High Triglycerides
Several small, double-blind studies suggest that pantethine may help reduce triglycerides, or fats, in the blood in people who have high cholesterol. In some of these studies, pantethine has also helped lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. In some open studies, pantethine seems to lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in people with diabetes. But not all studies have found that it works. Larger studies are needed to see whether pantethine has any real benefit.
Studies, mostly in test tubes and animals but a few on people, suggest that vitamin B5 supplements may speed wound healing, especially following surgery. This may be particularly true if vitamin B5 is combined with vitamin C.
Some early evidence suggests that pantothenic acid might help with symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but the evidence is weak. One study found that people with RA may have lower levels of B5 in their blood than healthy people, and the lowest levels were associated with the most severe symptoms. A small study conducted in 1980 concluded that 2,000 mg/day of calcium pantothenate improved symptoms of RA, including morning stiffness and pain. More studies are needed to confirm these findings.
Pantothenic acid gets its name from the Greek root pantos, meaning "everywhere," because it is available in a wide variety of foods. A lot of vitamin B5 is lost when you food is processed, however. Fresh meats, vegetables, and whole unprocessed grains have more vitamin B5 than refined, canned, and frozen food. The best sources are brewer's yeast, corn, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, avocado, legumes, lentils, egg yolks, beef (especially organ meats such as liver and kidney), turkey, duck, chicken, milk, split peas, peanuts, soybeans, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, whole-grain breads and cereals, lobster, wheat germ, and salmon.
Vitamin B5 can be found in multivitamins and B complex vitamins, or sold separately under the names pantothenic acid and calcium pantothenate. It is available in a variety of forms including tablets, softgels, and capsules.
How to Take It
Recommended daily intakes of dietary vitamin B5 are listed below:
- Infants birth - 6 months: 1.7 mg
- Infants 7 months - 1 year: 1.8 mg
- Children 1 - 3 years: 2 mg
- Children 4 - 8 years: 3 mg
- Children 9 - 13 years: 4 mg
- Teens 14 - 18 years: 5 mg
- 19 years and older: 5 mg
- Pregnant women: 6 mg
- Breastfeeding women: 7 mg
Higher doses may be recommended by a health care provider for the treatment of specific conditions.
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, you should take dietary supplements only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.
Vitamin B5 is considered safe at doses equal to the daily intake, and at moderately higher doses. Very high doses may cause diarrhea and may increase the risk of bleeding.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not exceed the daily adequate intake unless their doctor tells them to.
Vitamin B5 should be taken with water, preferably after eating.
Taking any one of the B vitamins for a long period of time can result in an imbalance of other important B vitamins. For this reason, you may want to take a B complex vitamin, which includes all the B vitamins.
If you are being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use vitamin B5 supplements without first talking to your health care provider.
Antibiotics, Tetracycline -- Vitamin B5 interferes with the absorption and effectiveness of the antibiotic tetracycline. You should take B vitamins at different times from tetracycline. All vitamin B complex supplements act in this way and should be taken at different times from tetracycline.
Drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease -- Vitamin B5 may increase the effects of a group of drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors, which are used to treat Alzheimer's. That might lead to severe side effects. These drugs should not be taken with B5 unless under a doctor's supervision. Cholinesterase inhibitors include:
- Donepezil (Aricept)
- Memantine hydrochloride (Ebixa)
- Galantamine (Reminyl)
- Rivastigime (Exelon)
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National Academy of Sciences. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Intakes for Individuals, Vitamins. Accessed June 1, 2011.
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Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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