Health Benefits of Vitamin B5

Health Benefits of Vitamin B5

Vitamin B5 was first discovered in 1933. It is also known as “pantothenic acid”, from the Greek word “panthos” meaning “from everywhere”. The reason for this is quite simple; pantothenic acid is present in a vast number of cells in the body where it plays many different roles.

While vitamin B5 deficiencies are uncommon, they can occur. Research suggests that women taking oral contraceptives tend to have particularly low levels of pantothenic acid, and may suffer from deficiencies after extended use. Common symptoms of vitamin B5 deficiency include fatigue, irritability and insomnia.

What is Vitamin B5?

Vitamin B5 is one of the eight B vitamins that make up the so-called “B complex”. All of these are water-soluble and so are not stored in the body. As a result, it is necessary to consume them regularly for optimal health.

Common sources of pantothenic acid in the diet include chicken liver, sunflower seeds, salmon, avocado, broccoli and mushrooms. Other options include peanut butter, almonds and cheese. Alternatively, of course, some people choose to supplement with a specialist vitamin B5 or B complex supplement.

While vitamin B5 has a role to play in a huge number of different biological processes almost all stem from one source: a substance known as “coenzyme A”. Principally coenzyme A is synthesised in the body thanks to the combination of vitamin B5, cysteine (an amino acid) and ATP - the energy produced by your body.

Coenzyme A, in turn, has an impact on a huge range of processes within the body, including energy production, cholesterol balance and the transmission of nerve impulses around the body. All of these are impacted in the case of problems with vitamin B5 or coenzyme A.

What are the Benefits of Vitamin B5?

As stated, vitamin B5’s main health benefit comes through its use in the production of coenzyme A, but what does coenzyme A itself actually do in the body?

Energy Metabolism

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) is believed to help support healthy natural energy levels.The nutrients that we consume in the form of food are not automatically available to the body. Instead they must pass through an astonishingly complex system until the “building blocks” that our bodies need are available.

The process of digestion starts in the mouth, as food is broken down into smaller chunks, while digestive enzymes in the saliva start the molecular process of digestion. In the digestive tract the food is broken down further as microorganisms and enzymes continue the process.

The primary process through which carbohydrates, proteins and fats are broken down into their base units is known in humans as the “citric acid cycle”. Coenzyme A, generated from pantothenic acid, is one of five critical substances required for this process to operate. In the absence of suitable vitamin B5, therefore, you may struggle to absorb nutrients from your food, leading to feelings of lethargy or mental clouding.

EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority, therefore has authorised the claim that pantothenic acid “contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism” as well as “the reduction of tiredness and fatigue”.

Nervous System Function

Nerves do not run the full length of your body. Stubbing your toe doesn’t involve just one nerve that connects your foot with your brain. Instead, the millions of nerves (sometimes alternatively known as “neurons”) connect with one another, end-to-end. This creates a “network” around your body, through which messages can travel.

Two nerves meet in an area known as a “synapse”. This is a microscopic space between the end of one nerve and the beginning of the next. So how do messages such as “Ouch!” get from one nerve to the next until they reach your brain, allowing you to react? The answer is a group of chemicals known as “neurotransmitters”.

As the name suggests, these chemicals transmit messages by moving from one nerve to the next. Whilst a number of different neurotransmitters have been identified, one of the most common is known as “acetylcholine” - and pantothenic acid is required to produce it.

This is why cases of vitamin B5 deficiency, where neurotransmitters are not present in high enough volumes, can result in psychological changes. Mood swings, tiredness or a short temper are all thought to be possible signs that you may be deficient in vitamin B5.

For this reason EFSA has authorised the claim that vitamin B5 “contributes to normal mental performance”.

Melatonin Production

Melatonin, sometimes known by the rather less catchy name of N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine, is crucial for the regulation of sleep. It is released by the tiny pineal gland, which is situated deep inside your brain, close to the stem. Once again, pantothenic acid plays a role in the regulation of this critical hormone thanks to its influence on coenzyme A.

It is for this reason that individuals suffering from a vitamin B5 deficiency may struggle either with feelings of daytime tiredness, or insomnia which prevents them from sleeping properly at night. Quite simply the hormone that controls the wake/sleep cycle simply isn’t functioning properly as a result of deficiency.

Vitamin D Synthesis

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in helping us to absorb and utilise calcium in the body. Without sufficient vitamin D in our system, bone mineral density levels can start to fall. There is also some evidence to suggest that these falling levels of vitamin D seen during the winter may be related to the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). For this reason many people opt to supplement with vitamin D for part of the year.

As the weather begins to improve, however, we roll up our sleeves and let the sun’s rays do the hard work. Upon stimulation from sunlight our skin is able to generate sufficient levels of vitamin D. That said, this complex process relies on the presence of various compounds in the body, one of which vitamin B5.

As a result of pantothenic acid’s impact on the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin, a deficiency can result in difficulties with absorbing calcium from the diet, leading to thinner or weaker bones.

Red Blood Cells

Vitamin B5 plays a central role in the creation of red blood cells and synthesis of vitamin D in the skin.Our blood vessels are like railway tracks, with the red blood cells acting like trains, transporting important nutrients like oxygen around the body. In this way, our cells have access to a constantly circulating buffet of nutrients, and can function properly.

Problems arise when the “trains” - our red blood cells - become damaged or are not present in high enough volumes. When this happens we see the condition we know as “anaemia”, which can result in feelings of tiredness, dizziness or muscle cramps.

Here vitamin B5 has a further role to play, and a deficiency may suppress the body’s ability to generate new red blood cells when they are needed. This may further impact feelings of fatigue or difficulties concentrating, simply because your cells aren’t getting the nutrients they need to function effectively.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is often seen as a bad thing, with adverts constantly telling us that we should “reduce our cholesterol”. What you might not realise, however, is that cholesterol is actually a perfectly natural substance found in the body, and furthermore that it is critical to our health.

The much-discussed health problems occur when these levels get too high or become imbalanced. At low levels, however, it is crucial for the creation of cell membranes - the thin “skin” around your cells that keeps them together. Without cholesterol - and hence cell membranes - we simply wouldn’t survive.

Studies have shown than pantothenic acid has an important role to play here, allowing the body to actually metabolise cholesterol in the first place. As a result, vitamin B5 is important for the development of cells in your body and for normal cell division.

How Much Vitamin B5 Should I Take?

Like most vitamins, pantothenic acid is really only needed in microscopic amounts to sustain optimal health. That said, as a water-soluble vitamin it must be consumed regularly as it is not stored in the body.

Generally speaking the recommended intake is 6mg per day for adults. That said, the NHS currently states that “taking 200mg or less a day of pantothenic acid in supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.” So if you want to bulk up via a supplement then it’s likely to be perfectly safe.

Side Effects of Vitamin B5

As a natural vitamin that we all consume in our diets anyway, it seems unlikely that taking too much pantothenic acid is likely to cause any serious side effects. This is especially so as excess B complex vitamins are eliminated from the body rapidly through urine.

That said, there are reports that a minority of individuals may suffer mild transitory side effects like nausea, headaches or diarrhoea. If you suffer from any of these symptoms then it is advisable to discontinue supplementation and consult your doctor. No supplement should be taken without suitable guidance from a medical professional, especially if you are currently taking prescription medication.

Shop for Vitamin B5 supplements here.


Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC547364/
http://www.biomedsearch.com/article/Pantothenic-acid/269531006.html
http://file.scirp.org/pdf/FNS20120900002_49431046.pdf
http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-b5-pantothenic-acid
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3942300/