Providing Your Body With Pantothenic Acid

Pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B5, is a member of the B-complex family of vitamins. Its name comes from the Greek word pantos, meaning “everywhere” reflecting its almost universal presence in nature, including in nearly all food.

Your body combines pantothenic acid with another small, sulfur-containing molecule to form coenzyme A (CoA), which allows pantothenic acid to participate in a wide variety of chemical reactions.

Pantothenic acid helps your body by:

  • Releasing energy from carbohydrates and fats: In its CoA form, pantothenic acid plays a crucial role in helping release energy from sugars, starches, and fats. Most of this energy release occurs in your mitochondria, the energy-production factories in every cell.
  • Producing fats: While the CoA form of pantothenic acid is important for releasing energy stored as fat, it is equally important for synthesizing fatty acids and cholesterol. Your body also requires pantothenic acid to synthesize sphingosine, a fat-like molecule that helps deliver chemical messages inside your cells. In order for pantothenic acid to support fat production, it must usually undergo a second chemical change in addition to the conversion to its CoA form. The second change, which is called acetylation, converts the CoA form of pantothenic acid into acteyl CoA. This conversion process occurs continually within your cells. In its acteyl CoA form, pantothenic acid helps provide fat with its chemical structure because the acetyl portion of acetyl CoA is the basic building block for fat. Pantothenic acid is also important in the functioning of acyl carrier protein (ACP), which transports acetyl building blocks of fat from the large, watery cytoplasm into the mitochondria, where fat is actually produced.
  • Changing the shape and function of proteins: Your cells can make small chemical changes in the shape of cell proteins. For example, to prevent proteins from being chemically broken down into other substances, your cells can modify their structure. One way to accomplish this task is by attaching a special chemical group, called an acetyl group, to the proteins. Pantothenic acid, in the form of CoA, can be used to help acetylate proteins, thereby protecting them from chemical breakdown. Sometimes the acetylation of a protein can dramatically change its function; for example, sometimes it can pave the way for a protein’s conversion into a hormone. This process is especially well-researched in relationship to your body’s adrenal glands, where stress-related hormone production requires participation of pantothenic acid.
  • Improving your ability to respond to stress by supporting your adrenal glands: Your adrenal glands secrete cortisol and adrenaline, hormones that kick into high gear during moments of intense anxiety or physical strain. But if stress has become your status quo, ceaseless cortisol and adrenaline secretion may deplete your adrenal glands and wipe out energy reserves. Pantothenic acid can help nourish your adrenal glands and return your cortisol production back to normal. Pantothenic acid, as coenzyme A, is closely involved in adrenal cortex function and has come to be known as the “antistress” vitamin. It supports the adrenal glands to increase production of cortisone and other adrenal hormones to help counteract stress and enhance metabolism. Acetyl co-enzyme A is a precursor to all the steroid hormones.

Because pantothenic acid is needed to release energy from carbohydrates and fats, its deficiency symptoms include fatigue, listlessness, and sensations of weakness. One rare symptom of pantothenic acid deficiency is called “burning foot syndrome,” which causes numbness and tingling, together with burning and shooting pain in the feet. While other B vitamins (like thiamine and niacin) help lessen the symptoms of burning foot syndrome, pantothenic acid is required to end the burning sensation. This condition, while very rare, helps point out the strong interdependence of the B vitamins and is the reason that many researchers believe pantothenic acid deficiency symptoms are primarily symptoms of overall B vitamin deficiency, not deficiency of pantothenic acid alone. Vitamins B12, folate, and biotin are required for proper use of pantothenic acid in your body’s biochemical pathways. In addition, vitamin C may help prevent pantothenic acid deficiency. In addition to poor dietary intake, digestive problems can also contribute to pantothenic acid deficiency.

At very high supplemental doses of 2 or more grams per day, pantothenic acid can cause mild diarrhea. Much lower doses of this vitamin (in the 500 milligram range) have also been used to treat constipation. But because the doses that cause diarrhea are hundreds or thousands of times the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) level, and because no other toxicity symptoms have been reported, the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences declined to establish a Tolerable Upper Limit (UL) its 1998 public health recommendations for pantothenic acid. They did set Adequate Intake (AI) levels for the vitamin as follows:

  • 0-6 months: 1.7 milligrams
  • 6-12 months: 1.8 milligrams
  • 1-3 years: 2 milligrams
  • 4-8 years: 3 milligrams
  • males 9-13 years: 4 milligrams
  • males 14 years and older: 5 milligrams
  • females 9-13 years: 4 milligrams
  • females 14 years and older: 5 milligrams
  • Pregnant females of any age: 6 milligrams
  • Lactating females of any age: 7 milligrams

Excellent sources of vitamin B5 include crimini and shiitake mushrooms. Very good sources of vitamin B5 include corn, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and broccoli. Good sources of vitamin B5 include cucumber, avocado, asparagus, broccoli, celery, grapefruit, turnip greens, collard greens, chard, bell peppers, and corn.

Pantothenic acid is relatively unstable in food, and significant amounts of this vitamin can be lost through cooking, freezing, and commercial processing. Animal products can lose 21-70% of their pantothenic acid during processing, as can cereal grains and canned vegetables. Fruits and fruit juices lose 7-50% of their pantothenic acid during processing and packaging. So eat plenty of fresh mushrooms, vegetables, and fruits to enjoy the benefits of pantothenic acid.

Sources of Pantothenic Acid

Food

Serving Size

Calories

Amount (mg)

DV

Crimini mushrooms

1 cup

19.1

1.30

13.0%

Shiitake mushrooms

87 g

29.6

1.30

13.0%

Corn

1 cup

143.0

1.18

11.8%

Sweet Potato

1 cup baked

102.6

1.01

10.1%

Cauliflower

1 cup raw

26.8

0.71

7.1%

Broccoli

1 cup raw

30.9

0.52

5.2%

Collard Greens

1 cup cooked

49.4

0.41

4.1%

Avocado

1 ounce

45

0.4

4.0%

Turnip Greens

1 cup cooked

28.8

0.39

3.9%

Asparagus

1 cup raw

26.8

0.37

3.7%

Grapefruit

0.50 each

41.0

0.36

3.6%

Flax seeds

1 ounce

150

0.30

3%

Sunflower kernels

1 ounce

164

0.30

3%

Bell Peppers

1 cup raw

28.5

0.29

2.9%

Chard

1 cup cooked

35.0

0.29

2.9%

Cucumber

1 cup

15.6

0.27

2.7%

Celery

1 cup

16.2

0.25

2.5%

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