Understanding Vitamin B5: Pantothenic Acid

 Background

Pantothenic acid gets its name from the Greek word ‘pantothen’, meaning “from all sides”. That’s because pantothenic acid is found in every food. It’s kind of nice knowing that there’s one vitamin you can’t ever be deficient in. At least some pantothenic acid is found in every single food you eat, so there’s no way you can’t get enough.

The Role It Plays

The fats and carbohydrates we eat get turned into energy we can use with the vital help of pantothenic acid. To be exact, we need pantothenic acid to make two crucial coenzymes: coenzyme A (CoA) and acyl carrier protein (ACP). These enzymes help us use fats and carbohydrates to make energy; you also need them to make some important hormones, for making healthy red blood cells, and for making Vitamin D. They’re so important that just about all the pantothenic acid we get from food is immediately turned into CoA and ACP- there’s not really any left over to do anything else.

Pantothenic acid is sometimes called the ‘anti-stress” vitamin. That’s because we make more of some hormones that need pantothenic acid, such as adrenalin, when we’re under a lot of stress. Some nutritionists suggest taking extra pantothenic acid if under a lot of stress.

Pantothenic acid doesn’t do a thing for high cholesterol, but it’s possible that pantethine does (see Types Of Pantothenic Acid below). The research is still in the early stages, but it seems that pantethine can lower your overall cholesterol and triglycerides – if you’re levels are high to begin with. The research is promising, because even large doses of pantethine have no side effects, so keep your ears perked for more news to come.

There are some other claims about pantothenic acid:

Boosts immunity. Actually, there might be something to this for pantethine but the research isn’t all in just yet.

Stops balding and gray hair. Pantothenic deficiency in lab rats causes gray hair and hair loss. Based on that, some hair products now contain a form of pantothenic acid called ‘pantothenyl alcohol’, or ‘panthenol’. Right now all that can be said about that is: Maybe this will stop you from balding or turning gray.

Stops aging. In a study, long ago, lab mice were given megadoses of pantothenic acid and supposedly lived 20% longer. Since then, there are claims that pantothenic acid mega doses can slow aging in humans by ‘reenergizing’ cells. This claim is unfounded.

Helps arthritis. The evidence here is pretty thin – just one study of people with a severe form of arthritis.

Cures allergies. Some people with allergies claim this works but there’s no research on it.

Types Of Pantothenic Acid

A form of panthothenic acid called ‘pantethine’ is now available in supplements. The body doesn’t turn pantethine into coenzymes, so it’s available to do other useful things, like lower high cholesterol.

Pantethine supplements are very safe, with no known side effects or overdose level. They’re expensive, though, and so far there really aren’t any good reasons to take them.

Another form of pantothenic acid called ‘panthoderm’ is available in skin creams and lotions. It’s useful for soothing cuts, scrapes, and mild burns.

Pantothenic acid supplements usually contain calcium pantothenate in tablets or capsules.

RDA

Most vitamins and minerals have established RDAs. Pantothenic acid is an exception. Scientists have found that the average American gets between 4 and 10 mg of pantothenic acid every day. That must be enough to keep us healthy, because no one has ever been deficient in it – and if no one’s deficient, why bother figuring out a RDA? Instead, pantothenic acid has a Safe and Adequate Intakes:

 

Age Pantothenic Acid
0 – 0.5 year 2 mg
0.5 – 1 year 3 mg
4-6 years 3 – 4 mg
7-10 years 4 -5 mg
11 + years 4 -7 mg

 

Safe Dosage

Just as there’s no RDA for pantothenic acid, there’s no real overdose level. People who take very large doses (10 to 20 grams a day) may get diarrhea, but there’s no other known side effects. Any excess is excreted in urine.

Make It Work Better

Pantothenic acid is one of the lesser known members of the B team. It works best when there’s plenty of the other B’s, especially thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, and biotin.

Good Sources

Some pantothenic acid is found in just about every food we eat, animal or vegetable. Organ meats, salmon, eggs, beans, milk, and whole grains are the best sources. As with other B vitamins, a lot of pantothenic acid is lost when grains are milled into flour. Although the other B’s are added back, panthothenic acid isn’t. So processed grain foods such as bread, pasta, rice, breakfast cereal, and baked goods aren’t good sources.

Deficiency

A person would have to deliberately work at it to be deficient in pantothenic acid. There is not one report of human deficiency (except for test subjects) so there isn’t a lab test for detecting it. The only people really at risk for a deficiency is long-term alcoholics. Anyone else who’s a little low is almost certainly low on the other B’s as well.

 

 

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Comments
One Response to “Understanding Vitamin B5: Pantothenic Acid”
  1. Heinz says:

    “People who take very large doses (10 to 20 grams a day) may get diarrhea, but there’s no other known side effects.”
    This is wrong. It is well know that people taking 10 grams for a long time may suffer from hairloss.

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