How Vitamin B5 Works


Pantothenic acid, a member of the B vitamin clan (technically vitamin B5), is everywhere. It can be found in all living cells and, at least to some extent, in all foods. Appropriately, its name comes from the Greek word pantos, meaning "everywhere."

Although discovered more than 40 years ago, nutritionists have never gotten too excited over the vitamin because overt deficiency in humans is very rare. In fact, symptoms of pantothenic acid deficiency in people occur only after long periods of food restriction. This is a so-called "stress vitamin," and deficiency is difficult to pin down because it appears to affect all organs' ability to handle stressors, both emotional and physical.

In this article, we'll take a look at the history, therapeutic value, and sources of pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5. Here's a preview:
  • What is Vitamin B5?

    Like other B vitamins, pantothenic acid helps the body extract energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It also helps to metabolize fats and produce red blood cells and hormones from the adrenal gland. Pantothenic acid is necessary to maintain good health.

  • Benefits of Vitamin B5

    Vitamin B5 might be useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis. It could also be used to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Pantothenic acid is commonly found in "anti-stress" formulas because it works with the adrenal glad to produce stress hormones.

  • Vitamin B5 Deficiency

    Vitamin B5 deficiency is extremely rare. It is not likely to occur in people who eat ordinary diets that include a variety of foods. Symptoms of deficiency have occurred only in experimental situations.

Vitamin B5 is just one of many essential nutrients that need to be a part of your diet. For more information, visit these links.
  • A deficiency of vitamin B1, or thiamin, results in the disease beriberi. Learn more in How Vitamin B1 Works.
  • In How Vitamin B2 Works, read about how B2, or riboflavin, works in concert with its B-complex relatives to metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
  • Vitamin B3, or niacin, acts as a coenzyme, assisting other substances in the conversion of food into energy. Learn more in How Vitamin B3 Works.
  • Vitamin B6 is actually three substances, pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, and pyridoxal, that work to metabolize protein and amino acids. Read more in How Vitamin B6 Works.
  • In How Biotin Works, learn how biotin acts as a coenzyme in several metabolic reactions, such as the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.

  • To learn about the many vitamins in our diet, how much you should be eating, and where to find them, go to our general Vitamins page.
  • To find the best prices on B vitamin supplements, click here.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

What is Vitamin B5?

Unlike the discovery of other vitamins, when investigators discovered vitamin B5 in the 1930s, they weren't looking for the cause of a specific human disease. They were looking for a substance necessary for yeast to grow. Along the way, researchers noticed that diets lacking this substance caused certain disorders in animals, including a retarded growth rate, anemia, degenerated nerve tissue, decreased production of antibodies, ulcers, and malformed offspring.

Researchers found that both animals and humans must have pantothenic acid in their diet to maintain good health.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Researchers found that both animals
and humans must have pantothenic
acid in their diet to maintain good
health.

Since many animal species proved to have a dietary requirement for vitamin B5, scientists believed that people probably needed it, too. Experiments in the 1950s tested how a diet without pantothenic acid affected humans. After three or four weeks on a highly purified diet that lacked only pantothenic acid, volunteers complained of weakness and an overall "unwell" feeling. One person had burning cramps.

A few volunteers received a diet not only deficient in pantothenic acid, but also containing a compound that specifically interfered with the vitamin. These people developed symptoms faster than those in the other group and complained of insomnia, depression, gastrointestinal problems, leg cramps, and a burning sensation in the hands and feet.

In both groups, volunteers showed signs of reduced antibody production. In everyone, symptoms disappeared after adding back pantothenic acid, proving that pantothenic acid was indeed an essential vitamin for humans.

Functions of Vitamin B5

Pantothenic acid is part of coenzyme A, which helps release energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It also helps in the metabolism of fats and the production of red blood cells and hormones from the adrenal gland.

Foods That Contain Vitamin B5

All foods contain this vitamin in some amount. The best sources include an eclectic mix: eggs, salmon, liver, kidney, peanuts, wheat bran, and yeast. Fresh vegetables are good sources -- better than canned vegetables, because the canning process reduces the amount of pantothenic acid available.

Use this chart to find foods that are a good source of pantothenic acid.

 Food Quantity
Pantothenic Acid (mg)
 Beef liver, raw  3 ounces  3.9
 Beef kidney, raw  3 ounces  1.44
 Liverwurst  1 ounce  0.82
 Ham, cured  3 ounces  0.66
 Eggs, fresh, raw  1 whole  0.63
 Pork chops, meat only, cooked  3 ounces  0.48
 Salmon, canned  3 ounces  0.47
 Ground beef  3 ounces  0.3
 Round steak  3 ounces  0.3
 Almonds, dried, shelled  31/2 ounces  0.24

Vitamin B5 is often found in "anti-stress" formulas because it supports the adrenal gland, renewing its supply of stress hormones and keeping the gland in optimal health. Keep reading to learn more about the therapeutic value of vitamin B5.

Vitamin B5
is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to good nutrition. Visit these links to learn more about the vitamins your body needs.
  • In How Biotin Works, learn how biotin acts as a coenzyme in several metabolic reactions, such as the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.
  • Read How Folate Works to learn about folacin, folic acid, and folate and how a folate deficiency can cause megaloblastic anemia.
  • Vitamin B12, also called cyanocobalamin or cobalamin, is essential because it assists folate in making DNA and RNA. Read more in How Vitamin B12 Works.
  • Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is good for more than just easing the common cold. Learn more in How Vitamin C Works.
  • Vitamin D is necessary to hold of rickets, but if you get enough sunshine, your body can make its own vitamin D supply. Learn more in How Vitamin D Works.
  • To learn about the many vitamins in our diet, how much you should be eating, and where to find them, go to our general Vitamins page.
  • To find the best prices on B vitamin supplements, click here.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Benefits of Vitamin B5

Vitamin B5 often rides on the shirttails of the other B vitamins in "anti-stress" formulas. It does work closely with the adrenal gland, which produces stress hormones. Pantothenic acid supports the adrenal gland, renewing its supply of stress hormones and generally and keeping the gland in optimal health.

Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers are often low in pantothenic acid.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers are
often low in pantothenic acid.

Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers are often low in pantothenic acid, leading many to believe that the vitamin has a place in the treatment of this disease. In one study, supplementation of 2 g per day lessened arthritis pain for many participants.

A certain form of vitamin B5, called pantethine, may be helpful for lowering blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. At a dosage of 300 mg taken three times a day, it raised "good" HDL cholesterol levels while significantly lowering "bad" LDL cholesterol levels. It helps the body use fat more efficiently and puts the brakes on cholesterol synthesis. People with diabetes and high cholesterol levels have benefited from pantethine supplementation too.

At one time there was speculation that vitamin B5 might keep hair from turning gray because the hair of laboratory rats turned gray when they were made deficient in this vitamin. This was only speculation; pantothenic acid has no such effect in humans.

A deficiency of vitamin B5 is extremely unlikely in someone who eats an ordinary diet. Symptoms of deficiency, such as leg cramps and insomnia, have occurred only in test settings. Learn more about vitamin B5 deficiency on the next page.

Vitamin B5 isn't the only nutrient you need to maintain good health. Check out these links to learn more about vitamins that need to be part of your diet.
  • A vitamin B1, or thiamin, deficiency results in the disease beriberi. Learn more in How Vitamin B1 Works.
  • In How Vitamin B2 Works, read about how B2, or riboflavin, works in concert with its B-complex relatives to metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
  • Vitamin B3, or niacin, acts as a coenzyme, assisting other substances in the conversion of food into energy. Learn more in How Vitamin B3 Works.
  • In How Vitamin E Works, learn about this important antioxidant with far-reaching health benefits.
  • Vitamin K is important in allowing your blood to clot properly. Learn more in How Vitamin K Works.
  • To learn about the many vitamins in our diet, how much you should be eating, and where to find them, go to our general Vitamins page.
  • To find the best prices on B vitamin supplements, click here.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Vitamin B5 Deficiency

The RDA for vitamin B5 is 5 mg for both men and women with an estimated safe and adequate daily intake for adults between 4 and 7 mg. The average American gets about 10 to 20 mg. Bacteria living in the intestinal tract make some pantothenic acid, but no one knows yet if this contributes to the body's supply.

Vitamin B5 deficiency is not likely to occur as long as people eat ordinary diets that consist of a variety of foods. Symptoms of deficiency, such as insomnia, leg cramps, or burning feet, have only occurred in experimental situations. Even then, severe symptoms have occurred only if people also take a drug that interferes with the vitamin.

Insomnia, leg cramps, and burning feet are symptoms of a pantothenic acid deficiency.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Insomnia, leg cramps, and burning feet are symptoms of a pantothenic
acid deficiency.

Vitamin B5 Supplements

Vitamin B5 used for adrenal gland support would be effective at approximately 250 mg twice a day. For arthritis, 2,000 mg (2 g) per day may be helpful for pain relief. There are no known toxicity problems with high doses of pantothenic acid or pantethine. Massive doses, 10 to 20 g per day, may cause diarrhea in some people, however.

While vitamin B5 is necessary for good health, the good news is that a deficiency of this essential nutrient is extremely rare. Just eat a balanced diet to keep a vitamin B5 deficiency at bay.

Vitamin B5 isn't the only vitamin you need to maintain overall health. Visit these links to learn about other essentail nutrients you need to include in your diet.
  • Vitamin A, or retinol, plays a vital role in vision. Learn more in How Vitamin A Works.
  • Vitamin B1, or thiamin, deficiency results in the disease beriberi. Learn more in How Vitamin B1 Works.
  • In How Vitamin B2 Works, read about how B2, or riboflavin, works in concert with its B-complex relatives to metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
  • Vitamin B3, or niacin, acts as a coenzyme, assisting other substances in the conversion of food into energy. Learn more in How Vitamin B3 Works.
  • Vitamin B6 is actually three substances, pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, and pyridoxal, that work to metabolize protein and amino acids. Read more in How Vitamin B6 Works.
  • To learn about the many vitamins in our diet, how much you should be eating, and where to find them, go to our general Vitamins page.
  • To find the best prices on B vitamin supplements, click here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jennifer Brett, N.D. is director of the Acupuncture Institute for the University of Bridgeport, where she also serves on the faculty for the College of Naturopathic Medicine. A recognized leader in her field with an extensive background in treating a wide variety of disorders utilizing nutritional and botanical remedies, Dr. Brett has appeared on WABC TV (NYC) and on Good Morning America to discuss utilizing herbs for health.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.