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Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

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What is vitamin B5?

Vitamin B5, also known by the name of pantothenic acid, is essential to energy production. It’s name is rooted in the Greek pantos, meaning “everywhere”. This vitamin is well named because it is widely distributed in virtually all plants and animal sources. For this reason, deficiency is unlikely.

What does the body use pantothenic acid for?

Vitamin B5 is essential to skin and hair health. This vitamin also plays crucial roles in cellular reactions and metabolic activities that keep the body running smoothly.

Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs)

The amount of pantothenic acid recommended for daily intake is based upon the adequate intake (or AI) listed below. This is the amount established by the Institute of Medicine due to there being not enough evidence available to determine the recommended dietary allowance (or RDA). As mentioned above, in the case of pantothenic acid, since it is widely available, studies regarding deficiency would be difficult to conduct. From the available information, the AI has been established as the recommended amount.

Helpful terms to know

  • Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): covers the needs of 97-98% of individuals in a group; the average amount of a nutrient a healthy person should consume daily. Vary by gender, age, and whether a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding. Developed by the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies.

  • Adequate Intake (AI): recommended daily intake of a nutrient; established by Institutes of Medicine (IOM) to meet or to exceed the needed amount to maintain adequate nutrition for most people in a particular stage of life or gender group; established when not enough evidence is available to determine the RDA

  • mg = milligram


Due to the widely available nature of pantothenic acid in almost any food source, deficiency of this vitamin is extremely rare. However, it can occur and is referred to as burning foot syndrome. As one can probably guess from its name, the hallmark of this deficiency is the sensation of burning of the feet accompanied by nerve inflammation. This condition is aggravated with warmth and alleviated with cold.

Who is at risk for a vitamin B5 deficiency?

Individuals that may be prone to a deficiency of B5 generally have multiple vitamin deficiencies. The following conditions may increase the need for pantothenic acid:

  • Alcoholism (due to low intake)

  • Diabetes mellitus (increased excretion levels)

  • Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD and related diseases likely to have poor intestinal absorption)


Currently, there has not been a reported human overdose of pantothenic acid. However, higher intakes have been associated with intestinal upset. As with other vitamins, the current general advice is to stick to the recommended levels of intake.

How to determine levels of pantothenic acid

These tests should be run under direct medical supervision. Ask your doctor and dietitian for more information. Your vitamin status can be assessed through measurement of the following:

  • Better Indicator: Urinary pantothenic acid excretion

    • <1 mg/day considered poor status

  • Blood concentrations: thought to be reflective of low intake

    • Does not correlate well with changes in dietary intake/status

Sources of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)

As previously mentioned, pantothenic acid is found in many foods. The foods listed in this image are just some of the selected sources of the vitamin. The bacteria of the stomach also produce the vitamin, however the extent of production is currently unknown.

How stable is pantothenic acid?

Pantothenic acid can be destroyed by heating and freezing. It is in a stable form under the following conditions:

  • Dry

  • In solution

  • Neutral pH

Supplementation & Treatment with Pantothenic acid

Uses & Dietary Supplementation

Panthenol is sometimes added to skin and hair products for moisture retention. Pantothenic acid is usually added to multivitamin supplements in the form of calcium pantothenate or panthenol (alcohol form) at a level similar to the daily value, around 10 mg or twice the recommended daily amount.


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  1. Hart J. Eat Pretty. Chronicle Books. 2014. ISBN 978-1452123660.

  2. Gropper SS, Smith JL, Carr TP. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, Seventh Edition. Cengage Learning. 2017. ISBN: 978-1305627857.


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