One of the main B complex vitamins, the vitamin B5 or pantothenate - also called pantothenic acid or panthethine is necessary in the diet in trace amounts. This vitamin forms an essential component of the coenzyme A - a chemical necessary for metabolism at the cellular level. Each single cell in the human body depends on the presence of pantothenate as part of coenzyme A. However, comparable to all other nutrients required by the human body, a particular organ is particularly dependent on the actions of the vitamin; this organ is the hormone producing adrenal cortex. One major consequence of this vital role played by pantothenate lies in how humans respond to stress, a response which is actively controlled by the adrenal cortex and its hormones.
Pregnant women need more of this vitamin as the levels of pantothenate in the body drop during a term of pregnancy - this lowering of blood levels of pantothenic acid indicates an increased requirement for the vitamin at the cellular level. For this reason, all pregnant women must make sure that they receive enough of this vitamin in the diet. The body's requirement for pantothenate also seems to be raised by the consumption of a low salt diet over the long term, as test animals given a low salt diet in experiments seem to suffer from more severe symptoms of a pantothenate deficiency. At the same time, pantothenate requirements in the body are also raised by a low protein diet and this stresses the functioning of the adrenal glands.
The proper utilization of vitamin B5 in the body requires the presence of other B complex vitamins, namely folate and biotin, therefore a deficiency in one of these vitamins can also lead to an increase in the requirements for pantothenate at any time. The symptoms of a deficiency of any one of the vitamin will be lessened by supplements of either biotin or pantothenate. The requirement of vitamin B5 in the body can also be raised by long term use of antibiotics - as these can often destroy the beneficial bacteria in the gut that are active in the synthesis of vitamin B5.
The body's requirement for pantothenate is also increased by any kind of stress in the body. This fact does not imply the necessity of supplementation. This however, means that all individuals affected by stress should ask themselves if they are receiving enough pantothenate in the diet and check from time to time with their doctor that they are receiving sufficient vitamins through the diet and through supplements.
A variety of dosages of vitamin B5 supplements are available in the market, these supplements range from a few milligrams to several hundred milligrams per dose.
In terms of trace amounts, vitamin B5 compound is seen in almost all plant and animal tissues, though it can vary in amounts from one tissue to another. Pantothenate is found in abundant quantities in various organ meats, in egg yolks, in peanuts, in vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, in cabbage, and all whole grains and bran. Food sources containing the vitamin B5 in fair amounts are meat, milk and other dairy products as well as all kinds of fruits. Vitamin B5 is found in the highest amount in royal jelly, this is the substance worker bees make from nectar to feed the queen bee - royal jelly is the richest natural source of the vitamin.
Significant quantities of the vitamin B5 are lost in the processing, canning and freezing of foods. An adequate supply of foods cannot be obtained from excessive use of processed foods as part of the diet. Cooking does not normally lead to the destruction of pantothenate. At the same time, exposing this vitamin to acids and alkalies will result in its destruction and degradation.
While generally believed to be rare in occurrence, the deficiency of pantothenic acid can affect individuals suffering from chronic alcoholism.
Supplements of pantothenic acid are not required by the majority of people. At the same time, the normal level of 10 to 25 mg vitamin B5 present in many types of multi-vitamin supplements can result in an improved pantothenic acid status in the body. When compared to the modern diets, the so called primitive human diet has always supplied far greater amounts of this nutrient as they contain more raw foods. Researchers who study cholesterol in the human body and gauge its interaction to panthethine using give supplements of 300 mg thrice a day - to a total of 900 mg - to their test subjects.
Using vitamin B5 at supplemental doses has not been connected to any toxic effect, side effects are very rare but do occur. For example, taking very high doses of pantothenic acid - amounting to several grams daily can induce diarrhea in the person.
The synthesis of the metabolic fuel on which the human body runs - ATP - is regulated by pantothenic acid together with the other B complex vitamins namely the vitamins B1, B2, and B3. These vitamins can be taken in combination form using any of the many multi-vitamin supplements available in the market.