Pantothenic acid, also called vitamin B5, belongs to the group of B-complex water-soluble vitamins . Every living organism needs pantothenic acid to survive. Humans do not make this vitamin and must obtain it from the food they eat.
Pantothenic acid is essential to all cells. It helps regulate the chemical reactions that produce energy from the breakdown of fats, carbohydrates , and proteins. It is also involved in the synthesis of cholesterol, some fatty acids, and some steroid hormones.
Pantothenic acid was discovered in 1936 and soon afterward was recognized as a vitamin essential to growth. Pantothenic acid is found in all living things. Its name is derived from the Greek word ‘pantos,’ which means ‘everywhere.’
Pantothenic acid joins with another molecule to form coenzyme A (CoA). Coenzymes are small molecules that regulate enzyme reactions. CoA is involved in many essential metabolic reactions that produce energy and synthesize new molecules. Without pantothenic acid, there would be no CoA, and life would cease. Some of the activities that require CoA, and thus indirectly pantothenic acid, include:
- converting fats, carbohydrates, and proteins from food into energy that the body can use
- synthesizing heme, the molecule in red blood cells that picks up oxygen in the lung and carries it throughout the body
- synthesizing essential fatty acids, cholesterol, and steroid hormones needed to build new cells
- synthesizing acetylcholine, a neuro transmitter that carries electrical impulses between nerve cells
- stimulating chemical reactions in the liver that help rid the body of certain drugs and toxins (poisons).
Pantothenic acid is available in multivitamins, B-complex vitamins, and as a single-ingredient dietary supplement. Often pantothenic acid is found in dietary supplements in the form of calcium pantothenate or dexopanthenol, both more stable forms of pantothenic acid that the body can use. Diet supplement manufacturers suggest that pantothenic acid can treat or prevent certain health conditions. None of these uses have been proved by independent, well-controlled
|Age||Recommended dietary allowance (mg/day)|
|Children 0-6 mos.||1.7|
|Children 7-12 mos.||1.8|
|Children 1-3 yrs.||2|
|Children 4-8 yrs.||3|
|Children 9-13 yrs.||4|
|Children 14-18 yrs.||5|
|Adults 19≥ yrs.||5|
|Food||Pantothenic Acid (mg)|
|Liver, beef, cooked, 3.5 oz.||5.3|
|Salmon, baked, 3.5 oz.||1.4|
|Yogurt, 8 oz.||1.35|
|Chicken, dark meat, cooked, 3.5 oz.||1.3|
|Chicken, light meat, cooked, 3.5 oz.||1.0|
|Milk, nonfat, 1 cup||0.80|
|Corn, cooked, 1/2 cup||0.72|
|Sweet potato, cooked, 1/2 cup||0.68|
|Lentils, cooked, 1/2 cup||0.64|
|Egg, 1 large, cooked||0.61|
|Broccoli, steamed, 1/2 cup||0.40|
|Tuna, canned, 3 oz.||0.18|
|Bread, whole wheat, 1 slice||0.16|
(Illustration by GGS Information Services/Thomson Gale.)
research studies. Some of the unsubstantiated uses for which the dietary supplement pantothenic acid is advertised include:
- stimulating wound healing
- improving athletic performance
- lowering cholesterol
- preventing osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
As of 2007, very few clinical trials were underway involving pantothenic acid. Individuals interested in participating in a clinical trial at no cost can check for new trials at <http://www.clinicaltrialsgov>.
Normal pantothenic acid requirements
The United States Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences has developed values called Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for vitamins and minerals. The DRIs consist of three sets of numbers. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) defines the average daily amount of the nutrient needed to meet the health needs of 97-98% of the population. The Adequate Intake (AI) is an estimate set when there is not enough information to determine an RDA. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) is the average maximum amount that can be taken daily without risking negative side effects. The DRIs are calculated for children, adult men, adult women, pregnant women, and breastfeeding women.
The IOM has not set RDA values for pantothenic acid because of incomplete scientific information. Instead, it has set AI levels for all age groups. AI levels for pantothenic acid are measured by weight (milligrams or mg). No UL levels have been set for this vitamin because large doses of pantothenic acid do not appear to cause any side effects.
The following are the daily AIs of pantothenic acid for healthy individuals:
- children birth-6 months: 1.7 mg
- children 7-12 months: 1.8 mg
- children 1-3 years: 2 mg
- children 4-8 years: 3 mg
- children 9-13 years: 4 mg
- children 14-18 years: 5 mg
- adults age 19 and older: 5 mg
- pregnant women: 6 mg
- breastfeeding women: 7 mg
Sources of pantothenic acid
Pantothenic acid is found small quantities in a wide variety of foods. Good sources include liver, kidney, fish, shellfish, egg yolk, broccoli, lentils, and mushrooms. Pantothenic acid is unstable. Much of it is lost during cooking, canning, freezing, and processing. Frozen meats and processed grains, for example, can lose up to half their pantothenic acid content.
The following list gives the approximate pantothenic acid content of some common foods.
- liver, beef, cooked, 3.5 ounces: 5.3 mg
- chicken, dark meat, cooked 3.5 ounces: 1.3 mg
- chicken, light meat, cooked 3.5 ounces: 1.0 mg
- salmon, baked, 3.5 ounces: 1.4 mg
- tuna, canned, 3 ounces: .18 mg
- egg, 1 large, cooked: .61 mg
- milk, nonfat, 1 cup: .80 mg
- yogurt, 8 ounces: 1.35 mg
- broccoli, steamed, 1/2 cup: .40 mg
- sweet potato, cooked 1/2 cup: .68 mg
- lentils, cooked, 1/2 cup: .64 mg
- corn, cooked 1/2 cup: .72
- bread, whole wheat, 1 slice: .16 mg
B-complex vitamins— A group of water-soluble vitamins that often work together in the body. These include thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7 or vitamin H), folate/folic acid (B9), and cobalamin (B12).
Coenzyme— Also called a cofactor, a small non-protein molecule that binds to an enzyme and catalyzes (stimulates) enzyme-mediated reactions.
Dietary supplement— A product, such as a vitamin, mineral, herb, amino acid, or enzyme, that is intended tobe consumedinaddition toanindividual’s diet with the expectation that it will improve health.
Enzyme— A protein that change the rate of a chemical reaction within the body without themselves being used up in the reaction.
Fatty acids— Complex molecules found in fats and oils. Essential fatty acids are fatty acids that the body needs but cannot synthesize. Essential fatty acids are made by plants and must be present in the diet to maintain health.
Hormone— A chemical messenger that is produced by one type of cell and travels through the bloodstream to change the metabolism of a different type of cell.
Neurotransmitter— One of a group of chemicals secreted by a nerve cell (neuron) to carry a chemical message to another nerve cell, often as a way of transmitting a nerve impulse. Examples of neurotransmit-ters include acetylcholine, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
Steroid— A family of compounds that share a similar chemical structure. This family includes the estrogen and testosterone, vitamin D, cholesterol, and the drugs cortisone and prendisone.
Vitamin— A nutrient that the body needs in small amounts to remain healthy but that the body cannot manufacture for itself and must acquire through diet.
Water-soluble vitamin— A vitamin that dissolves in water and can be removed from the body in urine.
Pantothenic acid deficiency
Pantothenic acid deficiency is so rare that it has only been seen in humans in severely malnourished prisoners of war in Asia after World War II and in research volunteers who were given a pantothenic-free diet. The main symptoms these groups experienced were burning, tingling, and numbness in the feet and fatigue. This symptoms disappeared when pantothenic acid was added to their diet.
Large doses of pantothenic acid taken over a long period are well tolerated. The only negative side effect reported is mild diarrhea.
There are no known interactions between pantothenic acid and drugs or herbal supplements. Using oral contraceptives may mildly increase the body’s need for pantothenic acid.
No complications are expected related to pantothenic acid. Deficiency occurs only with severe starvation. Excess intake is well tolerated.
Parents should have few concerns about pantothenic acid. Healthy children get enough of this vitamin in their diet and are unlikely to need or benefit from supplementation.
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Linus Pauling Institute. Oregon State University, 571 Weniger Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331-6512. Telephone: (541) 717-5075. Fax: (541) 737-5077. Website: <http://lpi.oregonstate.edu>
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Maryland Medical Center Programs Center for Integrative Medicine. ‘Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid).’ University of Maryland Medical Center, April 2002. <http://www.umm.edu/altmed/ConsSupplements/VitaminB5> <http://www.umm.edu/altmed/ConsSupplements/VitaminB5> <http://www.umm.edu/altmed/ConsSupplements/VitaminB5PantothenicAcidcs.html>
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Tish Davidson, A.M.
Pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B5, is a member of the water-soluble B vitamin family. It is an essential ingredient of two substances, coenzyme A and acyl carrier protein, which are needed to metabolize carbohydrates and fats. The same coenzymes play a part in production of certain hormones, vitamin D , red blood cells, and the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Pantothenic acid is necessary for proper growth and development. Studies of Mexican infants whose diets are deficient in micronutrients have shown that those who receive dietary supplements containing pantothenic acid do not show the growth retardation that appears in control groups.
There is not an RDA for pantothenic acid, since deficiency is not known to occur in normal circumstances. Although a daily intake is required for good health, some of this vitamin is found in nearly every food. The standard for the minimum amount of pantothenic acid is the Estimated Safe and Adequate Daily Dietary Intake. That value is 2 mg for infants less than six months old, 3 mg for infants six to 12 months old and children one to three years old, 3–4 mg for children four to six years old, 4–5 mg for children seven to 10 years old, and 4–7 mg for everyone over 11 years of age. This recommended intake is a minimal amount necessary to prevent deficiency, and may not be the optimal amount needed for good health.
Pantothenic acid and pantethine are both available as supplements, and do appear to function somewhat differently. Pantethine can be used to lower serum cholesterol and triglycerides. It is more expensive and less effective than using niacin (vitamin B3) for the same purpose, but does not have the potential side effects that niacin does. Generally a dose of 300 mg taken three times a day is recommended for this purpose. Pantethine may be a good cholesterol-lowering alternative for people with diabetes, who cannot take niacin due to the potential side effects on blood sugar regulation. Taking supplements of pantothenic acid does not affect cholesterol, as in this form it is immediately converted into coenzymes.
One very small study indicated that large daily doses of pantothenic acid (2 g of calcium pantothenate) were helpful to relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis . Consult a healthcare provider regarding use of supplements for this purpose.
Panthenol is a derivative of pantothenic acid and is frequently an ingredient of shampoos and other hair care products. Experiments with rats have shown that a deficiency of pantothenic acid can cause hair to turn gray and fall out. Neither oral nor topical use of any form of pantothenic acid has been shown to prevent or treat gray hair or balding in humans. Some skin care products contain another form of pantothenic acid, called panthoderm, which may be helpful in treatment of minor skin injuries.
Other claims for pantothenic acid that remain unproven are that it improves immune function, decreases allergies , and acts as an anti-aging substance.
Almost every food contains some pantothenic acid. Meats, dairy, whole grains, eggs, and legumes are among the richest sources. Products made from grains that have been processed are among the few foods that are lacking in B5; it is not added back after processing since there are so many other sources of it.
In order to get the most value out of the pantothenic acid contained in natural sources, use fresh foods whenever possible. Cook with minimal amounts of water since the water-soluble vitamin content may be leached out. Frozen foods lose some of their water-soluble vitamin content as they thaw. Processing can also destroy a significant amount of the vitamin content of foods. Pantothenic acid is fairly heat-stable, and is not broken down by cooking although it is destroyed by extremes of pH as may be created by adding such things as baking soda or vinegar.
Oral supplements of both pantothenic acid and pantethine are available. The latter is quite expensive, and less stable than other types. Calcium pantothenate is one form of pantothenic acid made for oral use. Dexpanthenol is formulated for topical, intramuscular, or intravenous use. It is generally recommended that the B-vitamin family be taken in balanced amounts. Taking an excessive amount of an individual B-vitamin may have a detrimental effect on the absorption of others. As with all supplements, pantothenic acid should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, and out of the reach of children. A dose of up to 500 mg is often recommended.
Due to its wide availability in food sources, pure deficiency of pantothenic acid is unknown. It is possible, though, to have low levels in conjunction with other B vitamins under certain conditions. This category may include people with severe nutritional deficiencies; and those with conditions affecting absorption, such as sprue or removal of portions of the gastrointestinal tract. People who chronically abuse alcohol or other drugs, and those under excessive amounts of stress including debilitating illnesses or recovery from burns or surgery are also at higher risk of general vitamin deficiency. The elderly are more susceptible both to poor nutritional status and decreased vitamin absorption. Use of tobacco is also detrimental to B vitamin absorption. Athletes who have a strenuous, daily physical regimen and people with physically active occupations may require larger than average amounts of pantothenic acid.
Experimentally induced deficiency of pantothenic acid has caused fatigue , somnolence, headache , hyperreflexia of extremities, tingling, numbness, or burning in hands and feet, weakness, gastrointestinal problems, irritability, and increased numbers of infections .
People with hemophilia should not use dexpanthenol as it may prolong bleeding time. Anyone with a known or suspected obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract should also not use this product.
Taken in very large doses, pantothenic acid may cause diarrhea . Topical use of dexpanthenol may cause a skin reaction.
The effects of the medication levodopa may be decreased by supplemental pantothenic acid. This problem is not seen with combination carbidopa and levodopa products. These medications are often used to treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease . Anyone taking medication for this condition should consult a health care provider before taking nutritional supplements.
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Rebecca J. Frey, PhD
Dietary deficiency is unknown; it is widely distributed in all living cells, the best sources being liver, kidney, yeast, and fresh vegetables. Human requirements are not known with any certainty; the US/Canadian adequate intake is 5 mg/day.
Experimental deficiency signs in rats include greying of the hair (hence at one time known as the anti‐grey‐hair factor; there is no evidence that it affects greying of human hair with age). Experimental deficiency in human beings leads to fatigue, headache, muscle weakness, and gastro‐intestinal disturbances. See also burning foot syndrome.
pan·to·then·ic ac·id / ˌpantəˈ[unvoicedth]enik/ • n. Biochem. a vitamin of the B complex, found in rice, bran, and many other foods, and essential for the oxidation of fats and carbohydrates. DERIVATIVES: pan·to·then·ate / panˈtä[unvoicedth]ənāt/ n.