In this article, we describe:
- the major purposes of this specific nutrient in the human body,
- its experimentally confirmed health uses,
- conventional ways to estimate nutrient status,
- nutrient’s toxicities and deficiencies,
- experimentally confirmed and approved levels of the nutrient intake for different demographics,
- dietary sources of the nutrient.
Pantothenic acid (also known as vitamin B5) is an essential nutrient naturally present in some foods. The main function of this water-soluble B vitamin is in the synthesis of coenzyme A (CoA) and and acyl carrier protein. CoA is essential for fatty acid synthesis and degradation, transfer of acetyl and acyl groups, and a multitude of other anabolic and catabolic processes. Acyl carrier protein’s main role is in fatty acid synthesis.
B Complex vitamins are all water soluble and are not stored very well in the body. Thus, they are needed daily through diet or supplement to support their many functions. Deficiencies of one or more of the B vitamins may occur fairly easily, especially during times of fasting or dieting for weight loss or with diets that include substantial amounts of refined and processed food, sugar, or alcohol.
A wide variety of plant and animal foods contain pantothenic acid. About 85% of dietary pantothenic acid is in the form of CoA or phosphopantetheine.
B complex vitamins are fairly easily digested from food or supplements and then absorbed into the blood, mainly from the small intestine. When the amount of Bs taken exceeds the body’s needs, the excess is easily excreted in the urine, giving it a dark yellow color.
Microbiologic growth assays, animal bioassays, and radioimmunoassays can be used to measure pantothenic concentrations in blood, urine, and tissue, but urinary concentrations are the most reliable indicators because of their close relationship with dietary intake. With a typical American diet, the urinary excretion rate for pantothenic acid is about 2.6 mg/day. Excretion of less than 1 mg pantothenic acid per day suggests deficiency. Like urinary concentrations, whole-blood concentrations of pantothenic acid correlate with pantothenic acid intake, but measuring pantothenic acid in whole blood requires enzyme pretreatment to release free pantothenic acid from CoA. Normal blood concentrations of pantothenic acid range from 1.6 to 2.7 mcmol/L, and blood concentrations below 1 mcmol/L are considered low and suggest deficiency. Unlike whole-blood concentrations, plasma levels of pantothenic acid do not correlate well with changes in intake or status.
Because some pantothenic acid is present in almost all foods, deficiency is rare except in people with severe malnutrition. People with a pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration 2 (PKAN) mutation are the most likely group to develop pantothenic acid deficiency. In terms of health benefits several clinical trials have shown that the form of pantothenic acid known as pantethine reduces lipid levels when taken in large amounts, but pantothenic acid itself does not appear to have the same effects. Pantothenic acid is very safe, however some individuals taking large doses of pantothenic acid supplements (e.g., 10 g/day) develop mild diarrhea and gastrointestinal distress, but the mechanism for this effect is not known.
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Adequate Intakes (AIs) for Pantothenic Acid
|Birth to 6 months||1.7 mg||1.7 mg|
|7–12 months||1.8 mg||1.8 mg|
|1–3 years||2 mg||2 mg|
|4–8 years||3 mg||3 mg|
|9–13 years||4 mg||4 mg|
|14–18 years||5 mg||5 mg||6 mg||7 mg|
|19+ years||5 mg||5 mg||6 mg||7 mg|
Food Sources of Pantothenic Acid
Almost all plant- and animal-based foods contain pantothenic acid in varying amounts. Some of the richest dietary sources are beef, chicken, organ meats, whole grains, and some vegetables. Pantothenic acid is added to various foods, including some breakfast cereals and beverages (such as energy drinks). Limited data indicate that the body absorbs 40%–61% (or half, on average) of pantothenic acid from foods.
Edible animal and plant tissues contain relatively high concentrations of pantothenic acid. Food processing, however, can cause significant losses of this compound (20% to almost 80%).
Select Food Sources of Pantothenic Acid
|Boiled beef liver, 3 ounces||8.3||166|
|Fortified Breakfast cereals||5||100|
|Shitake mushrooms, cooked, ½ cup pieces||2.6||52|
|Sunflower seeds, ¼ cup||2.4||48|
|Roasted chicken breast meat, 3 ounces||1.3||26|
|Bluefin tuna, cooked, 3 ounces||1.2||24|
|Avocados, raw, ½ avocado||1.0||20|
|Milk, 2% milkfat, 1 cup||0.9||18|
|Stir-fried white mushrooms, ½ cup sliced||0.8||16|
|Baked russet potatoes, flesh and skin,1 medium||0.7||14|
|Hard-boiled egg, 1 large||0.7||14|
|Greek yogurt, non-fat, 5.3-ounce container||0.6||12|
|Broiled ground beef, 3 ounces||0.6||12|
|Roasted in oil peanuts, ¼ cup||0.5||10|
|Broccoli, boiled, ½ cup||0.5||10|
|Whole-wheat pita, 1 large||0.5||10|
|Chickpeas, canned, ½ cup||0.4||8|
|Brown rice cooked, ½ cup||0.4||8|
|Oats, cooked with water, ½ cup||0.4||8|
|Cheddar cheese, 1.5 ounces||0.2||4|
|Chopped raw carrots, ½ cup||0.2||4|
|Cabbage, boiled, ½ cup||0.1||2|
|Tomatoes, chopped or sliced, ½ cup||0.1||2|
|Cherry tomatoes, raw, ½ cup||0||0|
|Apple, raw, slices, ½ cup||0||0|
- *DV = Daily Value.
- The DV for pantothenic acid used for the values table above is 5 mg for adults and children age 4 years and older.
- Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient, but foods providing lower percentages of the DV also contribute to a healthful diet.
- Elson Haas. “Staying Healthy with Nutrition”
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/PantothenicAcid-HealthProfessional/