Vitamin B5 is typically referred to by its chemical name Pantothenic Acid. Why some of the B Vitamins are called a name and some by the number may have to do with the variety of the forms commonly found in the body or in the food supply. Vitamin B6 has several important chemical forms as do vitamin D and vitamin E. Getting a variety of foods within the diet on a regular, daily, weekly or even monthly basis can help to provide some of the various forms. Vitamin E in a supplement might only provide one of the bioactive forms of the group of nutrients while eating nuts and seeds would be providing some of all of the group in addition to B vitamins and other minerals.
Pantothenic Acid is a water soluble B vitamin that is essential in metabolic pathways in all forms of life, plants, animals and microbes. It is a precursor chemical for coenzyme A which is involved in many reactions that help sustain life and is needed for other proteins that are needed for making fatty acids – fats of different lengths and types. It does have other active chemical forms but is not typically referred to by their names, pantothenol – may help with healing skin wounds, research is in early stages; and pantethine – may help lower cholesterol and lipid (fat) levels in the blood. (1)
Dietary deficiency of Pantothenic Acid is very rare as the vitamin is found in most animal and plant food products. There have been no known cases of overdose/toxicity so no Upper Limit for safety has been set. Deficiency is so rare it has only been documented in prisoners of war (POWs) and the symptoms relieved by supplementation of Pantothenic Acid were reported by the POWs to be “numbness and painful burning and tingling in their feet.” (1)
Pantothenic Acid is involved in converting the B vitamin folate into an active form so a deficiency in Pantothenic Acid might result in folate deficiency symptoms, (1) (megaloblastic anemia with fatigue and normal levels of iron but with fewer red blood cells that are immature, too large (macrocytic) and nonfunctional (2). Vitamin B12 deficiency can also be a cause with similar lab values but supplements or injections of that B vitamin wouldn’t help if deficiency of the active form of folate was the cause. Supplements of folic acid, the inactive form most commonly used in multi-vitamins or fortified foods, wouldn’t help either. Beans, peas and asparagus are good food sources of folate, more information about that B vitamin is available here: (Folate is essential and Folic Acid is commonly available)
Genetic differences may affect some individual’s ability to phosphorylate (add atoms of the mineral Phosphorus) to the molecule of Pantothenic Acid for the transformation of the vitamin precursor into the bioactive coenzyme A. The enzyme is needed for transporting fatty acids (lipids/fats) into the mitochondria for use for energy production. Someone with a genetic difference might not be able to use fats for energy as well as someone with typical ability to phosphorylate the Pantothenic Acid molecules in the production of Coenzyme A. One known gene that could inhibit the production of Coenzyme A is Pantothenic acid kinase II (PANK2) . Symptoms of people with a double gene difference in PANK2 may include changes in movement control (dystonia), and impaired vision, intelligence, speech, and behavior, and personality disorders (15). (1)
Symptoms of deficiency of Coenzyme A might include gaining weight more easily than average and more readily getting tired when exercising for longer amounts of time. That is my interpretation though.
I have a different genetic difference that affects phosphorylation so I may also have trouble producing Coenzyme A. Betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase (BHMT) is a gene involved in protein metabolism that could cause reduced Dimethylglycine and methionine. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has been associated with a lack of Dimethylglycine (the amino acid – glycine). The metabolic pathways are very complex chemistry and it looks like this gene is more involved in the chemistry of the B vitamins choline and betaine. The phosphorylation problem is more specifically with phospholipids and glycerophospholipids – both essential parts of membranes and cannabinoids. (Glycerophospholipid biosynthesis) (Phospholipid metabolism)
I will discuss betaine and choline in additional posts. An overview about phospholipids and food sources is available in the post Macro & micro-nutrients, an overview & food sources.
Symptoms of Pantothenic Acid deficiency in lab animals or other groups of animals found to have deficiency of vitamin B5 in their food supply included skin irritations, graying of fur or feather abnormalities, anemia due to reduced heme production, nerve problems involving reduced myelin sheath, low blood glucose, rapid breathing and heart rate, and damaged adrenal glands. (1)
So it is good that Pantothenic Acid is readily available in many foods because clearly it is very important to our health. However supplements of Pantothenic Acid or rubbing it directly on the scalp or gray hair did not restore hair color in humans with gray hair. (1)
Food Sources for Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B5):
Organ meats (liver and kidney), Meats, Fish and Shellfish, Salmon, Egg yolk, MIlk, Yogurt, Cheese, Avocado, Broccoli Sweet Potato, Carrot, Celery, Mushrooms, Pomegranate Seeds, Sesame Seeds/Tahini, Beans, Nuts, Seeds, Almonds, Walnuts, Whole Grains, Brown Rice, Enriched Flour Products depending on the source – Canadian guidelines require it while the U.S guidelines do not. (4, 5) “Processing and refining grains may result in a 35 to 75% loss. Freezing and canning of foods result in similar losses (16).” (1)
Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.
- Pantothenic Acid, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/pantothenic-acid
- Anemia of Folate Deficiency, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/hematology_and_blood_disorders/anemia_of_folate_deficiency_85,P00089
- Foods used in the 30% Calories from Carbohydrates Menu Plans, https://effectiveselfcare.info/2018/05/19/healthy-hair-is-the-proof-of-a-healing-diet/
- Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Use of Dietary Reference Intakes in Nutrition Labeling. Dietary Reference Intakes: Guiding Principles for Nutrition Labeling and Fortification. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2003. 3, Overview of Food Fortification in the United States and Canada. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK208880/
Guidance Document Repository (GDR), Prohibition against the sale of unenriched white flour and products containing unenriched flour. Canadian Food Fortification Guidelines; Grain and Bakery Products, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/grain-and-bakery-products/unenriched-flour/eng/1415915977878/1415915979471
15. Kurian MA, Hayflick SJ. Pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration (PKAN) and PLA2G6-associated neurodegeneration (PLAN): review of two major neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation (NBIA) phenotypes. Int Rev Neurobiol. 2013;110:49-71. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24209433)
16. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Pantothenic acid. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press; 1998:357-373. National Academy Press, (https://www.nap.edu/read/6015/chapter/12)