The Vitamin B Series, Vitamin B5

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Vitamin B5, also known as Pantothenic acid, was the fourth discovered B vitamin. It was first discovered by Roger Williams, an American Biochemist, in 1931 during investigations of an anti-dermatitis growth factor for yeast and certain bacteria. Williams went on to be able to isolate and synthesize the nutrient in 1933, where it was given its name as a vitamin. Although originally discovered in yeast cells, further study conveyed vitamin B5’s presence in plant and animal cells. In fact, nearly all living cells contain some amount of Pantothenate (the anion of Pantothenic acid), showing its importance in the world of biological systems. The name itself originated from the Greek word “pantos” meaning “everywhere” due to its widespread presence.

What is the prevalence of vitamin B5 deficiency?

Vitamin B5 deficiency in humans is very rare and has only been observed in cases of severe malnutrition. The only reported naturally occurring case of significant vitamin B5 deficiency was in World War II prisoners in the Philippines, Burma, and Japan where large numbers of people experienced an extreme numbness and painful burning and tingling in their feet. Prisoners were cured with the sole use of vitamin B5 supplementation.

Circumstances have to be extreme in order to diagnose a B5 deficiency, with many studies having to forcibly induce a deficiency by experimentally co-administering a pantothenic acid kinase inhibitor and a pantothenic acid-deficient diet [1]. Studies can then determine the symptoms that a deficiency in this nutrient may cause, as natural occurrences and subjective experiences are scarce. Even studies that feed participants a pantothenic acid free diet do not seem to induce clinical signs of deficiency [2]. This may be due to the capability of bacteria in the large intestine to synthesise pantothenic acid, although the extent to which bacterial synthesis contributes to pantothenic acid intake in humans is not known [3]. Due to this, most information regarding the consequences of deficiency has been gathered from experimental research in animals.

What foods contain vitamin B5?

Vitamin B5 is common in many foods, which is one of the reasons why deficiency is rare. Top plant-sources are sunflower seeds, potatoes, whole grains, avocadoes, tomatoes, corn, broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower, spirulina, wheat bran, peanuts, cashews, peas and flaxseeds. Top meat sources are beef liver, chicken liver, pork liver, whey protein, egg yolk, salmon and tuna.

The average bioavailability of vitamin B5, based on the average diet, is approximately 50%. Meat sources tend to lose 30% of the B5 content during cooking, and the milling of wheat flour (a common practice) reduces B5 content by 50%. This extent of decreased bioavailability would usually be an issue, however the nutrient density in many foods is already high compared to the recommended daily amounts and therefore is unlikely to cause an issue.

What are the symptoms of vitamin B5 deficiency?

The most common symptoms of deficiency are fatigue, elevated cholesterol, burning and pain in the arms and legs, nausea, indigestion, irritability, hair loss and an elevated heart rate.

As previously mentioned, specifics on the diagnosis and symptoms of B5 deficiency currently lack as it is rarely found in humans. However, animal studies have shown that a deficiency in pantothenic acid adversely affects various systems and organs such as fatty acid metabolism by elevating serum, hepatic, and perinephrical levels of triglycerides [4]. B5 deficiency also impairs the function of the adrenals and testicles in animal models, which may negatively affect sexual function and fertility [5]. The relevance that animal studies have compared to human physiology is yet to be found, and is currently only used to speculate biological outcomes.

How much do you need per day?

Age

Male

Female

Pregnancy

Lactating

0-6 months

1.7 mg

1.7 mg

7-12 months

1.8 mg

1.8 mg

1-3 years

2 mg

2 mg

4-8 years

3 mg

3 mg

9-13 years

4 mg

4 mg

14-18 years

5 mg

5 mg

6 mg

7 mg

19-50 years

5 mg

5 mg

6 mg

7 mg

51-70 years

5 mg

5 mg

70+ years

5 mg

5 mg

[6]

What are the health benefits of vitamin B5?

Vitamin B5 is essential to sustain life, as it is a precursor for the synthesis of coenzyme A which is key for a variety of major biochemical reactions. Coenzyme A is required in approximately 4% of all known enzymes as a cofactor. Coenzyme A and its acyl derivatives are mainly required for efficient energy production, generated from the breakdown of macronutrients. Coenzyme A also lays the foundation of the citric acid cycle, used to release stored energy through the oxidation of acetyl-Coenzyme A. Furthermore, Coenzyme A derivatives have roles in the synthesis of steroid hormones, vitamin A, vitamin D, the fatty acid β-oxidation pathway, and melatonin [7].

Vitamin B5 has shown beneficial effects in wound healing by increasing cell proliferation and migration, when studied in vitro [8]. Animal studies also show accelerated skin wound healing and increase the strength of scar tissue when supplemented with vitamin B5. In vivo studies show the same effects, with 12 humans showing enhanced tissue repair and inflammation regarding skin wound healing [9].

Cholesterol may also be lowered with adequate pantothenic acid intakes, although research is limited. Pantethine, a pantothenic acid derivative, is structurally related to coenzyme A and is necessary for the biological function of acyl-carrier proteins. 600-900mg pantethine significantly improved the lipid profile of 120 individuals compared to placebo, as well as reducing LDL levels and improving the ratio of triglycerides to high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, a common marker for cardiovascular disease risk [10]. More studies and evidence is needed to confirm this effect. In addition, the dose used to show potential benefits in improving cholesterol metabolism is high, and although it has not shown yet shown to be intolerable, it is advisable to consult a health professional before use of high doses.

Vitamin B5 is found mainly in potatoes, whole grains, mushrooms, eggs, and a variety of meats (especially liver products). It has benefits such as energy production, wound healing, scar tissue formation and may help reduce cholesterol and improve blood lipid profiles. A lack of vitamin B5 may result in fatigue, burning and pain in the arms and legs, nausea and hair loss. Deficiency is very rare in humans and only seen in severely malnourished individuals or those with extreme metabolic disturbances.

  1. Hodges. RE et al. (1958). Pantothenic acid deficiency in man, J Clin Invest.
  2. Fry. PC. et al. (1978). Metabolic response to a pantothenic acid deficient diet in humans, J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo).
  3. Said. HM et al. (1998). Biotin uptake by human colonic epithelial NCM460 cells: a carrier-mediated process shared with pantothenic acid, Am J Physiol.
  4. Wittwer. CT et al. (1990). Mild pantothenate deficiency in rats elevates serum triglyceride and free fatty acid levels, J Nutr.
  5. Yamamoto. T et al. (2009). Effects of pantothenic acid on testicular function in male rats, J Vet Med Sci.
  6. Institute of Medicine. (1998). Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline
  7. Bauerly. K et al. (2007). Handbook of vitamins: 4th ed, CRC Press
  8. Wiederholt. T et al. (2009). Calcium pantothenate modulates gene expression in proliferating human dermal fibroblasts, Exp Dermatol.
  9. Heise. R et al. (2012). Dexpanthenol modulates gene expression in skin wound healing in vivo, Skin Pharmacol Physiol.
  10. Rumberger. JA et al. (2011). a derivative of vitamin B(5) used as a nutritional supplement, favorably alters low-density lipoprotein cholesterol metabolism in low- to moderate-cardiovascular risk North American subjects: a triple-blinded placebo and diet-controlled investigation, Nutr Res.

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