Pantothenic Acid Benefits: Why This Vitamin is Good for You

Food undergoes tremendous changes as it is consumed, digested, and metabolized. At the cellular level, individuals components of the food, including fats, proteins, and sugars, are processed to produce energy. A series of reactions take place to accomplish this. One component of this process is coenzyme A (CoA). It is produced from two molecules – cysteine, which is an amino acid, and pantothenic acid. Pantothenic acid is a B vitamin, specifically vitamin B5. It is also known as pantothenate. This water soluble vitamin is essential for sustaining life.

How Does the Body Utilize Pantothenic Acid?

Pantothenic acid is used by the body in three ways. The first is the metabolism of fats, proteins, and sugars to generate energy. It does this in the form of CoA. Pantothenic acid undergoes several reactions to form CoA. The first step is converting pantothenic acid to 4'-phosphopantothenate through an enzyme called pantothenate kinase. The second step is converting 4'-phosphopantothenate to 4'-phospho-N-pantothenoylcysteine by attaching a cysteine molecule to it with the enzyme phosphopantothenoylcysteine synthetase. This molecule is converted to 4'-phosphopantetheine, which in turn is converted to dephospho-CoA. The final step uses ATP to convert dephospho-CoA to coenzyme A.

Pantothenic acid is also necessary for the synthesis of several types of molecules. It does this in the form of CoA. Fatty acids, cholesterol, and steroid hormones are synthesized with CoA. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is produced from CoA and melatonin is a hormone generated from CoA. Another molecule that requires CoA in its formation is the heme molecule.

The third function of pantothenic acid is the modification of proteins. As with all its functions, CoA is the form in which this activity takes place. Usually, CoA will donate an acetyl group to a protein. This will alter the structure of the protein and possibly its function. This is commonly seen with peptide hormones. CoA can also donate an acyl group to a protein.

Conditions That Respond to Pantothenic Acid Treatment

The wide range of normal cellular functions that require pantothenic acid is an indication of how important this vitamin is to an individual's overall health. There are a few medical conditions, which may actually improve with treatments that contain pantothenic acid. In particular, there are possible wound healing applications of this vitamin. Creams that contain pantothenic acid have been shown to speed up the healing of open cuts on the skin and increase the strength of scar tissue. This was observed in laboratory tests on animals. Cultures of human skin cells respond positively to the administration of calcium-D-pantothenate. The results included increased number of skin cells at the wound site. Although these effects are promising, no studies have been done to corroborate the wound healing properties of pantothenic acid directly in people.

A derivative of pantothenic acid has been studied for its cholesterol lowering effects in humans. Pantethine reduced the cholesterol and triglyceride levels in blood samples of individuals with diabetes. It also showed promising results in patients undergoing hemodialysis. Other conditions that may respond to pantothenic acid benefits include chronic fatigue syndrome, general fatigue, and cataracts. None of these conditions have been scientifically evaluated with pantothenic acid treatments.

Daily Requirement and Food Sources

In extremely rare cases, a lack of pantothenic acid may cause deficiency symptoms. Some of the possible symptoms include headaches, fatigue, insomnia, numbness or tingling of the hands and feet, and digestive irregularities. In controlled studies, some individuals would appear listless. Another rare possibility is a decrease in brain function due to an improperly functioning liver.

Pantothenic acid deficiency is extremely rare because this vitamin is present in nearly every type of food. In fact, the name of this vitamin is derived from the word 'pantos' which means 'everywhere.' Avocados, chicken, yogurt, milk, and sweet potatoes contain the most amount of pantothenic acid. Other food sources that are high in this vitamin include eggs, broccoli, mushrooms, and lentils. Whole grains contain an abundant amount of this vitamin, but most of it is lost during refining. Canning and freezing of foods also reduces the vitamin content. Bread, fish, and tuna are on the lower end of foods containing pantothenic acid.

The recommended daily intake for this vitamin depends on a person's age. Infants below six months of age should be given 1.7 mg per day, while babies between six and twelve months should be given 1.8 mg per day. Children up to three years of age need 2 mg per day, while children up to eight years of age need 3 mg per day. Preteens need 4 mg per day, while teenagers and adults need 5 mg per day.

Reference

1. "Pantothenic Acid." Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/pa/

2. "Pantothenic Acid – B5." WHFoods. https://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=87

3. "Coenzyme A Biosynthesis." School of Biological & Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London https://www.chem.qmul.ac.uk/iubmb/enzyme/reaction/misc/CoA2.html