VITAMIN B5 (Pantothenic acid)

Pantothenic Acid is a widely distributed water-soluble VITAMIN and a member of the B complex. The name is derived from the Greek word pantothen, meaning “‘everywhere.” Indeed, pantothenic acid is present in all cells, whether plant or animal. The commercially available form is the calcium salt, calcium pantothenate. Pantothenic acid plays a pivotal role in energy production from FAT, CARBOHYDRATE and PROTEIN. Pantothenic acid forms the core of COENZYME A, the enzyme helper that carries FATTY ACIDS throughout metabolism, including fat synthesis and fat degradation. The oxidation of carbohydrates, fatty acids and amino acids eventually yields the very simple acid, ACETIC ACID, bound to coenzyme A as acetyl coenzyme A. In turn, acetyl coenzyme A feeds the metabolic machinery (KREB’S CYCLE) of the cell’s powerhouse, the MITOCHONDRIA, where the carbons of acetic acid are oxidized to CARBON DIOXIDE to produce useful chemical ENERGY in the form of ATP. Furthermore, coenzyme A helps synthesize certain important compounds like CITRIC ACID; Most LIPIDS, including CHOLESTEROL; STEROID hormones; and KETONE BODIES, fat derivatives made during starvation. Coenzyme A is required in the synthesis of the important NEUROTRANSMITTER, ACETYLCHOLINE, a chemical required for nerve transmission. Other functions of coenzyme A include the synthesis of HEME for the formation of the red blood cell protein HEMOGLOBIN.

Pantotheine (pantothine) a daughter molecule of pantothenic acid, contains the additional sulfur amino acid CYSTEINE. It may lower serum cholesterol and TRIGLYCERIDES in those with elevated levels, while pantothenic acid has little effect. Animal studies indicate that heart levels of pantotheine decline when oxygen supply is limited. It may be easier to convert pantotheine to coenzyme A than pantothenic acid, and therefore pantotheine may be a more effective therapeutic material in certain instances.

Good sources of pantothenic acid include LIVER, dried BEANS and PEAS, whole GRAINS, wheat germ, dark-green VEGETABLES, NUTS like peanuts, EGGS and YEAST. Lesser amounts occur in MILK and other vegetables. Refined, heavily processed foods and fruits contain little pantothenic acid, and pantothenic acid is partially destroyed by food processing. Beneficial INTESTINAL FLORA contributes pantothenic acid.

Possible Roles in Maintaining Health

Anecdotal reports attest to the claim that pantothenic acid can increase athletic performance. However, studies have yielded mixed results. Pantothenic acid blood levels are significantly lower in patients with RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS, and preliminary clinical trials suggest that pantothenic acid may alleviate pain and joint stiffness in such patients. Pantothenic acid supplementation speeds wound healing in experimental animals; whether this occurs in humans remains to be seen. Preliminary evidence suggests that pantothenic acid can boost the liver’s ability to oxidize alcohol. Studies with experimental animals suggest antibody production decreases with pantothenic acid deficiency, and pantothine supplementation may stimulate the IMMUNE SYSTEM. Pantothenic acid deficiency causes gray hair in animals, but supplements apparently do not reduce graying hair in people.

The levels of pantothenic acid required for optimal health remain unknown, and there is no RDA (RECOMMENDED DIETARY ALLOWANCE). It is estimated that 4 to 7 mg per day is safe and adequate for healthy people. The REFERENCE DAILY INTAKE is 10 mg per day. Deficiencies are rare, though anyone relying on a diet of highly processed foods can be at risk.

Outright deficiency symptoms have rarely been reported and occur only among severely malnourished people. However, pantothenic acid deficiencies have been produced in experimental animals. Symptoms of prolonged pantothenic acid deficiency include sore feet, burning pain in heels, vomiting, cramps, fatigue, insomnia and respiratory infections.

Advocates believe that daily supplements in moderate amounts are reasonable as a preventive measure for healthy people. Pantothenic acid as well as vitamin C has been recommended to support adrenal glands during stress.

Side effects of megadoses (10 to 20 g) include diarrhea, sleepiness, depression or nausea. There is no known toxicity for this versatile vitamin. However, long-term safety research has been inadequate.