Vitamin B5: Everything you Need to Know
Foods such as meats, milk and broccoli have the significant contribution of vitamin B5 in common. Do you know the functions of this micro-nutrient for the body?
Before focusing on vitamin B5 in particular, we must talk about what vitamins are and where we can find them. Later, we’ll delve into the main characteristics of pantothenic acid or vitamin B5, a very important nutrient for our body.
Vitamins are organic compounds, different from fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, which exert different actions on the body. They’re usually found in food and, except in deficiency situations, we can get enough of each of them through a balanced diet.
There are two large groups based on their solubility: fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) and water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and B vitamins). This classification determines its mechanism of absorption, transport, storage in the body and excretion.
Each vitamin has a specific function depending on its chemical structure, its distribution in cells and tissues and its chemical activity. Next, we’ll explain a little more about the functions of each one:
Fat-soluble vitamins are characterized by dissolving in fats. These vitamins are stored in fatty tissues of the body (liver, adipose tissue around the muscles), so they can be associated with toxicity problems.
Furthermore, it’s more difficult to eliminate them, so you have to pay attention to cover your body’s requirements without exceeding them. Four vitamins belong to this group: A, D, E, and K.
- Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is present in carotenoids. We find it in red, yellow, orange or green vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, squash, spinach, apricots or melons. It’s also present in the green parts of vegetables.
- Vitamin D is obtained through exposure to sunlight. The case of vitamin D is more controversial since there’s a generalized deficit worldwide. We produce it endogenously thanks to exposure to sunlight and, to a lesser extent, we obtain it exogenously, through foods. Fatty fish, such as sardines, are the best dietary source.
- Tocopherol or vitamin E is present in vegetable oils. It’s also found in the green leaves of plants and in the germ or bran of cereals.
- Regarding vitamin K, its content in food is not known with precision. As the general population has the necessary amount of this micronutrient, it’s understood that adequate amounts of this vitamin are obtained mainly from the intestinal flora or microbiota.
The group of water-soluble vitamins is much broader and more diverse. These are compounds soluble in aqueous elements, so it’s relatively easy to remove their excess through the urine.
However, precisely because of this, it’s important to always make sure you have an appropriate intake since they don’t accumulate in the body. They belong to this group:
- The vitamin C or ascorbic acid
- The eight vitamins B complex
- Thiamine or B1
- Riboflavin or B2
- Niacin or B3
- Pantothenic acid or B5
- Pyridoxine or B6
- Biotin or B8
- Folic acid or B9
- Cobalamin or B12
Vitamin B5: features and functions
Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid belongs to the group of water-soluble vitamins because it can dissolve in water. Its name comes from the term ‘pantos’ which means ‘everywhere’ because it’s present in all plant and animal tissues.
It’s a component of coenzyme A, a fundamental molecule in obtaining energy from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. In addition, it participates in the production of acetylcholine (neurotransmitter), steroid hormones, cholesterol, and other essential fats.
Sources of vitamin B5
The body is unable to synthesize pantothenic acid; we have to get it from food. The most important sources are meats, although there’s also a significant amount in avocado, broccoli, egg yolk, and milk. There are foods enriched in pantothenic acid and even supplements.
Very little is known about the amount we should ingest of this vitamin. However, in 2014 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) established the adequate intake (AI) of B5 for adults and pregnant women at 5 mg/day.
For lactating women, an AI of 7 mg/day was proposed to compensate for losses through breast milk. For babies older than six months, an AI of 3 mg/day was advised, while for children and adolescents, 4 and 5 mg/day respectively.
Vitamin B5 deficiency and toxicity
On the other hand, for those familiar with reading labels, we can find their commercial form in some vitamin-enriched products such as calcium pantothenate. This supplementation is of no interest since a lack of this vitamin is extremely rare.
In fact, the clinical signs and symptoms of its deficiency have been obtained in subjects (volunteers) treated with vitamin antagonists. Nor has toxicity due to excess consumption been observed, although, in mild doses, mild intestinal discomfort and diarrhea symptoms have been reported.
In short, if you base your diet on real food (fruits, vegetables, cereals, eggs, legumes, meat, and fish) you won’t have vitamin B5 deficiencies. As you can see, this vitamin is an important micronutrient, but it’s also easy to get!