Pantothenic acid (also known historically as vitamin B5) is among the most important of the B vitamins for the basic processes of life while also being one of the less likely nutrient deficiencies in the average U.S. diet.
One factor helping to prevent pantothenic acid deficiency is the U.S. diet is its common presence in so many different foods. In fact, the common presence of pantothenic acid in foods is referred to in the naming of this vitamin, since the word pantothen in Greek translates as "on all sides" or "from all "quarters." Among our 100 core WHFoods, 99% contain some measurable amount of pantothenic acid! (Only one of our foods lacks pantothenic acid, and that food is olive oil. While olives themselves contain a small amount of this vitamin, this small amount is lost when the oil is pressed out of the olives since the oil is 100% fat and pantothenic acid is a water-soluble vitamin.)
Without pantothenic acid, you would be unable to use fats, carbohydrates, or proteins as energy sources. You would also be unable to make hormones and your immune system would collapse. These are only some of the important functions that pantothenic acid has.
We list three excellent sources of pantothenic acid—cauliflower, crimini mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms. We list eight very good sources and 38 good sources.
The most studied role of pantothenic acid in health support is its incorporation into a molecule called Coenzyme A (CoA). This molecule is arguably on the short list of the most important chemicals needed to sustain life. In fact, CoA is so important that one recent research group suggested that the origin of life could be traced back to the evolution of this chemical.
CoA occupies a central place in energy metabolism, acting to allow carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to be burned as fuel sources. Given this critical role, it is a very good thing that pantothenic acid is so ubiquitous in foods. We wouldn't exist without it.
In addition to breaking down fats as fuel, pantothenic acid—via the CoA molecule—is necessary for building fats for storage. You'll also need CoA to build cholesterol in the body, which in turn acts as a building block for key hormones that guide metabolic processes. (While many public health organizations warn about risks related to excess presence of cholesterol in the body, a certain amount of cholesterol is critical for health since many types of cells require cholesterol in their membranes and cholesterol is also required for production of certain hormones and vitamin D production.)
While some readers may be concerned about extra fat storage, and might wonder if they could lower their risk of extra fat storage by somehow blocking pantothenic acid activity or deliberately making themselves deficient in pantothenic acid, we are not are of any research evidence showing this strategy to potentially effective, potentially safe, or potentially advisable in any way. We certainly wouldn't recommend trying any personal experimenting of this kind.
It is probably easier for us to ask the question "What foods don't contain pantothenic acid?" than it is for us to quickly discuss the most rich food sources. As described earlier, 99/100 WHFoods contain measurable amounts of this vitamin, and nearly half of our foods (49/100) provide pantothenic acid in good, very good, or excellent amounts. The vast majority of our Herbs & Spices also contain measurable amounts of this vitamin.
In our food rating system, all of our top 10 foods for pantothenic acid are vegetables. Included in this group are root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, leafy vegetables such as turnip greens, stems such as asparagus, and also mushrooms. Moving on from our top 10 to our top 25, however, we come across a wide diversity of food groups that provide pantothenic acid, including fruit, legumes, grains, fish, animal meats, eggs, and dairy foods. This diversity of food groups reflects the fact that pantothenic acid is truly pantothen, meaning "found in all quarters."
Some of our nutrients are quite concentrated in specific foods. For these nutrients, it is sometimes a fun exercise to concentrate the daily requirements into a couple of foods or recipes as we do here in the niacin article. This is not as easy for pantothenic acid, however since the sources are much more spread throughout the diet.
Instead, as we build a daily diet for pantothenic acid nutrition, we should focus on the variety of foods this diet draws upon. Let's start in the morning with Poached Eggs Over Spinach and Mushrooms and some papaya. At lunch, let's go with Healthy Veggie Salad and some yogurt. At dinner, we'll choose 15-Minute Asian Tuna. All three of these meals contain more than half our daily requirement for pantothenic acid.
This diet rich in pantothenic acid looks a lot like a microcosm of the World's Healthiest Foods approach. We have rich and varied fruits and vegetables. We'll also have a little bit of eggs, and a small amount of fish at dinner.
|World's Healthiest Foods ranked as quality sources of|
|Mushrooms, Shiitake||0.50 cup||40.6||2.61||52||23.1||excellent|
|Mushrooms, Crimini||1 cup||15.8||1.08||22||24.5||excellent|
|Sweet Potato||1 cup||180.0||1.77||35||3.5||very good|
|Broccoli||1 cup||54.6||0.96||19||6.3||very good|
|Beet Greens||1 cup||38.9||0.47||9||4.4||very good|
|Asparagus||1 cup||39.6||0.40||8||3.6||very good|
|Turnip Greens||1 cup||28.8||0.39||8||4.9||very good|
|Bell Peppers||1 cup||28.5||0.29||6||3.7||very good|
|Cucumber||1 cup||15.6||0.27||5||6.2||very good|
|Celery||1 cup||16.2||0.25||5||5.6||very good|
|Dried Peas||1 cup||231.3||1.17||23||1.8||good|
|Winter Squash||1 cup||75.8||0.48||10||2.3||good|
|Cow's milk||4 oz||74.4||0.46||9||2.2||good|
|Collard Greens||1 cup||62.7||0.41||8||2.4||good|
|Brussels Sprouts||1 cup||56.2||0.39||8||2.5||good|
|Swiss Chard||1 cup||35.0||0.29||6||3.0||good|
|Summer Squash||1 cup||36.0||0.25||5||2.5||good|
|Mustard Greens||1 cup||36.4||0.17||3||1.7||good|
|Sea Vegetables||1 TBS||10.8||0.16||3||5.3||good|
|Romaine Lettuce||2 cups||16.0||0.13||3||2.9||good|
|Bok Choy||1 cup||20.4||0.13||3||2.3||good|
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%
Pantothenic acid in foods does degrade over time. For example, in one study, fruit juice stored at room temperature for a week lost about 20% of its original pantothenic acid content. (We suspect that this vitamin might be a little more stable in a whole, unprocessed orange, but we were not able to find research in that area.) The Dutch military reported that canned emergency meals lost about 50% of pantothenic acid content after five years of storage. Needless to say, we don't recommend making five-year-old foods a regular dietary staple—nor do we typically recommend canned foods when fresh foods are available. However, this research still provides some context for understanding the impact of storage on pantothenic acid.
Pantothenic acid is quite stable when it comes to cooking. This is especially true when foods are cooked at a neutral pH—for example, there is almost no loss of pantothenic acid in milk during pasteurization. Similarly, a study found that roasted beef retained about 90% of its initial pantothenic acid. (In the case of beef roasting, some kind of marinade or sauce would need to be used in order to alter the cooking pH.)
You will lose some pantothenic acid into cooking water when boiling. For example, we've seen evidence suggesting a moderate loss of pantothenic acid with quick boiled spinach. Cooking for longer will exaggerate this effect, providing a good reason to keep cooking times brief.
The only widely reported cases of pantothenic acid deficiency in humans that we are aware of were in grossly malnourished prisoners of war during World War II. Needless to say, this is a very specialized circumstance, and not the situation faced by the average U.S. adult.
With many other nutrients, we can build an experimental diet that depletes this nutrient to study the effects of deficiency. For pantothenic acid, however, because it is so ubiquitous in foods, researchers have not been able to build a diet low enough in the vitamin to cause visible clinical problems. This research situation provides further evidence that most diets are likely to provide sufficient amounts of this vitamin.
Because our recipes at World's Healthiest Foods contain fresh and whole foods, you should expect to not only meet a minimal standard for prevention of deficiency, but in fact to exceed your needs by a comfortable margin (which is fine, given that there is no known risk of toxicty from dietary intake of this nutrient).
Outside of severe malnutrition—in which many nutrients are determined to be too low in a diet—we simply do not have research studies showing that pantothenic acid intake is too low due to certain lifestyle practices or other habits. For this reason, we suspect that most people who are getting sufficient amounts of food in their diet (including adequate amounts of calories) are also getting adequate amounts of pantothenic acid.
As a member of the B complex, pantothenic acid metabolism—or at least the energy pathways in which it is active—will be disrupted by deficiency of other B vitamins. In particular, vitamin B12, folic acid, and biotin lend important support to pantothenic acid metabolism.
There is no known risk of toxicity from dietary pantothenic acid. In research settings, use of supplemental pantothenic acid at daily doses more than 1000 times the Adequate Intake (AI) of 5 mg did not lead to any discernible side effects. For this reason, the National Academy of Sciences did not choose to establish a Tolerable Upper Intake Limit (UL) for pantothenic acid.
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has established Dietary Recommended Intake Levels (DRIs) for pantothenic acid in the form of Adequate Intake (AI) amounts. These AI amounts are as follows:
Given the striking lack of toxicity demonstrated at even very high intakes of pantothenic acid, the National Academy of Sciences did not choose to establish a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for the vitamin. You can feel confident that you do not receive toxic amounts of pantothenic acid from your diet.
The Daily Value (DV) for pantothenic acid is set at 10 mg per 2000 calories in the diet. This is the value that you will see on food labels for pantothenic acid.
As our WHFoods daily recommended intake level for pantothenic acid, we chose the DRI for males and females 14 years and older of 5 milligrams.