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Introduction

Pantothenic acid, otherwise called vitamin B5 or pantothenate, is an essential vitamin.

A certain type of bacteria in the gut is able to produce pantothenic acid from other sources, but likely not enough to avoid deficiencies in this nutrient.

Importantly, it is a necessary cofactor for numerous enzymes, including Coenzyme A. This enzyme participates in many biochemical reactions in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

Pantothenic acid is mainly found in animal products such as chicken, beef, egg yolk, and organs, although some plant foods such as potatoes, whole grains, tomatoes, and broccoli also have considerable amounts.

A deficiency in pantothenic acid can lead to many problems such as reduced energy production, elevated fat in the blood, adrenal issues, and impaired fertility.

Pantothenic acid is now available as a dietary supplement to help avoid these types of issues.

Pantothenic Acid Health Benefits

May Improve Lipid Profiles

As pantothenic acid has a key role in fat metabolism, experts have hypothesized that its supplementation may improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with hyperlipidemia  [1].

A review of various clinical trials found that 900mg of pantethine supplementation for 4 months, a derivative of pantothenic acid, lowered triglyceride levels by ~30% and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by ~20%, whilst increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol by ~10% [2].

Similar results have been seen in more recent studies [3] [4], however it is not known how well this translates to consuming pantothenic acid supplementation directly.

May Improve Hair Health

Pantothenic acid has been linked to improving hair health since the 1940’s.

This is because there was a known connection between pantothenic acid deficiencies and greying of hair in many animal studies [5].

One study found that the application of a mixture of compounds, including panthenol, is a potential approach that may mitigate the effects of hair thinning, but it is unable to reverse the condition [9].

This being said, those with greying hair or significant hair loss do not seem to have different pantothenic acid status’ and so it is still in question as to whether a deficiency impairs hair health [6].

Currently there is a lack of real evidence to conclude that pantothenic acid can help with hair problems in humans, and well-conducted studies need to further assess this relationship.

May Help With Acne

It has been hypothesized that pantothenic acid deficiency could be related to acne [7].

8 weeks of 2200mg pantothenic acid supplementation, combined with l-carnitine and other B vitamins, was noted to improve skin health and reduce the occurrence of acne [8].

This same formulation was also found to reduce facial lesions by ~70% after 12 weeks when taken orally by people with mild to moderate blemishes [9].

Creams containing panthenol have also been shown to significantly enhance skin barrier repair and lower skin inflammation when applied to areas of skin irritation or abnormalities [10].

How To Take Pantothenic Acid?

The current recommended intake for pantothenic acid is 5mg for adults, increasing to 6-7mg for women who are pregnant or lactating.

The best form of supplementation depends on the condition that needs to be treated:

  • Oral supplementation to prevent nutrient deficiencies and improve lipid profiles
  • Part of hair shampoo to prevent hair loss and grayness
  • Skin creams (in form of dexpanthenol) to treat acne and skin conditions

For shampoo and creams, it will be hard to know the amount of panthothenic acid being used, so it is advised to follow the user instructions on the product.

Pantothenic Acid Safety And Side Effects

There is currently no tolerable upper limit known for pantothenic acid, and it is rare for any adverse effects to be reported for excessive intakes [11].

Even high doses (200-900mg per day) compared to recommended daily intakes do not seem to cause safety issues in humans [12].

However, extremely large doses of pantothenic acid supplements (>10 grams a day) can develop mild diarrhea and cause gastrointestinal distress [13].

In most cases people only experience symptoms of pantothenic acid deficiency, which include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Impaired muscle coordination
  • Gastrointestinal problems

Conclusion

Pantothenic acid is an essential vitamin that plays a key role in energy metabolism.

Supplementing with pantothenic acid may improve cholesterol levels, hair health, and skin conditions such as acne.

It is advised to take 5-7mg of pantothenic acid per day through oral supplementation, however it is best to stick to instructions on the product label if this vitamin is part of shampoos or creams.

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This article has been reviewed and fact-checked by a certified nutritionist, and only uses information from credible academic sources.