Vitamin B5 is also known as pantothenic acid. When taken as a supplement, this vitamin is often combined into a capsule containing other B vitamins, such as B1, B2, B3, B6, and B12. Vitamin B5 works in the body to aid the production of fats, as well as to release the energy from proteins, starches, sugars, and fats. It also helps produce red blood cells and helps the adrenal gland to produce hormones.
Many different foods naturally contain vitamin B5. Some good sources of pantothenic acid include mushrooms, cauliflower, and broccoli, as well as calves' liver, sunflower seeds, and corn. It is also found in eggs and dairy products, like yogurt. Raw foods typically have a higher concentration of this vitamin, as pantothenic acid is often lost through cooking, freezing, and canning.
It is rare for a person to suffer from a deficiency of vitamin B5, because it exists in so many different kinds of foods. A deficiency may occur in cases of malnutrition that are so extreme that they are life-threatening. Poor digestion and absorption within the body may also contribute to a vitamin B5 deficiency. Symptoms of a possible lack of pantothenic acid may include fatigue, weakness, and listlessness. It can also cause a burning pain in the feet, as well as numbness and tingling.
People may take these supplements for a variety of medical conditions, however, the only medically-proven use for it is to treat or prevent a deficiency of pantothenic acid. There is insufficient evidence that it may help treat other conditions, such as allergies, skin problems, and asthma, as well as depression and insomnia. People may also take this supplement for low blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as to reduce symptoms of arthritis. It may also be taken for cataracts, chronic fatigue syndrome, and heart problems.
Pantothenic acid is also available in the form of a cream, called dexpanthenol. This is applied topically to the skin. While there is insufficient evidence for its effectiveness, the cream may be used to treat skin rashes, poison ivy, and insect stings. Some people may also apply it to treat acne and mild eczema.
Vitamin B5 is likely to be safe when it is taken in the recommended dosages. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should seek a doctor’s advice before taking any supplements. Patients who suffer from hemophilia, a bleeding disorder, should not take vitamin B5 supplements, as this may increase the risk of bleeding. When taken in high doses, pantothenic acid may result in diarrhea, nausea, and heartburn.
The typical dose for an adult, aged 18 years or older, is 5 milligrams (mg) daily. Women who are pregnant may be advised to take 6 mg, and those who are breastfeeding may take 7 mg daily. The exact recommended dosage for children younger than 18 varies, depending on the specific age of the child. Parents should consult with the child’s pediatrician before introducing any supplements to the child’s diet.