Vitamin B5 is not a very well-known vitamin but still very important. Another one of the water-soluble B vitamins, and like the others it is very important in metabolism. It was discovered in 1933 by Roger Williams. It is found in small amounts in almost all foods but higher amounts are found in grains, beans, eggs, and broccoli. Avocados have a particularly high amount of Vitamin B5
Given the abundance of vitamin B5 in foods deficiency is extremely rare. When it is deficient it can cause severe fatigue, numbness, tingling, muscle cramps, and in severe cases adrenal insufficiency.
There are no known cases of toxicity from Vitamin B5. Extremely high doses may cause diarrhea but no severe reactions have ever been noted. The body seems extremely capable of handling high doses of B5.
Given its ubiquitous nature and rare incidence of deficiency few studies have been done looking at pantothenic acid in treating disease. A derivative of pantothenic acid called patethine was studies by Gaddi et al in 1984 and found to have a significant cholesterol and triglyceride lowering effect with little or no side effects. To the best of my knowledge this is not being used by physicians in any significant number but is sold widely over the counter.
There was some interest in using pantothenic acid for wound healing but all major double-blind studies done in humans showed no major benefit.
One recent interesting study done by Giraldi et al. studied pantothenic acid to help alleviate postoperative ileus. Postoperative ileus is when the intestines no longer contract normally for a period of time after surgery causing severe constipation, abdominal bloating and discomfort. It is most commonly seen after abdominal surgeries but can been seen after almost any major surgery and often lasts days significantly prolonging hospitalizations and delaying time to when the patient can eat. In Giraldi’s study they found a signficant faster resolution of the ileus in those that received pantothenic acid as compared to placebo.
Given the studies that have been done so far pantothenic acid and pantethine should be studied further as a cholesterol lowering drugs. In fact, given that niacin has already proved to be so useful a study should be done looking at B complex supplementation with all the B vitamins and see how that affects cholesterol and triglycerides. This preliminary study on ileus should be followed up as well given currently we have no treatment to speed recovery from postoperative ileus leading to increased morbidity and wasted resources using more hospital days. But overall there is a general lack of literature on pantothenic acid and our understanding of its role in the treatment of disease is in its infancy.