Pantothenic acid or vitamin B5, is the combination of pantoic acid and β-alanine. Its name is derived from the Greek pantos, meaning “from everywhere” since small quantities of pantothenic acid can be found in nearly every food.
Vitamin B5 is necessary for the conversion of food (carbohydrates, amino acids, fatty acids) into usable energy, and for proper functioning of the nervous system and the liver. Pantothenic acid also plays a crucial role in the production of red blood cells as well as sex and stress-related hormones produced in the adrenal glands. In other words, it helps regulate our hormones. Additionally, vitamin B5 is said to stimulate the skin’s healing processes, and to prevent our skin from losing its moisture, thus keeping it soft, smooth, healthy and quenched.
A lack of vitamin B5 can throw the body off balance and have some significant physical and mental side effects. Low levels of vitamin B5 can cause numbness, headache, extreme tiredness, irritability, restlessness and sleeping problems. It has also been associated with an increase in stomach pain, heartburn, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and depression. In the most extreme cases, vitamin B5 deficiency can cause pellagra, a disease that results in diarrhea, dermatitis and dementia.
That being said, as with all in life, moderation is key. Even though vitamin B5 is a water-soluble vitamin and any surplus is excreted in the urine, large doses of this vitamin through dietary supplements may also provoke some side effects such as diarrhea, heartburn, nausea, dehydration, oedema, joint pain, calcification in blood vessels and depression.
There are many ways to ensure healthy levels of vitamin B5 especially since pantothenic acid is found in almost all plant and animal products. The richest dietary sources are: meat, poultry, organ meat (e.g. liver, kidney), seafood, eggs, dairy products (e.g. cheese), nuts (e.g. peanuts), mushrooms and avocados. However, high levels can also be found in other foods such as: sunflower seeds, fortified cereals, potatoes, brown rice, oats and broccoli.
Vitamin B5 is involved in energy production during exercise [R Rodriguez, J Am Diet Assoc, 2009], contributes to normal mental performance (concentration) and can participates in the reduction of tiredness and fatigue [EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA), EFSA Journal 2010]. Athletes may have higher requirements for vitamin B5, but higher energy intakes should normally be sufficient to meet their needs.
In conclusion, our vitamin B5 levels impact many aspects of our mental and physical health. In order to make sure that your vitamin B5 levels are balanced and steady, make sure to test your levels and to evaluate how you can make the right changes to rebalance your body and mind.