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Vitamin B5 / Pantothenic Acid Deficiency & How to Get Enough!

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Vitamin B5 - Dr. Axe

There are plenty of ways to get proper amounts of vitamin B5 (also known as pantothenic acid) into your diet, and because many people consume B5 vitamin foods frequently, luckily today we don’t see a large percentage of adults suffering from dangerous B5 vitamin deficiency.

What does pantothenic acid do to your body? Studies have shown that this vitamin has roles within the body including:

  • converting nutrients from food into energy
  • balancing blood sugar
  • reducing bad cholesterol
  • lowering high blood pressure
  • helping prevent nerve damage

The energy that vitamin B5 helps produce is actually what fires neurotransmitters in your brain. These neurotransmitters carry chemical signals throughout the body.

Because of this role, pantothenic acid is crucial for maintaining the health of the nervous system and much more.

What Is Pantothenic Acid?

Vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is found in all living cells within the body.

Foods that contain B5 vitamin include both plants and animals foods, such as:

  • meat and organ meats
  • beans and legumes
  • sweet potatoes
  • certain nuts and seeds
  • milk
  • eggs

Like the other B vitamins, this essential nutrient plays a role in energy metabolism, acting as a coenzyme to energy-producing chemical reactions. Specifically, it’s involved in the conversion of fats, hormones and carbohydrates from the foods we eat into usable energy that the body utilizes in many ways.

Aside from being critical in manufacturing red blood cells, vitamin B5 helps produce sex and stress-related hormones in the adrenal glands.

It’s also involved in the maintenance of a healthy digestive tract, supporting the immune system in the process. Very importantly, it works with other B vitamins in the “B vitamin complex,” helping the body use other nutrients, such as riboflavin (vitamin B2) and B6, for metabolic support.

Vitamin B5 Benefits

What is B5 vitamin good for? A higher dietary intake of B5 that helps you maintain adequate levels may help defend against a variety of medical conditions.

Below are some of the top benefits and functions of this essential nutrient:

1. Supports Cardiovascular Health

Your body needs pantothenic acid to synthesize cholesterol. A derivative of pantothenic acid is called pantethine, which has been studied for its ability to positively influence heart function, especially by maintaining normal cholesterol levels.

It seems to help protect arteries and prevent dangerous plaque buildup that can possibly lead to a heart attack or stroke.

High serum concentration of LDL cholesterol is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, and numerous studies have shown that vitamin B5 may help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood of people with elevated blood fats. At the same time, it helps raise “good” HDL cholesterol.

A daily dose of 900 milligrams of a vitamin B5 has been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Keep in mind that 900 mg is significantly higher than the recommended daily amount of vitamin B5 per day, so this is only done with the supervision of your physician.

In some small studies, it’s also been shown to help lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in people with diabetes, although more evidence is needed to prove this.

2. Helps Create Red Blood Cells

One other important vitamin B5 benefit is that it helps the body create red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout our body.

It’s been shown to enhance the level of hemoglobin in our bodies, which is an ion-containing oxygen-transport protein. This means it beneficial for the prevention and treatment of anemia.

3. Metabolizes Food into Energy

All B vitamins help your body to convert carbohydrates into glucose, which is used as fuel and produces energy. B5 does this by synthesizing an enzyme known as coenzyme A (CoA), which breaks down sugars in the form of glucose for energy. It’s also used to synthesize and metabolize fats and proteins.

B vitamins in general help our bodies use the foods we eat in order to rebuild our tissues, muscles and organs. Because of the role it plays in digestion and nutrient extraction, digestive problems can be a sign of a serious vitamin B5 deficiency.

Regularly eating foods high in pantothenic acid can help keep your metabolism functioning at optimal levels.

4. Maintains Healthy Nerve Function

Vitamin B5 is responsible for helping with nerve function, specifically for creating an important molecule called acetylcholine. The nervous system depends upon acetylcholine. This is the primary chemical that allows your nervous system to communicate back and forth with your organs.

Acetylcholine makes it possible for your brain and spinal cord to send nerve signals to our immune system, heart, lungs, kidneys, spleen, liver and more. It is also used to send nerve signals to muscles, so without enough pantothenic acid, nerve damage and impairment in movement can develop.

This is why one of the primary signs of a serious B vitamin deficiency is muscle impairment and pain, including a condition known as burning feet syndrome. This occurs when a person experiences lack of feeling in the feet along with painful burning, inflammation, and the feeling of ongoing fatigue and weakness.

5. Improves Mental Performance

B vitamins in general are often correlated with improving mental function because they can decrease the risk for many problems, such as brain function illnesses or age-related memory and function loss. Some research even shows that cerebral deficiency in this nutrient may contribute to neurodegeneration, dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Obtaining proper amounts of B vitamins may be able to help prevent memory loss, migraine headaches, chronic brain syndrome, depression, motion sickness, insomnia and even alcohol dependence.

Vitamin B5 is known to regulate neurotransmitters and is essential for synthesis of acetyl-CoA, which helps form myelin that protects cells. Therefore it has the ability to support normal brain function and help us cope with stress, anxiety and depression.

It may also cut down on body fatigue because it balances hormones related to feelings of alertness or fatigue and boosts metabolism.

Physicians sometimes see vitamin B5 deficiencies in people who are chronically stressed. When we are deficient in it we lose our ability to react to stress effectively and show signs of adrenal fatigue.

This can include having trouble sleeping, exercising, coping with problems, mood swings, weight gain or loss, and other stress symptoms.

6. Helps Control the Body’s Stress Response

Pantothenic acid benefits include the ability to cope with stress. In fact, without B vitamins regulating hormones, the body could not survive due to how they support overall adrenal function.

This is why people who are chronically stressed or who are dealing with adrenal fatigue symptoms are highly encouraged to take B vitamin supplements. They can help battle effects of chronic stress and control appetite, energy, mood, temperature and more.

Vitamin B5 is partially responsible for regulating adrenal function and creating the stress hormone cortisol. Studies have shown that pantothenic acid supplementation stimulates the ability of adrenal cells and also helps with normal production of cortisol, which we need to maintain motivation and concentration.

7. Aids Wound Healing

What does vitamin B5 do for your skin? Studies have shown that pantothenic acid can help in treating skin reactions from radiation therapy and may speed up wound and cut healing.

It is also known to delay the appearance of premature aging, like wrinkles and dark spots on the skin — plus it might help reduce symptoms associated with eczema, insect bites and poison ivy.

Data gathered from recent studies suggest that it induces an accelerating effect of the normal healing process due to certain mechanisms that it helps control regarding the improvement in cellular multiplication.

The exact mechanism of how it does this remains unclear, but it is correlated significantly with increasing skin strength, especially after surgery.

8. Relieves Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Some early studies suggest that B5 may help with the painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. One study found that people with rheumatoid arthritis may have lower levels in their blood than healthy people. Low levels seems to be associated with the most severe symptoms of arthritis, including painful movements, stiffness and inflammation.

It has been recorded that high doses of pantothenic acid can help with controlling inflammation, stiffness and pain in people suffering from RA. Taking B vitamin complex supplements has been correlated with lower levels of joint pain, enhanced muscle strength, and fewer symptoms associated with muscle or joint fatigue.

9. Aids Immune Function

Vitamin B5 helps create antibodies that the immune system produces in order to defend us against potential threats. These can include environmental and allergic responses, as well as fighting off parasites, bacteria, viruses, the common cold or flu, and toxins.

Studies have shown that higher intake of pantothenic acid can result in a reduction in the proliferation of different harmful parasites and has been shown to inhibit the growth of dangerous bacteria. For example, it can help reduce infection of malaria, a deadly parasite.

It may also help control the body’s stress response, helping keep our immunity higher so we face less chance of becoming sick and run down.

10. Helps Fight Acne and Protect Skin Health

B5 may help reduce the appearance of premature aging, including signs on the skin like wrinkles, dark spots and discolorations. Studies have also shown that it also plays an important role in the pigmentation and growth of hair follicles and may prevent hair from losing its color during the aging process.

What does pantothenic acid do for acne? According to recent studies, people who were given supplements containing B5 were shown to have a reduction in acne outbreaks compared to those who didn’t take the vitamin.

Study results show that pantothenic acid-based dietary supplements in healthy adults with acne facial lesions are effective, safe, well-tolerated and reduced total facial lesion counts.

The results indicate that taking vitamin B5 can help clear area-specific and inflammatory skin acne blemishes while not causing any known side effects. This may be due partially to the role that this nutrient plays in immunity and lowering general bodywide inflammation.

Vitamin B5 and Pantothenic Acid Health Benefits Infographic list

Food Sources (Plus Recipes)

What is the best source of vitamin B5? Here are 11 of the best vitamin B5 foods (percentages below are based on the daily recommended value of 5 percent per adult male or female):

  1. Chicken Liver — 3 oz: 8.3 milligrams (83 percent DV)
  2. Sunflower Seeds — 3 oz: 6 milligrams (60 percent DV)
  3. Avocados — 1 fruit: 2 milligrams (20 percent DV)
  4. Portobello Mushrooms — 1 cup sliced: 1.9 milligrams (19 percent DV)
  5. Sweet Potatoes — 1 cup cooked: 1.8 milligrams (18 percent DV)
  6. Salmon — 3 oz: 1.6 milligrams (16 percent DV)
  7. Lentils — 1 cup: 1.3 milligrams (13 percent DV)
  8. Corn — 1 cup: 1.2 milligrams (12 percent DV)
  9. Sun-dried tomatoes — 1 cup: 1.1 milligrams (11 percent DV)
  10. Eggs — 3 oz: 0.9 milligrams (9 percent DV)
  11. Cauliflower — 1 cup: 0.7 milligrams (7 percent DV)

Recipes:

To add more vitamin B5 to your diet naturally, try some of these B5 vitamin recipe ideas below:

Vitamin B5 Rich Foods source Infographic Table, Pantothenic Acid Chart

Supplements and Dosage

How much vitamin B5 should you take daily? According to the National Institutes of Health, the dietary reference intake for vitamin B5/ pantothenic acid is as follows:

Infants:

  • 0–6 months, 1.7 mg
  • 7–12 months, 1.8 mg

Children:

  • 1–3 years, 2 mg
  • 4–8 years, 3 mg
  • 9–13 years, 4 mg

Adults:

  • men and women 14 years and older, 5 mg
  • pregnant women, 6 mg
  • breastfeeding women, 7 mg

Most often it’s not necessary to supplement with pantothenic acid if someone’s dietary intake is high enough. However, for those who can benefit from extra, supplements are available either containing only pantothenic acid or B5 in combination with other B-complex vitamins.

You’ll find that most multivitamins provide enough of all needed B vitamins. The amount of pantothenic acid in dietary supplements typically ranges from about 10 mg in multivitamins up to very high doses of about 1,000 mg in some supplements, but it’s best to contact your doctor before taking such high amounts.

Deficiency Symptoms

Since B5 occurs in almost all foods, a deficiency is very rare in Western developed nations where people are uncommonly malnourished and not acquiring enough calories daily. However, deficiency may occur in combination with deficiencies of other B vitamins.

 Symptoms of a vitamin B5 deficiency may include:

  • fatigue
  • depression
  • irritability
  • insomnia
  • stomach pains
  • vomiting
  • burning feet
  • upper respiratory infections
  • muscle cramps

People at a greater risk of developing a deficiency include:

  • alcoholics
  • women on oral contraceptives/birth control pills
  • people with severe malnutrition
  • people with impaired absorption of vitamins and minerals due to certain medications or intestinal disorders
Pantothenic Acid Vitamin B5 Deficiency Symptoms Chart

Risks and Side Effects

What are the side effects of pantothenic acid? While taking it is generally very safe when consumed in appropriate amounts, larger portions may lead to side effects such as diarrhea or even increase your risk of bleeding.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, do not exceed the recommended amount of six milligrams per day because it may not be safe.

You also do not want to take dexpanthenol, a derivative of pantothenic acid that is used for patients with hemophilia and gastrointestinal blockage. This medication may extend the time it takes for bleeding to stop.

Some studies also show that pantothenic acid may increase the effects of a group of drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors, which are used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Because taking these medications and B5 together may lead to severe side effects, be sure to take these two together only under your physician’s supervision.

Certain sources also show that B5 may interfere with the absorption and effectiveness of the antibiotic tetracycline. You should take B vitamins at different times from tetracycline when you are completing an antibiotic prescription.

Conclusion

  • Vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid, is a water-soluble nutrient that is found in all living cells within the body, as well as plants and animals foods, such as meat, organ meat, beans and legumes, certain nuts and seeds, sweet potatoes, milk, and eggs.
  • The National Institutes of Health recommends a dietary reference intake between two and four milligrams per day for children and between five and seven milligrams per day for adults.
  • B5 is needed to convert foods into energy, support nerve and metabolic functions, and for maintenance of cardiovascular and brain health.
  • A dietary intake that helps you maintain adequate levels can help defend against medical conditions including high cholesterol, anemia, side effects of stress, cognitive issues and slow healing wounds.
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