By Barbara E. Amsler, MD
Pantothenic acid is a thick, yellow oil that got its name from the Greek word panthos, meaning “everywhere”. Although it is found in every living cell and most foods, it is destroyed by acids (vinegar), alkali (baking soda) and dry heat but preserved with moist heat. Therefore, much of the natural pantothenic acid is lost in processing foods.
It is an important component in coenzyme A (Co A) which helps convert fats and carbohydrates to energy in the cell. Pantothenic acid is also used to produce our body’s steroids, some neurotransmitters (chemicals that send messages between nerves) and red blood cells.
Similar to the other B vitamins, excess vitamin B5 is easily eliminated so daily consumption is necessary. It is excreted in the urine which forms the basis of defining deficiency states. However, low laboratory values for urinary pantothenic acid are extremely rare.
No significant medical problems are associated with vitamin B5 excess. Studies looking at very high doses have only shown an increase in mild diarrhea and tooth sensitivity.
Deficiency states are also rare except with diets high in processed foods or in people on long term antibiotics. Symptoms including fatigue, depression, muscle cramps, numbness and tingling, ataxia (unsteady gait) and intestinal disturbances are associated with a lack of pantothenic acid.
Good sources of vitamin B5 include brewer’s yeast, liver, egg yolks, nuts (peanuts, pecans, cashews, hazelnuts), mushrooms, peas and beans, broccoli, brown rice, whole wheat, avocados, sweet potatoes, cauliflower and kale. This vitamin is also produced by our normal intestinal bacteria.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 5 mg but those under physical or emotional stress should take at least 10-20 times that amount (50-100 mg daily). Similarly, those consuming large amounts of fast or processed foods (like many teenagers) should also take more vitamin B5. As with the other vitamins produced by intestinal bacteria, those on antibiotics should take more pantothenic acid.
Healthy Habits for Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B5)
1) Deficiency is rare except in those eating large amounts of processed foods. Supplement all B vitamins if you fall into this category.
2) Those on antibiotic therapy are encouraged to take a probiotic (to replenish normal bacteria) and take extra B vitamins.
3) To get the most vitamin B5 out of your foods, eat them raw or prepare them using moist heat and without the addition of baking soda or vinegar.
4) Those under physical or emotional stress should take extra vitamins, especially the B vitamins.