Vitamin B5, also called pantothenic acid, is one of eight water-soluble B
vitamins. All B vitamins help the body to convert carbohydrates into glucose
(sugar), which is "burned" to produce energy. These B vitamins, often referred
to as B complex vitamins, are essential in the breakdown of fats and protein. B
complex vitamins also play an important role in maintaining muscle tone in the
gastrointestinal tract and promoting the health of the nervous system, skin,
hair, eyes, mouth, and liver.
In addition to playing a role in the breakdown of fats and carbohydrates for
energy, Vitamin B5 is critical to the manufacture of red blood cells as well as
sex and stress-related hormones produced in the adrenal glands (small glands
that sit atop of the kidneys). Vitamin B5 is also important in maintaining a
healthy digestive tract and it helps the body use other vitamins (particularly
B2 [riboflavin]) more effectively. It is sometimes referred to as the
"anti-stress" vitamin because it is believed to enhance the activity of the
immune system and improve the body's ability to withstand stressful conditions.
Pantethine, an active stable form of vitamin B5, has been gaining attention
in recent years as a possible treatment for high cholesterol. Further studies
are needed to confirm these findings, however. Panthanol, another form of
vitamin B5, is often found in hair care products because of the belief that it
makes hair more manageable, softer, and shinier.
Vitamin B5 can be found in all living cells and is widely distributed in
foods so deficiency of this substance is rare. Symptoms of a vitamin B5
deficiency may include fatigue, insomnia, depression, irritability, vomiting,
stomach pains, burning feet, and upper respiratory
Wound Healing Studies, primarily in test tubes and animals but
a few on people, suggest that vitamin B5 supplements may speed wound healing,
especially following surgery. This may be particularly true if vitamin B5 is
combined with vitamin C.
Burns It is especially important for people who have sustained
serious burns to obtain adequate amounts of nutrients in their daily diet. When
skin is burned, a substantial percentage of micronutrients may be lost. This
increases the risk for infection, slows the healing process, prolongs the
hospital stay, and even increases the risk of death. Although it is unclear
which micronutrients are most beneficial for people with burns, many studies
suggest that a multivitamin including the B complex vitamins may aid in the
High Cholesterol Throughout the past twenty years or so,
emerging studies of animals and people have suggested that high doses of
pantethine (a stable form of vitamin B5) may improve cholesterol and
triglyceride levels in people with high cholesterol with or without other risk
factors for heart disease (such as diabetes, obesity, and menopause). The
studies to date have included only small numbers of people, but have been
encouraging because not only has pantethine lowered cholesterol and
triglycerides, it has also increased HDL (the "good" kind of cholesterol). Plus,
several of the studies have looked at the use of pantethine in special groups of
people, such as adults on dialysis and children with high cholesterol. More
research is needed in this area to fully understand what value pantethine may
have for treating or preventing high cholesterol.
Other related areas that are under current scientific investigation include
use of pantethine for heart disease and for weight loss.
Arthritis Although not widely studied to date, there may be
some benefit to making sure that there is an adequate amount of pantothenic acid
in the diet or taking extra vitamin B5 supplements for arthritis.
For example, some researchers report that blood levels of pantothenic acid
are lower in people with rheumatoid arthritis than those without this condition.
A study conducted in 1980 concluded that 2,000 mg/day of calcium pantothenate
improved symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis including morning stiffness and pain.
Further studies are needed to confirm these findings, however.
Similarly, obese patients with osteoarthritis may improve their symptoms if
they receive dietary counseling about appropriate intake of vitamin B5 (as well
as other nutrients) and weight loss.
Pantothenic acid gets its name from the Greek root pantos, meaning
"everywhere," because it is available in a wide variety of foods. A lot of
vitamin B5 is lost in processing, however. Fresh meats, vegetables, and whole
unprocessed grains have more vitamin B5 than refined, canned, and frozen food.
The best sources of this vitamin are brewer's yeast, corn, cauliflower, kale,
broccoli, tomatoes, avocadolegumes, lentils, egg yolks, beef (especially organ
meats such as liver and kidney), turkey, duck, chicken, milk, split peas,
peanuts, soybeans, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, whole-grain breads and
cereals, lobster, wheat germ, and salmon.
Vitamin B5 can be found in multivitamins, B complex vitamins, or sold
individually under the names pantothenic acid and calcium pantothenate. It is
available in a variety of forms including tablets, softgels, and capsules.
How to Take It
Recommended daily intakes of dietary vitamin B5 are listed below:
Infants birth to 6 months: 1.7 mg
Infants 6 months to 1 year: 1.8 mg
Children 1 to 3 years: 2 mg
Children 4 to 8 years: 3 mg
Children 9 to 13 years: 4 mg
Adolescents 14 to 18 years: 5 mg
19 years and older: 5 mg
Pregnant females: 6 mg
Lactating females: 7 mg
Higher doses may be recommended by a qualified practitioner for the treatment
of specific conditions.
Rheumatoid arthritis: 2,000 mg/day
High cholesterol/triglycerides: 300 mg pantethine, 3 times daily (900
General adrenal support (meaning during times of particular stress):
250 mg pantothenic acid 2 times daily
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications,
dietary supplements should be taken only under the supervision of a
knowledgeable healthcare provider.
Vitamin B5 should be taken with water, preferably after eating.
Taking any one of the B complex vitamins for a long period of time can result
in an imbalance of other important B vitamins. For this reason, it is generally
important to take a B complex vitamin with any single B
If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you
should not use vitamin B5 supplements without first talking to your healthcare
Antibiotics, Tetracycline Vitamin B5 should not be taken at
the same time as the antibiotic tetracycline because it interferes with the
absorption and effectiveness of this medication. B vitamins should be taken at
different times from tetracycline. (All vitamin B complex supplements act in
this way and should therefore be taken at different times from
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Review Date: April 2002
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Jacqueline A. Hart, MD,
Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University
and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh
(Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick, Ma; Steven
Ottariono, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Veteran's
Administrative Hospital, Londonderry, NH; Margie Ullmann-Weil, MS, RD,
specializing in combination of complementary and traditional nutritional
therapy, Boston, MA. All interaction sections have also been reviewed by a team
of experts including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The Integrative Medicine
Works, Alexandria, VA;Enrico Liva, ND, RPh (August 2000), Vital Nutrients,
Middletown, CT; Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical
Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your
Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; Ira Zunin, MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000),
President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative Medicine,
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