VITAMIN B5 – Pantothenic Acid
Found in a variety of plants and animals, pantothenic acid is often included along with other B vitamins as part of complex formulas in supplements and fortified food and drink products. It has several uses but is mostly taken to treat dietary deficiencies, baldness, asthma, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, yeast infections and respiratory disorders. It is important to have enough so our bodies can properly use carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and it also promotes healthy skin. Without it, we would be unable to make hormones and our immune systems would literally collapse!
The type that’s usually used in multivitamin supplements is a form of the nutrient called pantothenol which is a more stable kind. Another supplemental form of pantothenic acid is calcium pantothenate, a salt which is often used in dietary supplements because it is easier to digest and can improve oxygen utilisation in athletes as well as reduce the amount of lactic acid they produce when training. Lactic acid is the chemical that results in the burning sensation often felt during intense exercise.
The name pantothenic acid was taken from the Greek word pantothen, meaning ‘on all sides’ or ‘from all quarters’. It is among the most important of the B vitamins for the basic processes of life. Luckily, it is also the nutrient we are least likely to suffer a deficiency in. This is because it’s commonly found in so many different foods. One of the foods that doesn’t contain it however is olive oil. Although olives themselves have small amounts, once pressed, this content is lost because olive oil is 100 per cent fat and pantothenic acid is water soluble.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
The most vital role of pantothenic acid in terms of health support is its involvement in the production of a molecule called Coenzyme A (CoA). CoA is one of the most important chemicals needed to sustain life. In fact, some scientists suggest that the origin of life itself can be traced back to this one chemical. It is what allows carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to be used by the body as fuel sources. And we would die if this didn’t happen.
Pantothenic acid is also necessary to support fats for storage, which then act as a building block for key hormones to guide metabolic processes. Although it might sound like this prompts weight gain, there is no evidence to show that blocking pantothenic acid activity in any way aids weight loss. Plus it may not be healthy for the body so it is not advisable.
Some studies have also shown that applying pantothenic acid ointment directly to the skin can shorten the healing time of wounds and reduce scar tissue as well as help reduce acne. Pantethine, another derivative of pantothenic acid, may have a cholesterol-lowering effect in humans too.
WHERE CAN YOU FIND IT?
It’s probably easier to look at which foods don’t contain pantothenic acid than which do. The highest content can be found in vegetables but even herbs and spices have measurable amounts. Root vegetables like sweet potatoes, leafy vegetables such as turnip greens, stems including asparagus, and also mushrooms are all full of the nutrient. Fish, animal meats, fruit, legumes, grains, eggs, and dairy foods contain it too. So there are a wide diversity of foods groups covered. Cooked shiitake mushrooms pack in 3.59mg of pantothenic acid per 100g, Gjetost cheese (made from a mixture of goat and cow’s milk) has 3.35mg per 100g, cooked trout 2.24mg per 100g, avocados 1.46mg per 100g and there’s 1.65mg in 100g of cooked lean pork.
HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?
The recommended daily intake of pantothenic acid is around 5mg for both men and women. In pregnant women this amount is slightly higher at 6mg, and in breastfeeding women, 7mg. Infants under the age of six months should have no more than 1.7mg daily and those aged six months to a year, 1.8mg. Between the ages of one and three it’s 2mg and from four until teenage year the amount varies from 3mg to 4mg. There is no known toxicity level for pantothenic acid in humans, but doses of up to 1,200mg can cause gastrointestinal side effects including heartburn and nausea.