Pantothenic acid



Pantothenic acid

Pantothenic acid, which is also known as vitamin B5, takes its name from the Greek word "panto" meaning "everywhere" as it is found in a wide range of foods. It is also synthesized by intestinal bacteria.

What it does in the body


Pantothenic acid is essential for the release of energy from food. It is used in the manufacture of a compound called coenzyme A which plays a vital role in the breakdown of fats and carbohydrates. It is also necessary for building cell membranes.

Brain and nervous system

Pantothenic acid is necessary for the production of some neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine, and is essential for normal nervous system function.

Immune system

Antibody synthesis requires pantothenic acid and it is also involved in wound-healing.

Hormones and glands

Normal adrenal gland function requires pantothenic acid as it is essential for production of adrenal hormones, such as cortisone, which play an essential part in the body's reaction to stress. Pantothenic acid is also necessary for the production of other steroid hormones and cholesterol, as well as vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin B12.

Red blood cells

The formation of healthy red blood cells requires pantothenic acid as it is involved in the production of compounds needed to make hemoglobin.

Absorption and metabolism

Pantothenic acid is absorbed from the intestine and excesses are excreted in the urine. The body has a limited ability to store pantothenic acid.


A deficiency of pantothenic acid has not been found naturally in human beings but has been induced under experimental conditions. It causes the adrenal glands to shrink and leads to symptoms of fatigue, headache, depression, sleep disturbances, personality changes, nausea and abdominal distress. Other symptoms of deficiency include numbness and tingling of the hands and feet, muscle cramps, impaired coordination, immune problems, dermatitis and itching.


Good sources of pantothenic acid include yeast, liver, eggs, wheatgerm, bran, peanuts, peas, meat, milk, poultry, whole grains, broccoli, mushrooms and sweet potatoes. Most vegetables and fruits contain small amounts. Heat, food processing techniques and canning destroy pantothenic acid.

Beef liver, cooked 85g 5.03 mg

Avocado 1 avocado 1.95 mg

Chicken, roast 1 cup, chopped 1.47 mg

Mushrooms, raw 1 cup, pieces 1.46 mg

Beef kidney, cooked 85g 1.44 mg

Trout, cooked 1 fillet 1.39 mg

Wheatgerm ½ cup 1.24 mg

Peanuts ½ cup 1.23 mg

Wheat bran 1 cup 1.21 mg

Lentils, cooked 1 cup 1.20 mg

Pink salmon, cooked ½ fillet 1.07 mg

Oysters 6 oysters 1.06 mg

Baked potatoes, flesh 1 medium 0.87 mg

Milk, skim 1 cup 0.77 mg

Lima beans, cooked 1 cup 0.76 mg

Whole milk 1 cup 0.73 mg

Tomato sauce, canned 1 cup 0.72 mg

Eggs, hard boiled 1 large 0.70 mg

Bulgur 1 cup 0.60 mg

Brown rice, cooked 1 cup 0.53 mg

Cottage cheese 1 cup 0.47 mg

Broccoli ½ cup, chopped 0.38 mg

Oranges 1 medium 0.33 mg

Almonds ½ cup 0.33 mg

Recommended dietary allowances

The adequate intake for pantothenic acid is set at 5 mg per day. The pantothenic acid content of the average American diet is 4 to 10 mg per day.


Pantothenic acid is usually present in oral supplements as calcium pantothenate. Pantetheine is the most stable active form of pantothenic acid.

Toxic effects of excess intake

The risk of toxicity is very low. At high doses the side effects are mild diarrhea, fluid retention, memory loss, drowsiness, depression and nausea.

Therapeutic effects of supplements

High blood lipids

The pantetheine form of pantothenic acid lowers harmful LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and raises beneficial HDL cholesterol levels. Pantetheine may act by inhibiting cholesterol synthesis and accelerating the use of fats as an energy source. Diabetics have been shown to benefit from pantetheine supplements.

In a 1990 Italian study, researchers gave 900 mg per day of pantetheine to 24 women aged from 45 to 55 years who had cholesterol levels. After 16 weeks of treatment, significant reductions of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio were seen. The treatment was about 80 per cent effective and none of the patients complained of adverse reactions.1

Other uses

Pantothenic acid supplements have been used in the support of adrenal function; to alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis; in weight loss programs; to boost immunity during viral infections;2 and to speed up wound-healing. Supplements have also been reported to enhance athletic performance by improving endurance and aerobic capacity. Not all studies have shown beneficial effects.

Interactions with other nutrients

Pantothenic acid interacts with carnitine and coenzyme Q10 in body functions.

Interactions with drugs

Sulfa drugs, sleeping pills, estrogen and alcohol may raise pantothenic acid requirements.

1 Binaghi P; Cellina G; Lo Cicero G; Bruschi F; Porcaro E; Penotti M. Evaluation of the cholesterol-lowering effectiveness of pantethine in women in perimenopausal age. Minerva Med, 1990 Jun, 81:6, 475-9

2 Komar VI The use of pantothenic acid preparations in treating patients with viral hepatitis A. Ter Arkh, 1991, 63:11, 58-60