pantothenic acid - B5

What high-B5 foods can do for you:

  • Help turn carbohydrates and fats into usable energy
  • Improve your ability to respond to stress by supporting your adrenal glands
  • Assure adequate production of healthy fats in your cells

What events can indicate a need for more high-B5 foods?

  • Fatigue
  • Listlessness
  • Sensations of weakness
  • Numbness, tingling, and burning/shooting pain in the feet
Mushrooms are an excellent food source of vitamin B5 while cauliflower is a very good source. Good sources of vitamin B5 include broccoli, turnip greens and sunflower seeds.



What is Vitamin B5?

Vitamin B5, most commonly called pantothenic acid, is a member of the B-complex family of vitamins first researched in the 1930-1940s as a required growth factor for many kinds of organisms, including yeasts, birds, and rodents.

The name of the vitamin comes from the Greek word pantos, meaning "everywhere." The vitamin's name reflects its almost universal presence in nature - including in virtually all types of food.

In its metabolically active form, vitamin B5 gets combined with another small, sulfur-containing molecule to form coenzyme A (or simply, CoA). This conversion allows vitamin B5 to participate in a wide variety of chemical reactions.

How it Functions

What is the function of Vitamin B5?

Release of Energy from Carbohydrates and Fats

When found in its CoA form, vitamin B5 plays a pivotal role in helping release energy from sugars, starches, and fats. Most of this energy release occurs in the energy production factories found in every cell called the mitochondria. Increased levels of vitamin B5 in the blood of marathon runners, for example, has led to interest in this vitamin as a potential aid in physical training, where sustained energy release from the mitochondria is critical.

Production of fats

While the CoA form of vitamin B5 is important for releasing energy stored as fat, it is equally important for the creation of fat. Two basic types of fats - fatty acids and cholesterol - both require the CoA form of B5 for their synthesis. Sphingosine, a fat-like molecule that is constantly involved in the delivery of chemical messages inside our cells, also requires B5 for its synthesis.

In order for B5 to support production of fats, it must usually undergo two chemical changes. The first required change is conversion to its CoA form. The second change, which is called acetylation, converts the CoA form of B5 back into acteyl CoA. This conversion of B5 into acetyl CoA, and then back into B5, is a process that occurs continually within our cells.

In one sense, vitamin B5 shares "double duty" in the production of fat. In its acteyl CoA form, it helps provide fat with its chemical structure because the acetyl portion of acetyl CoA is the basic building block for fat. However, vitamin B5 is also involved in the transport of these acetyl building blocks from one part of the cell (the large, watery-part called the cytoplasm) into smaller, more specialized organelles (called the mitochondria) where fat is actually produced. The tranport of these fat building blocks is carried out by a protein called acyl carrier protein (ACP), and once again, vitamin B5 is required for this protein to function.

Changing the shape and function of proteins

Sometimes it is important for the body to make small chemical changes in the shape of cell proteins. For example, if a cell does not want its proteins to be chemically broken down into other substances, it may want to modify their structure in order to prevent this chemical breakdown. One way for cells to accomplish this task is by attaching a special chemical group, called an acetyl group, to the proteins. Vitamin B5, in the form of CoA, can be used to help acetylate proteins, thereby protecting them from chemical breakdown. The attachment of acetyl groups to proteins can be important for other reasons, however. Sometimes this chemical process can dramatically change the function of a protein. For example, sometimes the acetylation of a protein can pave the way for its conversion into a hormone. This process is especially well-researched in relationship to the body's adrenal glands, where stress-related hormone production requires participation of vitamin B5.

Deficiency Symptoms

What are deficiency symptoms for Vitamin B5?

Because vitamin B5 is needed to release energy from carbohydrates and fats, its deficiency is often related to low energy-related symptoms. These symptoms include fatigue, listlessness, and sensations of weakness. One rare symptom of B5 deficiency is called "burning foot syndrome." In this condition, numbness and tingling, together with burning and shooting pain in the feet, have been attributed to B5 deficiency. While other B vitamins (like B1 and B3) help lessen the symptoms of burning foot syndrome, B5 is required to end the burning sensation. This condition, while very rare, helps point out the strong interdependence of the B vitamins and is the reason that many researchers believe B5 deficiency symptoms are primarily symptoms of overall B vitamin deficiency, not deficiency of B5 alone.

Toxicity Symptoms

What are toxicity symptoms for Vitamin B5?

At very high supplemental doses of 2 or more grams per day, intake of vitamin B5 can cause mild diarrhea. The fact that much lower doses of this vitamin (in the 500 milligram range) have also been used to treat constipation lends credence to this association with diarrhea. But because diarrhea-linked doses of B5 are hundreds or thousands times the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) level, and because no other toxicity symptoms have been reported in the literature, no Tolerable Upper Limit (UL) was established by the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences in its 1998 public health recommendations for vitamin B5.

Impact of Cooking, Storage and Processing

How do cooking, storage, or processing affect Vitamin B5?

Pantothenic acid is relatively unstable in food, and significant amounts of this vitamin can be lost through cooking, freezing, and commercial processing. For example, research on frozen foods has shown a loss of 21-70% for vitamin B5 in animal products (like meats), and similar losses for processed grains (like cereal grains) and canned vegetables. Fruits and fruit juices lose 7-50% of their vitamin B5 during processing and packaging.

Factors that Affect Function

What factors might contribute to a deficiency of Vitamin B5?

In addition to poor dietary intake, digestive problems are the most common contributing factor to B5 deficiency. The reason for this connection between poor digestion and B5 deficiency involves the CoA form of B5 that is typically found in food. Proper digestion is required to release vitamin B5 from this CoA form and allow it to be absorbed into the body from the small intestine.

Drug-Nutrient Interactions

What medications affect Vitamin B5?

No detrimental drug reactions have been reported for vitamin B5.

Nutrient Interactions

How do other nutrients interact with Vitamin B5?

In animal studies, vitamins B12, folate, and biotin are required for proper use of vitamin B5 in the body's biochemical pathways. In addition, vitamin C appears to help prevent B5 deficiency.

Health Conditions

What health conditions require special emphasis on Vitamin B5?

Vitamin B5 may play a role in the prevention and/or treatment of the following health conditions:

  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • "Burning foot" syndrome
  • Cataracts
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • General fatigue
  • Hyperlipidemia (high levels of fat in the blood)
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Form in Dietary Supplements

What forms of Vitamin B5 are found in dietary supplements?

Pantothenic acid and calcium-D-pantothenate are common forms of vitamin B5 available as a dietary supplement.
A more expensive form, called pantethine, is also available. This form of the vitamin features the addition of a small sulfur-containing molecule (called cysteamine) onto pantothenic acid. Because the addition of this sulfur-containing molecule would ordinarily take place in the body, its addition to the dietary supplement provides the vitamin in a more bioactive form.

Food Sources

Introduction to Nutrient Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the foods which are either excellent, very good or good sources of this nutrient. Next to each food name you will find the following information: the serving size of the food; the number of calories in one serving; DV% (percent daily value) of the nutrient contained in one serving (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. For more detailed information on our Nutrient Rating System, please click here.


Foods Ranked as quality sources of:
vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
Food Serving
Cals Amount
Foods Rating
Mushrooms, Crimini, Raw 5 oz-wt 31.2 2.13 21.3 12.3 excellent
Cauliflower (boiled, drained) 1 cup 28.5 0.63 6.3 4.0 very good
Broccoli (pieces, steamed) 1 cup 43.7 0.79 7.9 3.3 good
Liver, Calf 4 oz-wt 187.1 2.59 25.9 2.5 good
Greens, Turnip, Cooked 1 cup 28.8 0.39 3.9 2.4 good
Sunflower Seeds, Dried 0.25 cup 205.2 2.43 24.3 2.1 good
Tomato, Red, Raw, Ripe 1 cup 37.8 0.44 4.4 2.1 good
Strawberries, Fresh 1 cup 43.2 0.49 4.9 2.0 good
Yogurt, Cow Milk, Low Fat 1 cup 155.1 1.45 14.5 1.7 good
Egg, Hen, Whole, Boiled 1 each 68.2 0.62 6.2 1.6 good
Squash, Winter, All Varieties 1 cup 80.0 0.72 7.2 1.6 good
Collard Greens, Boiled, Drained 1 cup 49.4 0.41 4.1 1.5 good
Chard, Boiled 1 cup 35.0 0.29 2.9 1.5 good
Corn, Yellow, Boiled 1 cup 177.1 1.44 14.4 1.5 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

Public Health Recommendations

What are current public health recommendations for Vitamin B5?

The Adequate Intake (AI) levels for vitamin B5, set in 1998 by the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences, are as follows:

  • 0-6 months: 1.7 milligrams
  • 6-12 months: 1.8 milligramsgrams
  • 1-3 years: 2 milligrams
  • 4-8 years: 3 milligrams
  • males 9-13 years: 4 milligrams
  • males 14 years and older: 5 milligrams
  • females 9-13 years: 4 milligrams
  • females 14 years and older: 5 milligrams
  • Pregnant females of any age: 6 milligrams
  • Lactating females of any age: 7 milligrams


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This page was updated on: 2004-11-21 11:48:55
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation