Also known as pantothenic acid, vitamin B5 belongs to the B-vitamin complex.
Medically reviewed by Dr Louise Wiseman MBBS, BSc (Hons), DRCOG, MRCGP and words by Piriya Mahendra Pordes
Vitamin B5, also called pantothenic acid, is one of eight B-vitamins. It’s essential for making red blood cells, which carry oxygen around your body, and helps release energy from the protein, carbohydrates, and fats you eat.
Like other B-complex vitamins, it contributes to healthy hair, skin and eyes. For this reason, Vitamin B5 is often added to hair and skin products, especially moisturising creams.
This vitamin is abundant in nearly all foods, including most vegetables. The name ‘pantothenic’ comes from the Greek word pantou, which translates as ‘everywhere’. Here’s what you need to know about vitamin B5:
Vitamin B5 benefits
It also promotes digestive health, supports your nervous system, helps to metabolise cholesterol, enhances the healing process of skin wounds, and makes it easier for your body to use other vitamins (especially vitamin B2).
Vitamin B5 daily needs
While it’s difficult to establish an exact RDA, guidelines usually recommend between 4 and 7 mg per day for an adult – a value often quoted is around 5mg per day. Your body’s exact B5 requirements will depend on your age, gender and other factors.
Since B5 is found in so many foods, it’s thought that the average diet provides enough. However, taking 200mg or less a day in supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.
Vitamin B5 deficiency
Vitamin B5 deficiency is extremely rare. It’s only ever seen in victims of starvation or people who are malnourished, and can be easily reversed by supplementation.
Symptoms of vitamin B5 deficiency include:
- elevated cholesterol
- burning sensation and/or pain in arms, legs or feet
- premature greying or hair loss
- elevated heart rate
- susceptibility to infection
Vitamin B5 best food sources
Vitamin B5 cannot be stored in the body, so you need it in your diet every day. However, it’s easy to incorporate into a healthy, balanced diet and is found in most vegetables.
Particularly rich sources of vitamin B5 include:
- whole grains
Vitamin B5 is mildly destroyed by exposure to heat. When cooking, it is important to use fresh food, steam rather than boil, and avoid overly long cooking times to preserve the potency of the vitamin. Additionally, canning and freezing processes destroy B5, so eat fresh food wherever possible.
Vitamin B5 supplement side effects
Vitamin B5 is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that any excess vitamin is excreted in the urine. However, it is not impossible to overdose on vitamin B5.
Excess vitamin B5 intake may lead to diarrhoea, heartburn, nausea, dehydration, oedema, joint pain, calcification in blood vessels, or depression.
Do vitamin B5 supplements have any drug interactions?
Yes. Speak to your GP before taking vitamin B5, especially if you are taking tetracycline – all B vitamins interfere with the absorption and efficacy of this antibiotic – or drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease, namely donepezil (Aricept), memantine (Ebixa), galantamine (Reminyl) and rivastigmine (Exelon).