Known as the "antistress" vitamin, vitamin B5 (or pantothenic acid) plays an
important role in adrenal function and cellular metabolism. This water-soluble B
vitamin is converted into a substance called coenzyme A. Coenzyme A is essential
to the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins for energy. It is
required in the synthesis of fatty acids, cholesterol, steroids, bile,
phospholipids, red blood cells, hormones, and neurotransmitters. Vitamin B5 as
coenzyme A is needed for proper adrenal cortex function. It supports the adrenal
glands in the making of cortisone and other adrenal hormones that counteract the
stress response and enhance metabolism. Also extremely important, coenzyme A is
needed to convert choline, a nutrient, into acetylcholine, an important
neurotransmitter involved with neuromuscular reactions. Vitamin B5 is necessary
for proper functioning of the immune system. Research has demonstrated that a
deficiency of this nutrient impairs immune system function and is therefore
necessary for proper immune response. Another important discovery about vitamin
B5 is that it seems to help decrease the painful symptoms of rheumatoid
The most well known research on the role of vitamin B5 in combatting stress
occurred more than 30 years ago. This study showed that rats given large doses
of vitamin B5 survived twice as long when forced to remain in cold water than
did rats who did not receive the vitamin. Other animal and human studies trying
to support the claim that vitamin B5 increases endurance and stamina have been
too few to positively confirm this theory. There is no argument over the fact
that vitamin B5 is needed for proper adrenal function, but whether or not
supplementation can enhance adrenal function is not yet proven.
The most promising recent study in this area showed that athletes who
received vitamin B5 supplements performed better than those who received
placebos. Those who received vitamin B5 used 8% less oxygen and had 17% less
lactic acid buildup. These differences are significant, but need to be confirmed
by further studies.
In 1980, the General Practitioner Research Group conducted a double-blind
study showing that calcium pantothenate supplementation significantly reduced
the severity of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. This supports the use of vitamin
B5 supplementation along with herbs and other natural therapies in the treatment
of this disease.
Pantothenic acid derives its name from the Greek word pantos, meaning
"everywhere," referring to its wide availability in foods. Deficiency is very
uncommon, but possible for those who have diets dominated by highly processed
foods. Large amounts of vitamin B5 are lost in the milling and refining of
grains and in canning, freezing, cooking, or otherwise processing of vegetables
and other foods. Vitamin B5 is not replaced in the "enrichment" of refined
flour, bread, rice, and noodles, and these are poor sources of the vitamin. The
best dietary sources are brewer's yeast, liver, eggs, fish, chicken, cheese,
milk, mushrooms, whole-grain breads and cereals, dried beans and peas, nuts
(peanuts, pecans, hazelnuts), potatoes, avocados, cauliflower, oranges, and
Vitamin B5 is most commonly available as calcium pantothenate. Recently, a
metabolite of pantothenic acid, called pantethine, has become available.
Research has shown this substance to have significant cholesterol- and
lipid-lowering activity, and research continues in the areas of cardiovascular
disease prevention, and immune system stimulation.
Vitamin B5 is available in supplement form as calcium pantothenate, which is
92% pantothenic acid and 8% calcium. It is available in 100, 250, and 500 mg
capsules. It is also usually included in vitamin B complex
Vitamin B5 has become increasingly popular as a nutritional supplement due to
claims that it boosts energy, increases stamina and athletic performance,
rejuvenates skin and hair, and decreases the symptoms of allergies, asthma, and
psoriasis (due to its support of corticosteroid synthesis).
Some of these claims arise from studies that have shown that vitamin B5
deficiency in rats caused increased graying of fur, decreased growth, and
destruction of adrenal glands.
Human studies have shown that a deficiency of vitamin B5 results in fatigue,
depression, digestive problems, problems with blood sugar metabolism (most
commonly hypoglycemia), loss of nerve function, and depressed cellular and
antibody immune response. These problems may manifest symptoms such as vomiting,
abdominal cramps, tingling or burning hands or feet, skin problems, muscle
cramps, recurring infections, and worsening of allergy or asthma symptoms.
Some health care providers recommend the use of vitamin B5 to treat allergies
(to support the manufacture of adrenocorticosteroids, thereby reducing allergy
symptoms). There are no clinical trials that judge the validity of this
There is documented clinical evidence to support the following uses of
- To reduce pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis
- To improve wound healing
- To significantly lower blood cholesterol levels
- Particularly beneficial for diabetics—to
lower blood lipids without negatively affecting blood sugar control and to
improve platelet function
- To speed up the detoxification of alcohol
|Dosage Ranges and Duration of
There is no RDA for vitamin B5, but the 1989 Safe and Adequate Intakes are as
- Birth to 6 months: 2 mg
- 6 months to 1 year: 3 mg
- 1 to 6 years: 3 to 4 mg
- 7 to 10 years: 4 to 5 mg
- 11 years and older: 4 to 7 mg
Americans consume an average of 4 to 10 mg/day. Individual needs vary
according to food intake and the amount of stress (physical, environmental, or
emotional/mental) one is undergoing.
Therapeutic dosages range from 250 to 500 mg of pantothenic acid daily for
general adrenal support to 2,000 mg daily for rheumatoid arthritis. The
recommended dose of pantethine for lowering cholesterol and triglycerides is 300
mg three times daily (900 mg/day).
There is no documented toxicity with even large doses of vitamin
There are no significant safety issues documented for vitamin B5. However,
research has not been adequate enough to assess the safety of large doses over
the long term. It is recommended that vitamin B5 be supplemented along with the
rest of the B vitamin family to prevent metabolic
No clinically significant interactions between pantothenic acid and
conventional medications are known to have been reported in the literature to
Arsenio L, et al. Effectiveness of long-term treatment with pantethine in
patients with dyslipidemia. Clin Ther. 1986;8:537-545.
Bertolini S, Donati C, Elicio N, et al. Lipoprotein changes induced by
pantethine in hyperlipoproteinemic patients: adults and children. Int J Clin
Pharmacol Ther Toxicol. 1986;24:630-637.
Binaghi P, Cellina G, Lo Cicero G, et al. Evaluation of the
cholesterol-lowering effectiveness of pantethine in women in perimenopausal age
[in Italian]. Minerva Med. 1990;81:475-479.
Coronel F, Tornero F, Torrente J, et al. Treatment of hyperlipemia in
diabetic patients on dialysis with a physiological substance. Am J
Gaddi A, et al. Controlled evaluation of pantethine, a natural hypolipidemic
compound in patients with different forms of hyperlipoproteinemia.
Gensini GF, et al. Changes in fatty acid composition of the single platelet
phospholipids induced by pantethine treatment. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res.
Haas E. Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and
Nutritional Medicine. Berkeley, Calif: Celestial Arts Publishing; 1992.
Hendler SS. The Doctors' Vitamin and Mineral Encyclopedia. New York,
NY: Fireside Press; 1991.
Lieberman S, Bruning N. The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book. 2nd ed. New
York, NY: Avery Publishing Group; 1997.
Murray M. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Rocklin, Calif:
Prima Publishing; 1996.
Prisco D, Rogasi PG, Matucci M, et al. Effect of oral treatment with
pantethine on platelet and plasma phospholipids in IIa hyperlipoproteinemia.
Somer E. The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. New York, NY:
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc; 1995.
Vaxman F, Olender S, Lambert A, et al. Effect of pantothenic acid and
ascorbic acid supplementation on human skin wound healing process: a
double-blind, prospective and randomized trial. Eur Surg Res.
Copyright © 2000 Integrative Medicine
CommunicationsThis publication contains
information relating to general principles
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