How Vitamin B5 Works

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

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.