Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) Rich Diet
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
Vitamin B5 (aka Pantothenic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin of the B complex family. It occurs in most living cells and is present in the cells of all plants and animals. Organ meats, egg yolks and whole grains are the richest sources of B5. Pantothenic acid is also synthesised by the bacterial flora in our intestines, so good bowel health is important for gaining adequate levels of this vitamin.
There is a strong relationship between pantothenic acid levels and healthy adrenal function as pantothenic acid stimulates the adrenals to produce cortisol and other adrenal hormones important for energy, stress responses, healthy skin and calm nerves. Pantothenic acid plays a vital role in cellular metabolism as it is a coenzyme in releasing energy from carbohydrates, fats and proteins as well as the utilization of other vitamins, especially riboflavin (B2).
Pantothenic acid is essential for the synthesis of cholesterol, steroids and fatty acids and as such can help improve the body’s ability to cope with stress. It can also aid in the prevention of premature aging and protect the body to some degree against the effects of radiation. It is thought that folic acid (folate from greens) aids in the assimilation of pantothenic acid. More than normal amounts of pantothenic acid are needed after stress, injury, illness or antibiotic use.
Because vitamin B5 is widely distributed in many foods, deficiency of pantothenic acid is rare, but symptoms of deficiency include vomiting, restlessness, abdominal pains, burning feet, calf muscle cramp, insulin resistance and upper respiratory infections. A deficiency may lead to skin disorders, adrenal exhaustion and low blood sugar episodes.
Deficiencies are more likely to occur if there is a lack of good intestinal flora which, along with folate, is needed to synthesise pantothenic acid. The brain contains one of the highest concentrations of vitamin B5 so mental symptoms such as depression, insomnia, and fatigue and can be the result of a deficiency.
Health benefits of Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic Acid
Healthy cardiovascular system
Our body needs B5 to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol within our arteries and to prevent plaque build-up which can possibly lead to a heart attack or stroke. B5 may help to reduce what we call the ‘bad’ or LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood and at the same time help to raise the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
Another benefit is that B5 helps the body to create red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout our body and also enhance the level of haemoglobin in our blood (that’s the red in our blood).
Vitamin B5 also supports other B vitamins, especially B2 which is involved in the prevention and treatment of anaemia by supporting red blood cell production, and B2 also helps to transport oxygen to the cells to mobilize iron from stores.
Healthy energy and metabolism
Along with all B vitamins, B5 can help us use the foods we eat to rebuild our tissues, muscles and organs. This is because all B vitamins help to convert carbohydrates into glucose for energy and also help the body to synthesize and metabolize fats and proteins. Because we know that B5 is needed for nutrient extraction, if there are any digestive problems we know this can be a sign of a potential vitamin B5 deficiency. Eating foods high in all B vitamins can help our metabolism to function optimally and give us plenty of energy.
Healthy nerve function
We need good levels of vitamin B5 for healthy nerve impulses and particularly to create acetylcholine, which is the chemical that allows the nervous system to communicate back and forth with our organs, muscles, the brain and spinal cord. Without enough B5 there can be impairment in movement from nerve damage which can produce symptoms such as a lack of feeling (numbness) and painful burning in your feet, inflammation, and the feeling of ongoing fatigue and weakness. This is often known as ‘burning feet syndrome’ (‘syndrome’ means a combination of symptoms or characteristics).
Improved mental health
Vitamin B5 is known to regulate our hormones, particularly our stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Therefore B5 may reduce stress, anxiety and even depression. B vitamins in general may also reduce body fatigue because they balance hormones related to feelings of alertness. Stress sucks both B5 and B6 out of the body, and when low in these B vitamins, our ability to handle stress diminishes, giving rise to conditions such as adrenal fatigue syndrome. Symptoms can include problems with sleeping and exercising, coping with problems, mood swings, weight gain or loss.
Rheumatoid arthritis support (RA)
Studies have found that people with RA have lower levels of B5 in their blood compared to healthy people. Lower levels of B5 are associated with painful movements, stiffness, and inflammation, which is characteristic of RA.
Healthy immune system
Earlier we noted that B5 helps to digest our proteins, fats and carbohydrates. To have a healthy immune system we need good digestive health and hormone function, and B5 has a role in both. Without enough B vitamins, we would not be able to access the ‘fuel’ that keeps the body functioning and defending itself against the ‘nasties’. Vitamin B5 helps our body to create antibodies that fight off parasites, viruses, bacteria, the common cold or flu, and eliminate toxins.
Vitamin B5 plays an important role in the growth of hair follicles and to maintain the pigmentation of our hair to prevent it from turning grey prematurely. Another benefit of B5 is to support the health of our skin. Vitamin B5 can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, dark spots, and discolorations. Because of its anti-inflammatory nature, B5 has been seen to reduce the inflammatory skin blemishes of acne and decrease general body inflammation.
If you obtain your B5 from food, then it would be very rare to have any side effects.
However, consuming vitamin B5 as a supplement and taking more than recommended by your practitioner can cause diarrhea, or even increase your risk of bleeding. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not exceed the recommended 6mg per day, unless prescribed for a specific reason by your health practitioner, otherwise it may not be safe.
Vitamin B5 may increase the effects of ‘cholinesterase inhibitors’, medications which are used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Taking these medications, together with B5, may lead to serious side effects. If taking any medications, only take B5 under your doctor’s advice.
B5 may also interfere with the effectiveness of the antibiotic tetracycline, so don’t take any vitamins at the same time of the day that you take antibiotics – allow at least an hour’s gap.
It is common to get vitamin B5 deficiency along with other B vitamin deficiencies, when there has been a lot of stress (which depletes B vitamins), digestive issues (from poor absorption of vitamins), other health issues like adrenal fatigue (the adrenals need a lot of B5), and for alcoholics or women on the ‘pill’.
Symptoms of B5 deficiency:
- burning feet
- muscle cramps
- stomach pains
- upper respiratory infections
The following is the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin B5. The amounts are expressed in milligrams (mg). A milligram = 1,000th of a gram.
- Infants 0-6 months: need 1.7mg
- Infants 7-12 months: need 1.8mg
- Children 1-3yrs: need 2mg
- Children 4-8yrs need 3mg
- Children 9-13yrs: need 4mg
- Adults 14+: need 5mg
- Pregnant women: need 6mg
- Breastfeeding women: need 7mg
- For therapeutic purposes, some people need to be prescribed around 50mg. Only do this under the guidance and prescription of your health practitioner.
Following are some foods rich in vitamin B5, showing the weight of the food and the quantity of vitamin B3 in milligrams. This list of foods can be used in conjunction with the above RDA’s. You can see it is relatively easy to obtain sufficient levels of vitamin B5 from your diet.
- Chicken livers: 3oz/85g = 3mg
- Beef Liver: 3oz/85g = 6.8mg
- Avocado (whole): 1 = 2.0mg
- Sunflower Seeds: 1 Tablespoon = 2.0mg
- Chicken and Duck: 1 cup = 1.5mg
- Mushrooms: 1 cup = 1.5mg
- Eggs (large): 2 = 1.5mg
- Salmon 3oz: 3oz/85g = has 1.41mg
- Lentils: 1 cup = 1.3mg
- Corn: 1 cup = 1.2mg
- Sun-dried tomatoes: 1 cup = 1.1mg
- Broccoli (cooked): 1 cup = 1.0mg
Before you commence your diet, see your medical or health care professional for qualified guidance about what foods and supplements are best for your body. While on the diet do not stop any medications or supplements previously prescribed unless advised otherwise by your medical or health care professional.
During the early stages of a new diet, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, or body aches, which may occur because your body is detoxifying. However, if you are unsure about a symptom at any time, check immediately with your medical or health care professional.